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Tied turning: Classic to rock Houston tonight

MLB.com

HOUSTON -- We knew coming into this World Series that two 100-win teams opposing each other for the first time in 47 years made for special stuff. Turns out, the Astros and Dodgers are up to the task of ensuring the Series itself is as special as the statistical oddity.

Now that the Astros have evened things up with an epic, exhausting and exhilarating Game 2 at Dodger Stadium, there can be no denying that this Fall Classic has true classic potential. So Game 3 at Minute Maid Park tonight, with Lance McCullers Jr. and Yu Darvish set to start, is a pivotal moment.

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HOUSTON -- We knew coming into this World Series that two 100-win teams opposing each other for the first time in 47 years made for special stuff. Turns out, the Astros and Dodgers are up to the task of ensuring the Series itself is as special as the statistical oddity.

Now that the Astros have evened things up with an epic, exhausting and exhilarating Game 2 at Dodger Stadium, there can be no denying that this Fall Classic has true classic potential. So Game 3 at Minute Maid Park tonight, with Lance McCullers Jr. and Yu Darvish set to start, is a pivotal moment.

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Does the momentum from Wednesday's wild one carry into this one?

"If we lost, I would have said no," Astros manager A.J. Hinch joked. "Since we won, I'd say absolutely, this will be a big swing."

Game 2 was all about big swings -- a World Series record of eight in one ballgame, including five in extra innings. In fact, 82.4 percent of all runs scored in the first two games came via the long ball. Now the Series heads to a ballpark with hitter-friendly dimensions down the lines. But it also heads to air-conditioned comfort after those scorching temps in L.A., and the roof will be closed for Game 3, creating a loud and potentially intimidating environment for a Dodgers team coming off a heartbreaking defeat.

"We've got a very resilient group," manager Dave Roberts said, "a lot of guys that have been around a long time. We'll be ready to go."

The Astros, who are coming off the first World Series game victory in franchise history, are 6-0, have outscored opponents, 31-7, and have posted a 1.17 ERA at home this October. Housing all those Houstonians who have invested so much emotional energy into this ballclub in the wake of Hurricane Harvey, Minute Maid Park will be loud and rocking, just as it was when the Astros returned home and salvaged their season after a real Bronx bummer in the American League Championship Series.

Maid for October: Astros feed off home crowd

Video: Morris, McMaster look ahead to World Series Game 3

This time, the return home isn't about awakening the seemingly broken bats; it's about continuing the clout that saw the Astros infiltrate the Dodgers' previously impenetrable bullpen, which hadn't allowed a run in its previous 28 innings of work. Marwin Gonzalez, Jose Altuve, Carlos Correa and George Springer all went deep in the ninth inning or beyond in Game 2, a heroic home run derby that spared the Astros from having to hear all those daunting stats about how past teams have fared on this stage when down, 0-2.

"It gave us a little bit of momentum," said third baseman Alex Bregman, "and we're happy to be home, play in front of these fans in Houston."

Video: WS2017 Gm3: Astros talk home-field advantage

Since the World Series moved permanently to the current 2-3-2 format in 1946, there have been 34 series tied after the first two games. The club going home for Games 3-5 has gone on to win 18 times (52.9 percent), and on four of those occasions, they closed it out in Game 5 -- most recently, the 2008 Phillies against the Rays. Three times during that span, a team has won Games 3-5 on the road to end the Fall Classic -- most recently, the 1983 Orioles at Philadelphia.

Right now, it's the Dodgers facing the challenge of getting their groove back after such a difficult defeat, in which they had the potential tying run at the plate in the 11th. Whether they have to strongly rely on their bullpen again in Game 3 will be a matter for Darvish to decide. The impact acquisition has been fantastic this postseason, with a 2-0 record and a 1.59 ERA in 11 1/3 innings. As a former member of the Rangers, he's of course pitched many games in the state of Texas -- and many times against this Astros team -- and he's typically been terrific in this ballpark. Darvish is 4-1 with a 2.16 ERA in six career starts at Minute Maid Park, including a near-perfect game and a separate near-no-hitter in 2013.

"It's better to know that I've pitched here before," Darvish, who is 4-0 with an 0.88 ERA in his past five starts, said through an interpreter. "Maybe it will give me a little bit of an advantage, but it really doesn't matter."

Rejuvenated Darvish set for G3 vs. familiar foe

Video: WS2017 Gm3: Darvish looks ahead to his Game 3 start

The Dodgers would benefit from depth from Darvish after their bullpen covered nine innings in the first two games of this Series and had its 28-inning scoreless streak snapped in Game 2. After allowing just three earned runs in 30 2/3 innings across its first nine games this postseason, the Dodgers' bullpen allowed six runs over seven innings in Game 2.

Saving Darvish for Game 3 start makes sense

With the move to the AL park, the Dodgers are expected to keep Corey Seager at shortstop and use either Joc Pederson, Andre Ethier or Yasmani Grandal at DH in the three games at Minute Maid. Houston's return home creates more opportunity for Carlos Beltran or Evan Gattis.

Familiar with Yu, Astros still expect unexpected

The Astros will be hoping that McCullers can build off the relief brilliance he displayed in the Game 7 ALCS clincher against the Yanks. McCullers went on a curveball feast in that fantastic four-inning save, allowing just a hit and a walk with six strikeouts. The Dodgers had the best batting average in baseball against the curve this year (.274) per Statcast™, but they are hitting just .167 (7-for-42) off curves this postseason.

Video: WS2017 Gm3: McCullers on 24 straight curves vs. Yanks

McCullers can give Astros edge in Game 3

"This is a very, very talented group that I'll be facing," McCullers said. "They can really swing it. And as you guys saw the last couple of nights, even the first night -- we lost, 3-1 -- it was still a really, really good game. One swing of the bat was the difference. I'm very confident in myself, very confident in the game plan we all put together."

Video: WS2017 Gm3: McCullers on gameplan for Game 3 start

Plans called for an epic Series between two superpower squads. After two games, those plans are coming to fruition. So let's see what the Dodgers and Astros have in store for us for Game 3.

Anthony Castrovince has been a reporter for MLB.com since 2004. Read his columns and follow him on Twitter at @Castrovince.

Los Angeles Dodgers, Houston Astros, Yu Darvish, Lance McCullers Jr.