By RONALD BLUM, AP Baseball Writer
LOS ANGELES (AP) — Joc Pederson sliced a drive over the left-field wall, pounded his chest and danced around the bases , taking as many twists and turns as this World Series itself.
Of course, the Los Angeles Dodgers forced the Houston Astros to Game 7.
Chris Taylor hit a tying double off Justin Verlander during a two-run rally in the sixth inning , Corey Seager followed with a go-ahead sacrifice fly and the Dodgers beat the Astros 3-1 on Tuesday night to push this dramatic Fall Classic to the ultimate game.
Pederson homered in the seventh against Joe Musgrove, connecting off the right-hander for the second time in three games and making it a record 24 long balls that have been hit in this Series. Pederson pranced all the way to the plate, pointing at the Dodgers’ dugout and rubbing his thumbs and index fingers together to indicate what a money shot it was.
“You kind of black out in a situation like that. So I’m going to have to re-watch it to see what I did,” Pederson said.
It was the third home run of the World Series for Pederson, demoted to the minors from mid-August until early September, then left off the NL Division Series roster. He had hit just one previous opposite-field homer in the big leagues this season, and teammates offered to pay him to go the other way.
“People are trying to get me encouraged to using the whole field,” he said. “I’m not very good at it.”
Yu Darvish starts Wednesday for the Dodgers, trying to win their first title since 1988, and Los Angeles ace Clayton Kershaw will be ready in the bullpen after getting knocked out in the fifth inning of Game 5.
“I can give you 27 innings,” Kershaw said. “I’ll be ready to go, whatever they need.”
Lance McCullers Jr. gets the ball for the Astros in the first World Series Game 7 ever at Dodger Stadium and the first since 1931 between teams that won 100 games during the regular season.
Darvish was chased in the second inning of Game 2, when McCullers pitched Houston to a 5-3 victory.
“You’ve got two teams with a bunch of dogs in the clubhouse. No one is afraid,” McCullers said.
Two nights after a 13-12, 10-inning slugfest under the roof at Minute Maid Park, pitching dominated.
George Springer’s third-inning home run against starter Rich Hill had given a 1-0 lead to Verlander and the Astros, trying for the first championship in their 56-season history. On Halloween night, a title for a team with orange in its colors seemed appropriate.
But it served only to set up the 10th blown lead of the Series, the fifth by Houston, as Verlander fell to 9-1 with the Astros.
Dodgers relievers combined for 4 1/3 scoreless innings. Brandon Morrow retired Alex Bregman on a grounder to strand the bases loaded in the fifth,winner Tony Watson got Marwin Gonzalez to line out to leaping second baseman Chase Utley with two on and two outs in the sixth , and Kenta Maeda escaped two-on trouble in the seventh when third baseman Justin Turner gloved Jose Altuve’s grounder and made a short-hop throw that first baseman Cody Bellinger scooped just in time.
“The pick is big,” Houston manager A.J. Hinch said.
After wasting a ninth-inning lead in Game 2 and losing Game 5, Kenley Jansen retired six straight batters on 19 pitches for the save and ended it by striking out 40-year-old pinch-hitter Carlos Beltran.
This will be the third World Series Game 7 in four years. The home team had won nine straight since 1979 before San Francisco triumphed at Kansas City in 2014 and the Chicago Cubs captured their first title since 1908 at Cleveland last year.
Ten of the last 12 teams that won Game 6 to force a seventh game also won the title, but the Dodgers lost the previous six World Series in which they trailed 3-2. They have won just one of their six championships at home, in 1963.
A heat wave over and the skies overcast, the temperature dropped to 67 degrees at game time from 103 for last week’s opener, and there was a slight drizzle in the middle innings.
Los Angelenos with a laid-back reputation were on their feet for two-strike counts against Astros batters, a wave in Pantone 294 — also known as Dodger blue.
“We feed off the crowd, for sure,” Taylor said. “We feel we have a huge home-field advantage.”
Yuli Gurriel, who made a racist gesture toward Darvish in Game 3, was booed loudly during introductions and each time he batted, and Hill stepped off the rubber to allow the crowd extra time to jeer.
Verlander has 11 postseason wins but dropped to 0-4 in the Series with Detroit and Houston, which acquired him from the Tigers on Aug. 31 to win on nights like this. He allowed just one baserunner before Austin Barnes singled leading off the sixth. Verlander bounced a pitch that hit Utley on the front of his right foot, and Taylor sent a 97 mph fastball down the right-field line as Barnes came home. Seager followed with a sacrifice fly to the warning track, a ball that likely would have landed in the pavilion in last week’s hot air.
Verlander prevented more damag e when Turner fouled out and the right-hander fanned Bellinger, who struck out four times for the second time in the Series.
Springer homered for the third straight game and fourth time in the Series, one shy of the record set by Reggie Jackson in 1977 and matched by Utley in 2009.
Brian McCann singled leading off the fifth and Gonzalez doubled past Turner and down the left-field line. Hill struck out Josh Reddick and Verlander, and Springer was intentionally walked to load the bases.
Morrow relieved as the crowd booed manager Dave Roberts’ decision, and Hill slapped at four cups of liquid in the dugout, sending them spraying against the wall
“With Verlander on the mound, that was going to be the game,” Roberts said.
Appearing in his sixth straight Series game, Morrow got Bregman to ground to shortstop on his second pitch.
Watson walked Reddick leading off the seventh, Evan Gattis pinch hit for Verlander and Maeda relieved. Gattis bounced to shortstop, just beating Utley’s throw from second to avoid a double play. Springer reached on an infield single, and Bregman’s fly to deep center allowed pinch-runner Derek Fisher to tag up and advance to third, bringing up Altuve.
Walking down the dugout steps after his groundout, Altuve slammed his helmet.
Afterward, attention quickly turned to Wednesday.
“I think it seems fitting,” Roberts said. “These two teams mirror one another.”
Pederson sat in the interview room with his older brother, Champ , who has Down Syndrome.
“I have a feeling that everything is possible,” Champ said. “I’m not going to say they have it, but I’m just going to say they will find a way.”
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