Kenley Jansen, the previously impervious closer whom the Astros had rallied against to win twice in this series, pitched the final two innings to nail down the victory.
Now, a World Series that seemingly has had everything — scintillating comebacks, mind-numbing heat, an offensive gesture and a record number of home runs — will have a seventh game. The Dodgers will pitch Yu Darvish, and the Astros will go with Lance McCullers Jr. on the mound.
“Knowing it’s going to seven games is appropriate,” said Justin Turner, the Dodgers third baseman with a red gorse bush of a beard.
If the Astros are away from the comforts of home for the decisive game, they can at least draw confidence from their postseason experience: They clinched the division series at Fenway Park in Boston and defeated the Yankees in Game 7 of the American League Championship Series.
“You dream about these moments as a kid,” Astros third baseman Alex Bregman said. “I know everyone in here is super excited to be part of it. We’re going to go out there and empty the tank.”
For a good portion of Tuesday night, it didn’t seem like such high drama would be required.
George Springer quieted the crowd with a solo homer to right field with two out in the third inning, which seemed as if it might be enough for Verlander, who was at his big-game best, keeping the Dodgers scoreless for five innings.
It was the type of performance the Astros had in mind when they acquired him from the Detroit Tigers just before midnight on Aug. 31 — the deadline for playoff eligibility.
Verlander had twice pitched a shutout in a decisive Game 5 in a division series (both times against the Oakland Athletics), and he kept the Astros alive in the A.L.C.S. last month with a dominant performance against the Yankees in Game 6. He was 9-0 in an Astros uniform entering Tuesday, and the team had won all 10 games in which he had pitched.
“There’s something different when you put a major piece like that in your clubhouse,” Astros Manager A. J. Hinch said before the game. “And I think his presence alone gave guys hope and belief that things were going to be good for us.”
By the time the Dodgers came to bat in the bottom of the sixth, still trailing by 1-0, they had struck out eight times, often overmatched by upper-90s fastballs at the top of the strike zone. But Austin Barnes led off with a single and Chase Utley — who was 0 for 14 in the postseason entering Tuesday — was hit on the foot by a slider that bounced.
“That was in the back of my mind — I’m not gonna lie,” said Verlander, who added that when he picked up a ball he felt like he was going to throw it to the backstop. “I’m not going to throw a slider that’s just kind of spinning in the middle of the plate for him to hit a double on. I just kind of yanked it in.”
With two runners on, Chris Taylor then fought off a 1-2 fastball that was in on his hands and swatted the 97 miles-per-hour pitch over the head of Houston first baseman Yuli Gurriel, who was booed lustily every time he came to the plate over his racist gesture in Game 3.
The flare double tied the score at 1-1 and sent Utley to third. And there was still no one out. Corey Seager followed with a deep drive to right field that brought the crowd to its feet, but the cool air — the first-pitch temperature was 36 degrees colder than it was in Game 1 — held the ball up enough for Josh Reddick to catch it near the wall.
Still, it was a sacrifice fly that gave the Dodgers a 2-1 lead and moved Taylor to third.
Verlander gathered himself and retired Turner on a pop-up, then struck out Cody Bellinger to keep the Astros within a run.
The Astros, who squandered good chances in the fifth and sixth — Brandon Morrow retired Bregman on a grounder with the bases loaded in the fifth and Utley leapt near second base to snag Marwin Gonzalez’s liner with two on to end the sixth — could not deliver in the seventh either.
With Kenta Maeda facing Jose Altuve — who had greeted him with a three-run home run in Game 5 — with runners at first and third, Altuve grounded to Turner, who rushed his throw as the speedy Altuve tore down the line. But Bellinger stretched and dug out the throw on one hop an instant before Altuve reached the bag.
“In my mind, I think every ball is going to go in the dirt until it’s not,” Bellinger said. “So when the ball is in the dirt, it doesn’t catch me by surprise and I’m ready for it.”
The Dodgers could breathe a sigh of relief, and an inning later they could exhale — and laugh — as Pederson gave them a 3-1 lead and embarked on his giddy romp around the bases.
“That’s just Joc,” Bellinger said. “He does the craziest stuff on his home runs and that was a huge one. If he hits big home runs like that, he can do whatever he wants.”
Pederson waved his arms to the right-field pavilion as he reached second, pounded his chest as he approached third, jumped and tried to high five the third-base coach Chris Woodward and then turned toward the third-base dugout and rubbed his fingers together in a “money” gesture.
It seemed Pederson had remembered a bet with someone in the dugout before he went up to hit.
“I was curious who it was,” Seager said.
Was it Turner?
“Maybe,” Turner said with a smile.
For Pederson, there was something more to his trot than a cash reward. Demoted to the minor leagues in August and left off the division series playoff roster, Pederson has made the most of his opportunity. It was his third home run in the World Series.
“Emotions run high,” Pederson said in the interview room alongside his older brother Champ, who has Down syndrome. “You kind of black out in a situation like that, so I’m going to have to rewatch it to see what I did.”
What he did was leave another indelible moment on a series that will have to make room for at least one more on Wednesday night.