MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:
And now it's time for sports.
(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)
BLOCK: Houston pulled ahead in the World Series last night with a 5-3 win over the LA Dodgers. So far, the Astros are a big hit in the series - and we mean that literally. NPR's sports correspondent, Tom Goldman, joins me now to talk baseball. Hey, Tom.
TOM GOLDMAN, BYLINE: Good morning.
BLOCK: Well, the Astros now halfway to their first-ever World Series title. They lead the Dodgers 2 games to 1. How are they doing it?
GOLDMAN: (Laughter) In so many ways, Melissa. You know, there's this old adage - I know you've heard of it. Good pitching beats good hitting, right?
BLOCK: I've heard that a time or two, yeah.
GOLDMAN: Yeah, and it often does happen, except in recent World Series. According to the sporting news - and I'm going to get a little wonky here.
BLOCK: OK, we like wonky.
GOLDMAN: The last four years, the team with a better regular season OPS won the World Series. Now, OPS is a stat that measures both the ability to get on base and hit for power. So it's this all-encompassing hitting metric. Houston was by far the best hitting team in the major leagues this season with the highest OPS of any team. And the Astros are showing it now. Game 1 of the Series, they were held to three hits. Since then, the floodgates have opened. Games 2 and 3, the Astros banged out a combined 26 hits, compared to nine for the Dodgers.
And last night, they essentially won the game in the second inning with a multi-hit, four-run barrage versus LA's highly touted starting pitcher, Yu Darvish. They drove him out of the game. It was the shortest outing of his career.
BLOCK: And last night, Houston was playing at home. They're taking full advantage of being at home.
GOLDMAN: Yeah, talk about a home-field advantage. The Astros have won all seven of their home playoff games. They've out-scored their opponents by 36 runs to 10 in those games. And you know, they love playing at their park with the retractable roof closed because that bottles up all the noise, and it gets incredibly intense. The roof was closed again last night. They're hoping for the same tonight in Game 4.
BLOCK: It does sound deafening when you listen.
BLOCK: You are sounding pretty bullish about the Astros here, Tom.
GOLDMAN: Am I?
BLOCK: Yeah, just a little bit. And you mentioned that Game 4 is tonight. Game 5 is tomorrow. Both will be played in Houston. How dire do things look for the Dodgers if they do?
GOLDMAN: Yeah, well, it's bad. I mean, well, if they win both games, they win the World Series - Houston. But LA is too good a team for anyone to say the series is over. Remember, during the season, the Dodgers were on such a roll that Sports Illustrated magazine asked the question about the Dodgers on its cover - best team ever? So they can't be ruled out just because Houston's on a roll right now. The Dodgers do need some great pitching other than from Clayton Kershaw, who was so brilliant in LA's Game 1 win. They've got to get their powerful offense untracked. But there is time. And I assure you there is no panic in the Dodgers' clubhouse right now.
BLOCK: Tom, we should mention a bit of controversy after last night's game - an incident where Houston's Yuli Gurriel made a lot of - made what a lot of people saw was a derogatory gesture aimed at the Dodgers' pitcher, Yu Darvish. What can you tell us about that?
GOLDMAN: After he hit a second-inning home run off of Darvish, Gurriel was seen pulling on the corners of his eyes. Darvish is Japanese. Gurriel, who's Cuban, said after the game that he didn't mean to be offensive. He said through an interpreter that he made the gesture because he hadn't had success as a hitter in the past versus Japanese pitchers. He played in Japan a few years ago. A little bit more of what he said - quote, "I have always had a lot of respect for Japanese people. I've never had anything against Darvish. For me, he's always been one of the best pitchers. If I offended him, I apologize. It was not my intention."
Now, Darvish was pretty magnanimous in his response. He said the gesture was disrespectful, but he also said Gurriel made a mistake, and we've got to learn from it. Darvish also tweeted later, let's stay positive and move forward instead of focusing on anger. I'm counting on everyone's big love.
BLOCK: Big love, OK. Moving on to Game 4. NPR's Tom Goldman. Tom, thanks so much.
GOLDMAN: You're welcome.
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