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Of Course This World Series Needs A Game 7

After the dramatic way this World Series played out through its first five contests, is anyone really surprised that the Los Angeles Dodgers and Houston Astros will require the full seven games to determine a champion? LA ensured the series would go the distance with its 3-1 victory Tuesday night, finally getting to Justin Verlander in the sixth inning and shutting down the high-powered Astros bats down the stretch. Now, everything will come down to the outcome of Wednesday’s Game 7 in Los Angeles — and that’s probably how things should be, given the way these teams have jockeyed back and forth with each other all season long.

The Astros had their chance to end things earlier than expected. Although they were on the road for Game 6, they sent Verlander — their top starter according to our pitcher ratings — to the mound in a potential closeout game (games in which he’d previously had a 0.78 ERA in his postseason career), and they even held a slim lead for most of the middle innings. According to The Baseball Gauge, Houston had an 87 percent chance of winning the championship at one point in the fifth, their highest mark of the entire series. But Verlander went from cruising early to sputtering in the sixth inning for the second time in the series. Joc Pederson tacked on an insurance homer (extending the record for most home runs in a World Series to 23) that helped seal the victory.

Now the Astros have to be wondering whether their best shot at ending the franchise’s 55-year championship drought — the team was founded in 1962 and has never won — has passed them by. They’ve won on the road in this series, but Game 7 will be on a different level. They’ll be facing four-time All-Star and former Cy Young runner-up Yu Darvish, whom LA picked up at the trade deadline, with Clayton Kershaw potentially looming in relief. Houston will counter with Lance McCullers, who won Game 3 but is inferior to Darvish by the numbers.

So the championship odds will be stacked in Los Angeles’s favor. We have them pegged at a 60 percent win probability for the Dodgers.

But we probably also haven’t seen the end of this series’ many twists and turns. According to The Baseball Gauge, it’s tied for the seventh-most exciting postseason series ever, in terms of its average per-play movement in championship probability added — and that’s without yet having the benefit of a Game 7, where the stakes are magnified to mind-bogglingly high levels. The tension can only rise from here, in a winner-take-all game to crown the champion of one of the most stacked seasons we’ve ever seen.

Neil Paine is a senior sportswriter for FiveThirtyEight.

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