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Dodgers rally late, defeat Astros 6-2 in World Series Game 4

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Last night, I wrote about Dodgers first baseman Cody Bellinger‘s struggles through the first three games of the World Series. He went 0-for-4 with four strikeouts in Game 3, which ran his hitless streak up to 11 at-bats in the Fall Classic. Bellinger turned his fortune around in Game 4 on Saturday night, helping the Dodgers even the World Series at two games apiece with a 6-1 victory at Minute Maid Park.

It was a pitcher’s duel through-and-through after five innings. Both Astros starter Charlie Morton and Dodgers starter Alex Wood were trading zeroes on the scoreboard. Wood, in fact, held the Astros hitless through five. He lost it with two outs in the sixth when George Springerfacing Wood for a third time — swatted a 394-foot solo home run to left field. That was it for Wood. Brandon Morrow came in and got Alex Bregman to ground out to end the inning. Wood’s final line: 5 2/3 innings, one run, one hit, two walks, three strikeouts, 84 pitches.

The Dodgers exacted revenge on the Astros, fighting back for a run of their own in the top of the seventh. With one out against Morton, Cody Bellinger slashed a double to left field, just to the side of the Crawford Boxes. Will Harris came in to relieve Morton and got Yasiel Puig to line out to right field. Seeing light at the end of the tunnel, Harris fell behind Logan Forsythe 2-0. Forsythe then ripped a 2-1 cutter that caught too much plate into shallow left-center to bring Bellinger home, tying the game at 1-1.

In the top of the ninth, Astros manager A.J. Hinch called on struggling closer Ken Giles to start the ninth. Giles had allowed runs in five of six appearances this postseason, including two to the Dodgers in Game 2. It wasn’t exactly shocking, then, when Giles gave up a leadoff single to Corey Seager then walked Justin Turner. After a visit on the mound from pitching coach Brent Strom, Giles proceded to give up a run-scoring double to Bellinger before giving way to Joe Musgrove. Musgrove struck out Puig, then intentionally walked Forsythe to set up a double play possibility. Austin Barnes lifted a sacrifice fly to right field, plating Charlie Culberson, who pinch-ran for Justin Turner. Joc Pederson decided to break the game wide open in the next at-bat, sending an 0-1, 94 MPH fastball to right field for a three-run home run, boosting the Dodgers’ lead to 6-1. Giles ended up on the hook for three runs without recording an out.

Kenley Jansen entered in the bottom of the ninth, attempting to make up for his blown save in Game 2. He did just that. Brian McCann attempted to beat the shift with a bunt, but Seager made a nice play to record the first out. Jansen then struck out Springer. Bregman swatted a solo home run into the Crawford Boxes to make it 6-2, but it was too little, too late. Jansen got Jose Altuve to fly out to center field to end the game, evening up the series.

The final World Series game in Houston will take place on Sunday night. Game 5 will feature a rematch of the Dodgers’ Clayton Kershaw and the Astros’ Dallas Keuchel. The two teams will take Monday off to return to Los Angeles for Game 6 on Tuesday and, if necessary, Game 7 on Wednesday.

This Day in Transaction History: The Kirk Nieuwenhuis orbit

Kirk Nieuwenhuis
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Outfielder Kirk Nieuwenhuis had, on the surface, a forgettable 2015 season. Taking most of his cuts with the Mets, he finished the year with a .645 OPS over 141 plate appearances. Two things stood out during that campaign, though: he had an out-of-nowhere power surge in one game, and he started and ended the year with the Mets but sandwiched a stint with the Angels in there.

After striking out in a pinch-hit at-bat in the 10th inning of a May 18 game against the Cardinals, Nieuwenhuis owned a .257 OPS across 40 trips to the plate. Unsurprisingly, the Mets designated him for assignment. A little more than a week later, the Mets found a home for him, sending him to the Angels in exchange for cash considerations.

Nieuwenhuis would spend roughly two weeks with the Angels, batting .136 in 22 at-bats. The Angels designated him for assignment on June 10. And wouldn’t you know it, the Mets claimed Nieuwenhuis off waivers from the Angels several days later. The Mets had him report to Triple-A Las Vegas, spending about a month there before returning to the majors.

Nieuwenhuis had a great first game back, starting in left field. He drew two walks and hit a double in a 3-0 win over the Giants. He would go hitless in his next five plate appearances, spanning four games. On July 12, something magical happened. To date, Nieuwenhuis had zero home runs. Something got into his bat in this afternoon game at home against the D-Backs. He drilled a solo shot to the opposite field off of Rubby De La Rosa in the second inning, opening the scoring. In the third, with a runner on first base and the Mets leading 2-1, Nieuwenhuis swatted a De La Rosa fastball out to left-center field for his second homer of the day. Nieuwenhuis made it three, leading off the fifth against reliever Randall Delgado, this time pulling a breaking ball down the left field line.

Nieuwenhuis became, at the time, the 10th Met to have a three-homer game. As Gary Cohen noted in the below clip, he became the first to do it at home. Somehow, the first nine Mets — Jim Hickman, Dave Kingman, Claudell Washington, Darryl Strawberry, Gary Carter, Edgardo Alfonzo, José Reyes, Carlos Beltrán, and Ike Davis — all did it on the road. In the time since, Lucas Duda, Yoenis Céspedes (twice), and Robinson Canó have had three-homer games. Duda and Canó’s were at home.

In one afternoon, Nieuwenhuis went from zero to three homers on the season and raised his OPS 190 points. Later that month, he would bang out a four-hit, four-RBI game in a blowout of the Dodgers. It was only the second time in his career he had a four-hit game, and the third time he had a four-RBI game. However, after the game against the Dodgers, Nieuwenhuis would slump, batting .194 through the end of the season, spanning 41 plate appearances. He’d add one more homer to his ledger, a pinch-hit, go-ahead solo shot on September 8 against Nationals closer Jonathan Papelbon.

Nieuwenhuis went to the Brewers for the 2016 season, getting semi-regular playing time. He racked up 18 doubles and 13 homers with 44 RBI over 125 games, but finished with a subpar .709 OPS. In 2017, Nieuwenhuis got off to an abysmal start, holding a .473 OPS on April 20. The Brewers placed him on waivers, but he went unclaimed, so he ended up accepting an assignment to Triple-A Colorado Springs. He made it back to the majors just one more time on July 29, providing a pinch-hit single. That was the last time he played in the majors. Nieuwenhuis inked a minor league deal with the Mariners for the 2018 season, then played for the Long Island Ducks of the independent Atlantic League. He retired last July. Nieuwenhuis will always have July 12, 2015, though.