Now 58 and living in Santa Monica, Leary served as a guest analyst for the World Series between the Dodgers and Houston Astros with an assist from Times staff writer Mike DiGiovanna.
DiGiovanna: There was speculation Yu Darvish was tipping pitches. Did the Astros have an idea what was coming, or was the Dodgers starter just plain bad?
Leary: He may have been tipping his pitches, as Alex Bregman stole third on a breaking ball in the first inning, an indication he may have known it was a good pitch to run on.
But Darvish is now a two-pitch pitcher, so even if Houston did have his pitches, he needed to be almost perfect. And give credit to the Astros; they’re a great offensive team.
Darvish didn’t have command of his fastball. He threw it for strikes, but not quality strikes. And his breaking balls were not sharp. They had no bite.
The 1-and-1 pitch George Springer roped for a double in the first was a hanging slider. The leadoff walk to Brian McCann in the second was a great at-bat, but the 2-1 pitch Marwin Gonzalez lined for a double was another hanging slider that sat in the heart of the plate.
And the full-count fastball Springer hit for a two-run homer in the second was right down the middle. That ball was crushed.
Brandon Morrow was warming in the second when Darvish, with a runner on third, grooved that fastball to Springer, who belted a homer to left-center field for a 5-0 Houston lead. Did manager Dave Roberts stick with Darvish too long?
No, he had to stick with Darvish since he got two outs in a row on slow rollers to second, and he didn’t want to go to his bullpen too early. And maybe the Dodgers only wanted to use Morrow to get out of an inning because he’s pitched so much in this series.
But I was a little surprised that they didn’t double-switch when they brought Morrow in. They burned Enrique Hernandez, who hit three homers in the National League Championship Series-clinching win over the Chicago Cubs, to hit for Morrow in the bottom of the second.
The question everyone was asking after Darvish’s brutal start: If you thought Clayton Kershaw could throw two or three innings, would the Dodgers have been better off starting the ace and backing him up with Alex Wood, in hopes Wood could get them to their short relievers?
That’s a question for the general manager. They traded for Darvish for a reason. They didn’t trade for him to not pitch. He just struggled.
Could Houston manager A.J. Hinch have handled his bullpen any better?
Clearly, no. A.J. was proactive all night long. He pulled [starter] Lance McCullers Jr. at the right time, and he had a plan to use Charlie Morton for the last four or five innings if needed. Morton is a great starter with top-of-the-rotation stuff.
I think another big thing was [left-hander] Francisco Liriano striking out Cody Bellinger in the eighth inning of Game 6 Tuesday night. That gave Hinch the confidence to bring him in to face Bellinger with two on and one out in the fifth [Wednesday night].
Liriano wasn’t going to pitch at all unless there was a situation like Game 6, when the game got out of hand. The guy was clearly struggling, so the Astros figured, “Let’s give him a shot.”
Liriano got Bellinger to hit into a fielder’s choice. If A.J. doesn’t bring him in, maybe he goes to a right-hander who hangs a pitch, and it’s a different ballgame. That game could have turned on one swing a number of times.
Was the tone for the Dodgers set in the first three innings, when they put seven on but went hitless in seven at-bats with runners in scoring position?
In this ballpark, in damp air, you’re not gonna see many 13-12 games, regardless of what they’ve done with the baseball, so yeah, missed opportunities come back to haunt you.
It looked to me like a few guys were pulling their heads off the ball, swinging a little too hard in a few situations, even when they were just trying to get a guy over.
Chris Taylor and Justin Turner swung at a few pitches out of the strike zone; we haven’t seen much of that from them. And they pitched Bellinger really tough. McCullers struck him out twice with down-and-in curves, and Morton froze him in the seventh with a curve on the outside corner.
Was Bellinger a little too aggressive in the first, when the first baseman ranged far into the second base hole for Bregman’s slow roller and threw wild to Darvish covering first, allowing Springer to score from second with Houston’s first run?
No, Bellinger did the right thing. He just made a poor throw, which resulted in a two-base error. That decision to go into the four-hole or back to the base to cover is one of the toughest plays for a first baseman, but their instincts are usually to go for the ball.
With runners on second and third and one out in the second, the Dodgers did not bring their infield all the way in with McCullers batting and the slow-footed McCann at third. McCullers hit a dribbler to second that even McCann scored on. Should the infield have been all the way in?
Not necessarily. McCullers took a really good swing on that first pitch that he fouled straight back. At the time, the score was 2-0. I don’t think they can risk a ground ball going through the infield, not in the second inning.
Follow Mike DiGiovanna on Twitter @MikeDiGiovanna