HOUSTON—There are so many reasons Brad Peacock shouldn't have been here.
The Nationals drafted Peacock in the 41st round in 2006 as a draft-and-follow, a now-defunct process where teams picked a player and watched him for another season before deciding if they actually wanted to sign him. What's more, they drafted Peacock as a catcher, a position he didn't actually play.
"It just said catcher next to my name," Peacock said. "But no, I wasn't a catcher."
Only after Peacock went out the following spring at Palm Beach (Fla.) JC and impressed on the mound did the Nationals feel compelled to sign him and make him a pitcher.
Eleven years after Peacock was a late-round JC pick with an uncertain positional future, he found himself in the center of the baseball world, charged with finishing off the first home World Series victory the city of Houston had ever experienced.
Given that spotlight, he seized it with aplomb.
Peacock delivered 3.2 innings of hitless relief in a sterling performance to secure a 5-3 Astros win over the Dodgers on Friday night in Game Three of the World Series.
The victory puts Houston up 2-1 in the best-of-seven series, and pushes the Astros closer to a World Championship than the franchise has ever been before.
"He was cruising," Astros manager A.J. Hinch said. "Their swings weren't good. His fastball was playing, his slider was playing….There was no reason to take him out. He was in complete control of every at-bat."
For Peacock, a starter demoted to the bullpen after a disastrous ALDS start, it was career save No. 1.
"After the eighth A.J. asked me if I felt good. I said 'Yeah' and he said 'All right, you're going back out,'" Peacock said. "I was shocked. I'm just glad he gave me the opportunity to do that. And it was a lot of fun out there, for sure."
The game was fun as a whole for the Astros. With a sold-out crowd of 43,482 fans waving orange towels at their backs, the Astros knocked Dodgers starter Yu Darvish out in the second inning and never looked back.
Darvish, the blockbuster trade deadline addition who previously delivered in the NLDS and NLCS, needed 49 pitches to get just five outs before he was mercifully pulled.
Yuli Gurriel got the Astros started with a leadoff home run in the second that left the bat at 104 mph, according to Statcast, and screamed on a line into the Crawford Boxes in left field.
That was followed by a double by Josh Reddick, a walk to Evan Gattis, a 99 mph RBI single off the bat by Marwin Gonzalez and another RBI single by Brian McCann. The final straw was a 108-mph double off the wall in left-center by Jose Altuve.
The end result was six hits and four runs allowed in 1.2 innings, with one walk and zero strikeouts.
"He was leaving a lot of pitches in the middle," Astros shortstop Carlos Correa said. "When you have the kind of stuff he has but you leave pitches up the middle you're going to get hit. Especially I think with the lineup we have, we have some guys when they're locked in they go and take off."
The Dodgers made things harder on themselves with further mistakes.
Yasiel Puig ran through the bag at first on a base hit down the left-field line, belatedly changed his mind and rerouted to second, and got thrown out from short left field, costing the Dodgers a valuable baserunner in a game they had few. On defense the Dodgers gifted the Astros a run in the fifth when Tony Watson picked up a chopper and threw it down the right-field line, allowing Reddick to score all the way from first base rather than end the inning with a clean throw.
Overall the Dodgers managed just four hits, all against Astros starter Lance McCullers before he gave way to Peacock in the sixth, and after that they were helpless.
Peacock, a former Top 100 prospect who was traded to the Athletics in 2011 and then the Astros in 2013, pounded the strike zone with an array of fastballs and the occasional devastating slider. He got better the more he threw, recording all four of his strikeouts in the final eight batters he faced.
"I thought he threw the ball really well," Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said. "He had really good fastball command. The fastball to the outer half of the plate against our left-handers was riding. He really competed. He got ahead. And we really couldn’t square him up. Against the righties, the slider obviously really plays."
Peacock retired his final seven batters, including dramatic strikeouts of Corey Seager, Cody Bellinger and Puig, and by the end had his teammates enthusiastically greeting him at the mound after recording the final out.
"I just had a save in the World Series. It's unbelievable man," Peacock said. "I'm never going to forget this, ever."
There was one negative for the Astros on the night. Gurriel was spotted in the dugout by television cameras appearing to mock Darvish's Asian heritage after he hit his second-inning home run. Hinch said Gurriel would make a statement, and Commissioner Rob Manfred will reportedly speak with Gurriel about the incident prior to Saturday's Game Four.