With Clayton Kershaw behind them, no more excuses for Astros

LOS ANGELES -- When it comes to winning even a single game in the World Series, the Houston Astros are still 0-for-55 years after their Game 1 loss to the Dodgers. But there is good news: They don’t have to face Clayton Kershaw in Game 2.

So you can talk about the Astros’ batters pressing, if you want. You can think that maybe, for some of their guys, especially the younger ones, the road stage might have been too big for them. But really, it comes down to facing probably the best active pitcher on the planet.

“Sometimes you have to tip your cap to the pitcher -- that was the case today,” Astros MVP candidate Jose Altuve said as wave after wave of reporters surrounded his locker following Houston’s 3-1 loss on Tuesday night.

Now, don’t be mistaken, the Dodgers’ Game 2 starter, Rich Hill, is no slouch, of course. But he is not Kershaw, and the Astros will have a better chance to make some noise.

“I don’t think there is any panic with anyone,” said Houston third baseman Alex Bregman, who had the best cut during Kershaw’s seven-inning stint when he hit a tying solo homer in the fourth inning. “Everybody is very confident. It is a long series. They have a good pitcher going [Wednesday]. But we do have the best offense in baseball.”

The best offense in baseball, though, is not scoring on the road -- at least, not lately. In the Bronx against the New York Yankees in the American League Championship Series, the Astros scored one run in Game 3, four in Game 4 and were shut out in Game 5. So in their past four postseason games on the road, the best (regular-season) offense in baseball has scored a total of six runs. It is hard to win many games averaging fewer than two runs per night.

The Astros gave up three runs on homers by Chris Taylor and Justin Turner. That was too much.

“Tonight is about Kershaw,” Astros manager A.J. Hinch said. “And, really, the span of a couple of at-bats. They had two big swings, we had one. They had a walk before one of their big swings, it's 3-1. We get to Game 2. It's no more complicated than that.”

No, it is not, but besides Bregman, no one could hit the Dodgers’ pitching, which included Brandon Morrow for the eighth inning and Kenley Jansen for the ninth.

George Springer struck out in all four of his at-bats. Besides his homer, Bregman was hitless in his three other at-bats. Altuve had a single in four at-bats. Carlos Correa and Yuli Gurriel combined to go 0-for-6. When you add up the first five Astros’ batters, they were 2-for-18. They are all young and playing in their first World Series, but Hinch doesn’t want to hear it.

“We're heading into Game 2 of the World Series,” said Hinch, whose team struck out 12 times on Tuesday. “So there's no more rookies, there's no more youth. It's just competing. And their guy beat us. For us, obviously, we need to stay in the strike zone. It's easier said at the podium or sitting in the dugout than in the batter's box. But hopefully we can get it [in Game 2].”

It is much easier when Kershaw is not on the mound. Hill is pretty good, but even if Sandy Koufax were on that Dodger Stadium mound, the Astros are going to have to figure out how to hit here or they won’t be bringing Houston the franchise’s first championship.