Houston Astros vs. Los Angeles Dodgers
First Pitch 10.24.17 8:00pm EST
First things first. It’s been almost half a century since two 100-win teams have met in the World Series. 1970 was the last time it occurred, and this will be only the eighth time in the history of professional baseball that two teams have reached the Fall Classic with that milestone in their back pocket. They may have that in common, but both teams took very different paths to get here. The Astros had their backs against the wall in the ALCS after New York took three straight in the Bronx, but the Astros starting pitching and relentless offense brought them over the top in games six and seven to advance. The Dodgers have yet to be tested in this postseason, their only blemish coming as they dropped game 4 of the NLCS to the Cubs at Wrigley with Jake Arrieta on the mound.
Why the Dodgers can win:
The Dodgers can win because they have been, without doubt, the best team in the majors this year. Even with an inexplicable late season swoon that saw them lose sixteen out of seventeen games, including eleven straight, the Dodgers lead in the NL West never dipped below nine games. Think about that for a moment. They lost all but one game for the better part of a month and still owned the largest divisional lead in the majors. That’s flat-out scary. Even scarier is that they’ve righted the ship and devoured quality playoff teams without thinking twice. Even more impressive is that they’ve done so without Clayton Kershaw looking like his regular season self, at least until Game 5 of the NLCS, that is. If he becomes the pitcher we’ve seen all year, the Astros will have a serious hill to climb. Kershaw isn’t the only asset the Dodgers bring to the mound. Their pitching is extremely competitive, from the starting rotation with Clayton Kershaw and Yu Darvish to the bullpen anchored by Kenley Jansen, this team can shut down even the most formidable lineups. Offensively, the Dodgers lineup can rake from top to bottom, there isn’t a soft spot to be found. From Yasiel Puig and Justin Turner to Chris Taylor and Rookie of the Year in waiting, 1B Cody Bellinger, the Dodgers don’t give many breaks.
Why the Astros can win:
The Astros can win because they’ve been through the fire. While the Dodgers have cruised through the postseason, the Astros fought through a gauntlet to get here. It took resolve and a cast iron stomach to battle back against the Yanks after getting swept in the Bronx, but the Astros starters, especially Verlander have been there and done that. This Astros team has been building for several years, and 2017 might just be their crescendo. Verlander has been locked in these playoffs, trotting out a perfect 4-0 record and baffling hitters. Game 1 starter Dallas Keuchel, he of the magnificent beard, has been almost equally dominant this postseason. While the rest of the rotation and the bullpen aren’t quite as deep as L.A., these two can compete with the top of the Dodgers rotation to make it very, very interesting. Houston’s strength, however is on the offensive side of ball, where they have been the most balanced attack in the AL all season long. Springer and Gonzalez anchor an outfield that can produce runs and also take away a few from the Dodgers defensively, while 2B Jose Altuve has been an absolute monster this postseason, hitting .400 with 5 HR thus far. SS Carlos Correa has had himself a post season as well, driving in 9RBI to date. This balanced offense will look for a little extra pop against the Dodgers middle relievers who represent a potential weakness…if the Dodgers have one.
It seems that with his game 5 NLCS performance, giving up only one earned run in six innings, Clayton Kershaw has finally shown a glimpse of his regular season self in the playoffs. If he continues that trend, the Astros will have a tough path ahead of them. If he fades under the lights of the game’s brightest stage and the Astros can sneak game 1, it could go the distance. I don’t see that happening though. In the end, I think it’s Kershaw’s time to shine, and the Dodgers are too deep.
Dodgers in 5.
*Image Source & Copyright: MLB
Tom Capo writes about sports, parenting, food, wine and travel; but seldom all at once. He’s currently working on his first novel and collection of shorter fiction. He lives in the Bay Area with all of his girls; wife Allison, daughter Liliana and dog Artemis.