So it’s time for the World Series. The Astros have really made it. The opponent is the Los Angeles Dodgers, the old NL division rival of the Astros. The last time these two teams met in the postseason was in 1981 when the Dodgers knocked the Astros out in five games.
Both teams are surprisingly equal. They both won more than 100 games. They both have ace pitchers who are among the best in the game. There’s an analytical bent to both teams. Both had bad cable TV deals that left large portions of their viewer territory unable to see games (this is still the case for the Dodgers). The Dodgers play in an iconic stadium while the Astros play in a stadium with a choo choo train in left field.
Both have flashy shortstops. Both have Cuban exiles who play key roles on the team. For once, Houston will have the better weather than Los Angeles (the high temperature for Game One in L.A. is supposed to be around 100 degrees while Houston is enjoying a glorious cold front).
Game One sees Dallas Keuchel go up against Clayton Kershaw. Both have won Cy Young awards. Both win lots of games. Both dealt with injuries this year. Kershaw was 18-4 with a 2.31 ERA and 202 strikeouts this season (2-0, 3.26 and 16 strikeouts in the playoffs). Keuchel was 14-5 with a 2.90 ERA and 125 strikeouts this season (2-1 in the playoffs with 25 strikeouts). This is a pretty even matchup. But Game Two, matching up ALCS MVP Justin Verlander against Rich Hill, 12-8, 3.32 ERA, 166 strikeouts (2-0, 9.00 ERA and 12 strikeouts in nine playoff innings), is definitely in the Astros favor.
The Astros have yet to name a Game Three starter while the Dodgers have settled Yu Darvish. It’s likely either Lance McCullers Jr. or Charlie Morton will start Game Three with the other starting Game Four, likely against L.A.’s Alex Wood.
If Morton and McCullers perform like they did in Game Seven on Saturday night, the starting pitching matchup will be won by the Astros. As it is, just having Keuchel and Verlander as one and two almost swing this over to the Astros. The bullpen for L.A. is led by Kenley Jansen who was 5-0 with 41 saves and 109 strikeouts in 65 games. The Astros bullpen is not this good. Edge goes to the Dodgers.
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When it comes to position players, the Astros likely have the edge. Jose Altuve, Carlos Correa and George Springer are among the best in baseball at their positions. Alex Bregman ha made multiple key defensive plays at third this postseason, as has Josh Reddick, Yuli Gurriel, Marwin Gonzalez and Brian McCann. And though several of these players have slumped during the playoffs, all of them are capable of breaking out and going on extended hit streaks and carrying a team, though if Jose Altuve and Carlos Correa hit the baseball, nothing else should matter.
The Dodgers feature a solid lineup, led by a good third base/shortstop combo of Josh Turner and Corey Seager — though not as good a combo as Bregman and Correa. An aging Chase Utley gets the bulk of the time at second, with Cody Bellinger at first. Yasiel Puig is perhaps the Dodgers’ most famous position player, and he has put together a good season after one last year that bordered on disaster. Still, the advantage here is with Houston.
So who wins this thing? And why? I’m calling it for the Astros, and I’m calling it in seven games. The Dodgers are a good team, and it should not be a shock if the Dodgers somehow get the win, but it’s not going to happen. The pitching combo of Keuchel and Verlander and the infield combination of Altuve and Correa prove to be just too much for the Dodgers to combat.