The Houston Astros and Los Angeles Dodgers were dominant this season, each winning over 100 games. Predicting this year’s World Series which begins Tuesday in Los Angeles is no easy task.
The Astros have never won a ring, and the Dodgers haven’t appeared in a World Series since 1988 when they defeated the Oakland A’s 4-1. On the surface, the Dodgers have a clear advantage, having breezed through the first two rounds of the playoffs. They dispatched the Diamondbacks in three games, last year’s World Series champion Cubs in four. Then the players had a chance to rest, regroup and heal.
Healing may prove especially important, because shortstop Corey Seager, last year’s National League Rookie of the Year, has had time to rest and recover from a back injury that kept him out of the NLCS. Charlie Culberson, who ably filled in for Seager and batted .455 in the NLCS, will stay on the roster.
The Astros have had a tougher road to the World Series, needing four games to send the Red Sox home, all seven to defeat the Yankees. In the ALCS, Houston won the first two games at home by 2-1 scores. Justin Verlander, acquired from the Detroit Tigers at the last possible minute of the trade deadline, channeled a bygone era and delivered a 124-pitch complete game in the second win. At Yankee Stadium though the home team won all three games.
When the series returned to Houston, New York had the advantage and the momentum. But Verlander pitched seven scoreless innings, and Houston’s bats came alive and changed that momentum. Second baseman Jose Altuve, the Astros 5’6” sparkplug homered and drove in three runs.
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In the final game, Houston manager A.J. Hinch left his starter Charlie Morton in for five innings, avoided his volatile middle relief and entrusted the game to reliever Lance McCullers. McCullers delivered, and the Astros defeated the Yankees 4-0.
The Dodgers, of course, have that weapon by the name of Clayton Kershaw, aka the best pitcher on the planet. He has a surprising 6-7 record overall in postseason play and a very un-Kershaw 4.40 ERA, as opposed to his 2.34 career ERA during the regular season. However, thanks to less than stellar pitchers behind Kershaw in the rotation in recent playoff series, he’s been asked to shoulder more of the burden including pitching on short rest. This time the Dodgers have Rich Hill, Yu Darvish, and Alex Wood to back up Kershaw, as well as a closer in Kenley Jansen who can pitch more than one inning.
My head tells me the Dodgers will win it in seven games, but my heart wants the Astros to take the trophy home as a gift to the people of Houston who are still reeling from the effects of Hurricane Harvey.