Today, America’s Pastime is on center stage. The World Series has arrived. In a prediction that many had in the middle of the season the Houston Astros will be facing the Los Angeles Dodgers. Then the Dodgers had a terrible losing streak, the Astros had to battle outside factors including a rebuilding city after Hurricane Harvey, and the Indians went on to win 22 games in a row, becoming the favorite in the American League. But in the postseason where anything can happen, the Indians blew it, the Astros bats got hot, and they took care of business. Now for each matchup that will matter in this game.
Starting Pitching: Push
The first two games of this series features four All Star Pitchers, with 3 Cy Young Winners. Not a bad way to start the series for baseball fans. In Game 1, we get Clayton Kershaw, the most dominant starter in the past 5 years, against Dallas Keuchel, an old school pitcher who hits his spots and works the zone. While Kershaw has been dominant, the postseason has been a place where he has struggled lately, but I don’t see that continuing. He is on top of his game, and the team is rolling. Keuchel has some nasty stuff he can work to right-handers (think Turner, Puig). If he has his control, it’s going to be a pitcher’s duel that we won’t want to miss. Game 2 features Rich Hill and Justin Verlander. With how Verlander has thrown this postseason as well as having World Series experience, I think he gets the edge here in this matchup. Rich Hill is nothing to scoff at, but hard to go against Verlander. The rest of the series will feature Yu Darvish and Alex Wood for the Dodgers, and Charlie Morton and Lance McCullers for the Astros. Darvish is the sexiest name out of the bunch, but Morton and McCullers throw much better at home where they will get their starts in this series. Based on starters alone, this will be a seven game series. Darvish and McCullers may be the deciding factor on who wins this matchup.
The Astros bullpen has struggled throughout the postseason, as was evident in needing McCullers to throw 4 innings in Game 7 against the Yankees in the ALCS. On the other hand, the Dodgers have power arms in their bullpen that can take a game over from 6th inning on. Kenley Jansen is one of the best closers in baseball, and his presence alone would give the Dodgers the advantage over the shaky Astros pen.
Both teams have tremendous star power in their offenses. The Astros have 3 legitimate 5 tool players in their lineup in Springer, Altuve and Correa. Those players alone pose a threat to any opposing pitcher, but then you throw in Bregman who recently has been in a funk, but is looking to breakout any day now. Brian McCann behind the plate can still put a charge into one, as well as Evan Gattis who showed his power with a game 7 homerun in the ALCS, and Josh Redick looks as if he found his swing finally getting out of his 0-22 slump in the Championship Series. The veteran presence of Carlos Beltran who may serve sometime in the DH role, will help the younger players on this roster stay calm and be able to produce. They also have the highest contact rate in the Big Leagues this season which will play well for moving runners and keeping the pressure on the defense throughout the series.
The Dodgers have the best hitter in the postseason in Justin Turner. The guy can do it all. He’ll hit one to the right side of the field to move a runner from second to third, he’ll hit a walk off homerun, he will do whatever you ask of him. Yasiel Puig may have resurrected which is exactly what this offense needed. He may be the scariest 8 hole hitter in the history of baseball. Then you can throw in Cody Bellinger from the left side, where he produces a ton of fly balls and a ton of power hitting 39 homeruns this season in his Rookie of the Year campaign. Corey Seager coming off of his back injury will be interesting to see if he is at full strength, where if he is, he is one of the best shortstops in the league. If he serves more of a DH role, the Dodgers will rely on Charlie Culberson and Chris Taylor, who had a good NLCS, but neither measure up to a healthy Seager. Taylor will be in center field for the series, and provides a good offensive spark, but a healthy Seager is huge for this lineup.
Prediction: Dodgers in 7
This will be a fun series for everyone to watch. The Astros offense has been the best in baseball all year, making it very difficult to pick against them. Altuve has been the best player in baseball this year, and Correa and Springer provide a pop that is unlike any other in baseball. The difference in the series though will be home-field advantage and the bullpen. The Astros will have many decisions to make in who they decide to go to in the 6th inning of games when the pitcher is going up to hit and you need a run and have to turn the game over to the bullpen in L.A. Josh Turner will have some heroics and if Seager is healthy he could be what pushes it over the edge. The Dodgers bullpen will be able to dominate late in games, giving less pressure to Kershaw and their starters to have to push themselves and go late in games. The bullpen gives the Dodgers the edge, but it’s hard to pick against the Astros. If the Astros do win, it will be in 6 games, but I don’t see the Dodgers letting this one get away.
MVP: Justin Turner
He has been the best player for the best team in the league. This seems too easy of a pick. He will have a huge impact on the series, but if Kershaw throws two gems, then Turner could get snubbed out of this award. What the MLB needs is Yasiel Puig to somehow win this award and get his bat flipping, tongue wagging, wild personality on the forefront. That would be fun. If the Astros win, Altuve is the MVP.
This series will be fun to watch, competitive and gives every fan something to appreciate. It is tough to follow up the 2016 World Series and those storylines, but putting the two best teams in the sport against each other, giving America a feel good story in Houston winning, and putting a major market into the series with tremendous star power, it’ll be a series you don’t want to miss.