Houston Astros (101-61) vs Los Angeles Dodgers (104-58)
This is a battle of clearly the best two teams all year in terms of records, however, now that September and most of October have rolled out, some things have changed. The last time the Astros won their division was back in 2001, but the last time the Dodgers won theirs is the last 5 seasons. But, it’s been 29 years since LA has been in the World Series, but only 12 since the Astros have. Both squads have a young manager at the helm, an incredible ace on the mound, and an enthusiastic home fan base. But, there are some major differences between the teams despite talent that will make a big difference.
Houston, aside from Verlander, Reddick, McCann and Beltran players are either home grown or bought cheap and grown more. Where as LA is a mixture to make up one of the deepest teams the 2000’s has seen. The Dodgers have steam rolled through the playoffs thus far, including games on the road. Going to one of the biggest sports stages in the world at Wrigley Field and taking 2/3 from the defending World Champs seemed to be no big deal. However, the Astros have struggled on the road this postseason, unlike the regular season when they were 53-28. Its no mystery that the Dodgers have more fans, so many that they are all over the country, so either on the road or at home, they are always heavily supported which goes in the plus column for LA. But, Houston on the other hand doesn’t have nearly the fan base LA has. Most of the their fan support will be in Houston holding on to the “Houston Strong” slogan of 2017. The Post Season is different than the regular season. Houston got beat in the first game in Boston and all 3 in New York (2 of the biggest stages in the game). LA is just as intimidating. Despite the statistics and performance of Houston this year, the intensity of Dodger Stadium will be sure to take it’s tole on the young core of the Astros.
Part of what has made LA so good in 2017 has been the depth of the bullpen and the usage of it by Dave Roberts. Houston may have some nice pieces like Giles and Devenski, but the Astros’ pen has gotten rattled a few times this postseason, especially on the road and clearly don’t have the track record the Dodger pen does. The Astros have some nice pieces off the bench like Beltran, Maybin, and Gattis, but nothing like the Dodgers. Both lineups are very equal in terms of production this season, but it’s different when road and home come into play. However, Keuchal and Verlander is arguably the best duo atop a rotation in baseball. But, after those two it’s shaky, where as the Dodgers, other than Kershaw, have 4 or 5 quality starters they can throw.
Astros key to winning: Bullpen needs to learn how to keep the team in the game on the road. Need to keep swinging the bats. Beltran may have to play more, as he has been here and is one of the best post season hitters in history. Lastly, win game 1 or 2 in LA, or else it’s over quick, meaning Verlander and/or Keuchal just need to do what they do.
Dodgers key to winning: Put the fear of God into the Astros by having Kershaw go 7+ dominant innings. If the Dodgers underperform or keep performing at the level they have, the advantage is in their favor. If Seager comes back and starts to hit immediately, it will just be another blow the Dodgers can land upon Houston. Beating Keuchal and Verlander in games 1 and 2 could lead to a sweep. Multiple substitutions could baffle Houston, as they are not as deep nor know how to use their bench.
Honestly, this could be one of the most lopsided World Series of the past 10 years or 2000’s. But, all year both of these teams have been dominating and entertaining, so it there could be some entertaining back and forth. In the end, the Dodgers are not a good match up for the Astros and have been waiting for this moment (and prepared) for 5+ years.
Prediction: 4-1 Dodgers