AND then there were two. After millions of pitches, thousands of home runs and two pennant wins the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Houston Astros are the last two teams left standing in Major League Baseball. The two dominant 100 win teams have looked like the best team in all of baseball at times during the year and now they find themselves on the verge of capturing an elusive World Series crown.
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The Houston Astros
Why They’ll Win
NEVER in their 55-year history have the Astros started the way they started 2017. Bolstered by the AL MVP (let’s not kid ourselves) Jose Altuve and the rest of the Houston offense they powered to a 42-16 record that eventually translated to the second 100+ win season in franchise history.
IF Altuve is the regular season MVP, then Justin Verlander might be the playoff MVP. Through four starts he has allowed a WHIP of 0.93 and an ERA of 1.46 with just four runs against him. Throw in the now healthy arm of their ace Dallas Keuchel and the other stars in the Astros outfield and it’s hard to argue that their time is now.
Image from houstonchronicle.com
Why They’ll Lose
IT hasn’t all been smooth sailing for Houston though. In fact, there was a large period of time where it looked like they weren’t even going to be in this position, trailing 3-2 against the New York Yankees in the ALCS. Part of the reason they found themselves down was because of their wayward offense which managed just seven runs in the first five games of the series. If they stall again it could mean a quick, miserable series for the,.
THEIR bullpen remains an issue as well with manager A.J. Hinch clearly unable to find a go-to guy at the death. Through 33 innings these playoffs they have allowed 23 hits and 14 runs, which ummm isn’t very good. They will need to find their mojo at the end of games if they are going to get over the Dodgers.
X-Factor – Offensive Supporting Cast
WE know what we are in for in regards to Houston’s three offensive stars. Altuve, Carlos Correa and George Springer give the Astros one of the league’s most dominant trio’s, but it was the lesser-known names that helped them win the pennant against the Yankees.
FIRST baseman Yuli Gurriel and catcher Brian McCann were both factors in the Game 7 win and will be called upon along with the likes of Alex Bregman and Marwin Gonzalez to help the Houston bats recapture the dominant offensive displays we have become accustomed too earlier in the year.
Storyline That Matters
EVERYONE remembers their first. The Astros are yet to experience success on baseball’s biggest stage with their last appearance at the Fall Classic in 2005 an embarrassing sweep at the hands of the Chicago White Sox. With the city still recovering from the devastation of Hurrican Harvey, you know what a win would mean for the city. Can they complete the fairytale?
The Los Angeles Dodgers
Why They’ll Win
FOR a period of time the Los Angeles Dodgers were on a warpath hardly seen before. They paced their way to a 91-36 record which included 56 wins during a 67 game stretch However, they were halted dramatically towards the end of the season. They refound they mojo come playoff time powered by their amazing bullpen who shut out the Cubs in 17 innings pitched over the five-game NLCS series. An 7-1 playoff record so far has the Dodgers poised as the hot team that can’t be stopped.
Why They’ll Lose
FOR all the good that LA has done in their eight postseason games so far there are definitely some potential issues. The trio of Yasiel Puig, Justin Turner and Chris Taylor have jacked their numbers up in a BIG way these playoffs, becoming heroes of Dodger’s baseball. Yet, they could just as fast go missing and fail to provide the team with the offense it so desperately needs to compete with the high octane Astros.
WE all know about Clayton Kershaw’s abilities, but behind him (and perhaps Yu Darvish) the other starters don’t exactly fill Dodgers fans with confidence. If one of them struggles even slightly then there is a chance they could give up runs in a big bunch.
X-Factor – Cory Seager’s Health
THE reigning NL Rookie of the Year missed the entire series with the Cubs thanks to a back injury he suffered in the divisional round. Seager remains a huge part of the Dodgers chances of victory and he is expected to suit up in Game 1 in his usual role. However, if there are any signs that he hasn’t fully recovered from his injury, then it could hamper LA’s offense and quickly become a huge problem.
Image from youtube.com
Storyline That Matters
LEGACIES are defined on the biggest stage. Names like Tom Brady and Michael Jordan wouldn’t be considered in such high esteem if they flatlined come playoff time. While it might seem ludicrous to mention Clayton Kershaw in the same breath he has a chance to bolster his postseason reputation in a positive way. Through his 21 playoff games to date, he owns a 6-7 win-loss record and an ERA of 4.40, A far cry from his regular season numbers of 144 win, 64 losses and a measly 2.36 ERA. It’s time for him to remind everyone he is the best pitcher in baseball. Can he step up to the plate?
NOT since 1970 have we see two teams with 100 wins square off to try and claim the coveted World Series. As mentioned above for flashes of time during the year both the Astros and the Dodgers looked like they would be the champions. It’s somewhat fitting that they are fighting for the crown and it is really anyone’s ball game in my opinion.
ON paper the best defense in the National League is hosting the best offense in the American League when simply looking at runs scored/allowed. However, throughout the playoffs, a few noteworthy subjects have emerged. For Houston to be successful they will need to disguise their bullpen and shelter them by letting their starters go deep into games. Justin Verlander could do just that as can Dallas Keuchel, so not all hope is lost. If they fail to do that we really might be in for a shootout through seven games.
SIMILARLY to the NBA the team with the best player usually wins a best of seven series though. And no disrespect to Jose Altuve, but until he proves otherwise I think that player is Clayton Kershaw. He has a real chance to abolish his postseason demons of the past and I expect him to do just that through his two starts. Yes, that means the Astros will claim at least one win, with the AL Championship Series proving that you can’t stop them for an entire seven-game series. All signs point to an exciting series, that has the potential to be an all-time classic. But, barring anything stunning it is a series that the Dodgers will win.
LOS ANGELES DODGERS IN 6
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