Astros, Dodgers meet in rare matchup of 100-win powerhouses
It’s hard to believe, but 100-win teams have not met in the World Series since 1970 — until now. The Houston Astros (101–61 in the regular season) meet the Los Angeles Dodgers (104–58) in a matchup that at first glance will come down to how well the Dodgers’ pitching (second in MLB in runs allowed) fares against Houston’s stacked lineup (first in MLB in runs scored).
But no team wins 100 games by being one-dimensional. The Dodgers have six players who hit 21 home runs or more (Houston has four), and they ranked in the top 5 of the National League in doubles, home runs and OPS. The Astros pitchers, meanwhile, ranked in the American League’s top 5 in runs allowed and ERA and placed second to only Cleveland in strikeouts. And most of that was accomplished before ace Justin Verlander was acquired from the Tigers.
The Dodgers have won six World Series but none since 1988. The Astros have never won it all, appearing only in the 2005 World Series and getting swept by the White Sox while still a member of the National League.
Houston Astros vs. Los Angeles Dodgers
(All games are on FOX, all times are ET)
|1||Tues., Oct. 24||8:09 p.m. ET||Dallas Keuchel vs. Clayton Kershaw|
|2||Wed., Oct. 25||8:09 p.m. ET||Justin Verlander vs. Rich Hill|
|3||Fri., Oct. 27||8:09 p.m. ET||Yu Darvish vs. TBD|
|4||Sat. Oct. 28||8:09 p.m. ET||Alex Wood vs. TBD|
|5*||Sun., Oct. 29||8:16 p.m. ET||TBD vs. TBD|
|6*||Tues. Oct. 31||8:09 p.m. ET||TBD vs. TBD|
|7*||Wed., Nov. 1||8:10 p.m. ET||TBD vs. TBD|
(Note: Games 1,2, 6 and 7 will be played at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles; Games 3, 4 and 5 will take place at Minute Maid Park in Houston)
Three Things to Watch
1. Aces in the hole
Because the Astros needed seven games to dispatch the Yankees in the ALCS, they couldn’t set their rotation with Verlander at the top for Game 1. Still, this series may well come down to Verlander vs. Clayton Kershaw of the Dodgers. While they are among the best pitchers of their generation — Kershaw may be THE best — both have some postseason demons they’d like to exorcise. Kershaw has never pitched in the World Series, in part because his ERA in 17 career postseason starts is 4.40, more than two runs higher than his career regular season ERA. Verlander, meanwhile, is 11–2 in his career in the AL playoffs with a sub-3.00 ERA ... but 0–3 with an ERA of 7.20 in three career World Series starts.
Verlander has won all nine of his starts since joining the Astros, including four in the postseason, while allowing just eight runs. Kershaw hasn’t been as dominant in the postseason but he led the NL with 18 wins and an ERA of 2.31 while striking out 202 in 175 innings this season. They aren’t meeting head-to-head in Game 1, but don’t be surprised if both are on the mound in an elimination game late in the Series.
2. Altuve, Turner come through in the clutch
While the Astros’ vaunted offense struggled at times in the ALCS, especially on the road, second baseman Jose Altuve is having a monster postseason. He’s hitting .400 (16-for-40) with five home runs, including one each in Games 6 and 7 of the ALCS as Houston rallied from a 3-2 series hole to beat the Yankees. If the Astros need a big hit, Altuve usually comes through.
Third baseman Justin Turner is that guy for the Dodgers. He’s hitting .387 in the 2017 playoffs (12-for-31) with three homers, including a walk-off shot in Game 2 against the Cubs in the NLCS. His career OPS in 26 postseason games is a ridiculous 1.113, and he is 14-for-20 in his postseason career with runners in scoring position.
3. The Dodgers' bullpen has been lights out
If the Astros don’t get to Kershaw and the Los Angeles starters, it may be a short series. The Dodgers bullpen has been unhittable at times. L.A. had the lowest bullpen ERA in the majors in the regular season, and it’s been even better in the postseason. Dodgers relievers pitched 28 2/3 innings in the NL playoffs and recorded an ERA of 0.94 with 32 strikeouts and just two walks.
Granted, the Diamondbacks and Cubs are free swingers compared to Houston; both struck out nearly 400 more times than the Astros this season. But if the Dodgers can get the ball to closer Kenley Jansen, it almost doesn’t matter whom he is facing. Jansen led the NL with 41 saves and hasn’t allowed an earned run in eight postseason innings over seven appearances, giving up just two hits and walking one with 12 strikeouts.
Momentum has been a weird thing for these teams. The Dodgers won 50 of 60 games at one point but later lost 11 in a row and 16 of 17. No team has ever won a World Series after enduring a losing stretch like that. But they are 19–7 since that 11-game skid, including postseason, and they are rested after winning the NLCS in five games.
The Astros raced to a huge lead in the AL West, stumbled to an 11–17 record in August, and have been hot ever since (28–12, including playoffs). While home-field advantage has been everything to Houston in the postseason (6–0 at Minute Maid Park, 1–4 elsewhere), the Astros were actually better on the road (53–28) than at home (48–33) during the regular season. Does that negate the Dodgers’ home-field advantage?
So little separates these two teams, it’s easy to see this one going the distance. After seeing the Astros rally back after dropping three straight to the Yankees, we’re not betting against them