Road To The World Series - How We Got Here
After 6 wonderful months of baseball, we’ve finally reached the point where we’re down to 2 teams. The World Series this season will be between the juggernaut of the NL the Los Angeles Dodgers, and the young, talented team from Texas, the Houston Astros. Both teams have had a crazy journey to get to this point, so let’s recap how we made it to this point.
The season started out relatively normal, as the Dodgers and Astros took a commanding lead in their respective divisions early. The Astros were led by their young core with Jose Altuve, Carlos Correa, and a very strong start for George Springer. While on the other hand the Dodgers got production all throughout the lineup, but pitching performances from Alex Wood, and Kenley Jansen highlighted the Dodgers april. In late April the Dodgers would get a solid addition to their lineup in rookie Cody Bellinger, but more on him later.
The Astros crushed to the top of the AL in the first half, as they finished with a 60-29. In May the Astros also had their own Carlos Correa and Lance McCullers Jr. named player, and pitcher of the month respectively, and having 6 players representing them in the all-star game. For the Dodgers they finished the first half with one more win than the Astros with a 61-29 record, but with a 52-18 record with rookie Cody Bellinger in the lineup. Speaking of Bellinger he had a pretty spectacular first half despite missing most of April. Bellinger hit .261 with 25 home runs, landing him a spot on the NL all-star team along with 5 other Dodgers.
The second half differed greatly from the first half for both teams. The second half of the reason didn’t start well for the Astros, and things only got worse for the Astros as Hurricane Harvey hit the greater Houston Area, causing devastation in Houston, and forcing MLB to move a series in between the Astros and the Rangers from Houston to Tampa Bay. The Astros second half whoes led them to got 41-32 in the second half, much worse than their impressive first half, and lose their hold on the best record in the AL to the Cleveland Indians. The Dodgers didn’t fair much better than the Astros, and although they had many high points in the second half, they also had many low points including an 11- game losing streak and losing 16 out of 17 games. Thankfully for Dodgers fans their stellar first half gave them enough breathing room in the standings where despite the losing streak they still had a solid led in the NL West over the future Wild Card winner Diamondbacks, and a good grip on the best record in the NL over the Nationals. Despite still finishing the season strong the Dodgers finished the second half with a 43-29 record, still quite impressive but not so much compared to their first half record.
As the trade deadline approached, and both teams geared up for the playoffs, each team took a very different approach as the deadline passed. The Dodgers took a very up front approach and made several moves as you would expect a team to do if they’re making a playoff push. The Dodgers didn’t do much to add to their already stacked lineup, but they made a few additions to the pitching staff. In the bullpen the Dodgers added lefties Tony Watson from the Pirates, and Tony Cingrani from the Reds. For the rotation the Dodgers went for a big name pitcher in hopes of creating an unbeatable top of the rotation, adding Yu Darvish from the Rangers and slotting him behind Kershaw. For the Astros they waited a little longer to make moves, and waited till the waiver trade deadline, unlike the Dodgers who made their moves at the non-waiver trade deadline, more commonly referred to as just the trade deadline. At the waiver deadline the Astros didn’t make many moves, but the moves they did make made a big splash in the headlines. At the deadline the Astros picked up outfielder Cameron Maybin from the LA Angels, and their big piece was acquiring Justin Verlander from the Detroit Tigers. Although Maybin didn’t do anything newsworthy in Houston, Verlander began to pitch on a whole other level when he arrived in Houston, going 5-0 with a 1.06 ERA in 5 starts with the Astros. With new players on the roster, and both teams in the playoffs these two future competitors were ready to fight for their pennant.
Going into their final series of the year in Boston, the Red Sox hadn’t clinched their division yet as the Yankees although weren’t likely to overthrow Boston on top of the division they were still mathematically in the race, so the Astro’s first round matchup was still a question. However, as the series in Boston came to a close the Astros found out they would be facing the Red Sox once more, this time at home in the ALDS. In game 1 of the Division Series the Astros did what they did best all year, and that was hit. The Astros won game one 8-2, roughing up Cy Young Award candidate Chris Sale, as the Astros offense was highlighted by Jose Altuve’s 3 home run game. Game 2 was more of the same for the Astros as they took that game from Boston by the same score of game one. With the series headed to Boston the Astros looked for the 3 game sweep, and although they took an early 3 run lead, the Red Sox fought back winning the game 10-3. With that loss behind them the Astros looked to take the series without having to go back home for a decisive game 5, and they did exactly that winning game 4 by a score of 5-4, eliminating the Red Sox, and moving on the the ALCS to face either the Indians or the Yankees. On the Dodgers side of the coin they had to wait a little longer to see who they’d be facing as they awaited the winner of the NL Wild Card game, which were the Diamondbacks as they beat their division rival the Rockies 11-8 in Arizona. Although many people weren’t bullish on the Dodgers in the postseason, the 104 win club wasted no time by scoring 4 runs in the first inning, proving the doubters wrong winning game one with a solid 9-5 victory of the Diamondbacks. Game 2 was more of the same for the Dodgers as they win that game by a similar score, 8-5. After winning the first two games in LA, an off day and a trip to Arizona didn’t slow down this club as the Dodgers won game three 3-1, winning the series and completing the sweep of the Diamondbacks.
After moving on from their respective division series, both teams were ready to duke it out for their leagues pennant, and a chance to play in the world series. However, both teams had a tall task ahead of them as the Astros had to face a Yankees team that had just squeezing by the Indians in a decisive game 5 in Cleveland. The well rested Astros were ready to face the resilient Yankees squad. Game one started things off well for the Astros as they managed to inch past the Yankees winning 2-1 highlighted by a stellar start by lefty Dallas Keuchel. Game two was another pitching duel as the Astros walked off the Yankees in the bottom of the 9th, winning the game 2-1 behind Justin Verlander's 9 inning, 1 run start. Despite being up 2-0 in the series the Astros had a lot of work to do, as they tried to beat the Yankees at home, where they were 3-0 already in the postseason. Despite their best efforts the Astros couldn’t beat the Yankees at home, as they dropped games 3 and 4 8-1 and 6-4 respectively. The game 4 loss put hope into Yankees fans however as the Yanks were down 4-0 in the 7th inning, but a rally lead by the youngsters like Aaron Judge, and Gary Sanchez put the Yankees back in the game, and back in the series as it was tied 2-2 after game 4. Game 5 ended up going in the Yankees favor as they won 5-0 behind a stellar start from Masahiro Tanaka. Up 3 games to 2 the Yankees looked to go back to Houston, and punch their ticket to the World Series, but the Astros and Justin Verlander had other plans in mind. Despite an early pitchers duel between Verlander and Yankees youngster Luis Severino, the Astros pulled away winning game 6 by a strong 7-1 score, once again highlighted by Justin Verlander’s solid outing this time only going 7 innings. With that win not only did the Astros force a decisive game 7, but they also swung momentum back in their favor, as shown by the game 7 result. The bats were quiet in the beginning as C.C. Sabathia pitched like he had all postseason for the first few innings, but everything changed with one swing of the bat from Evan Gattis. As Gattis stepped up in the 4th he hadn’t had a strong series so far, but against the veteran lefty the righty hitting Gattis had the chance to make up for all his whoes in the series, and make up for them he did. Gattis launched a home run into left field, and when it landed it was 1-0 Astros. From this point the ‘Stros wouldn’t look back, and behind a 2 - RBI night from Brian McCann, and another solo home run, this time by Jose Altuve, the Astros punched their ticket to the 2017 World Series. This also marked the first time a team has reached the World Series in both leagues (NL 2005, AL 2017).
For the Dodgers, they fared much better against the Cubs in a 2016 NLCS matchup. Much like the Astros, the Dodgers too won both games 1 and 2 at home, beating the Cubs 5-2 and 4-1 Game 2 for the Dodgers was something special, as it occurred on the anniversary the night Kirk Gibson’s walk off home run in game 1 of the 1988 World Series, against Dennis Eckersley of the Oakland Athletics. That night Dodgers third baseman took a page out of Gibson’s book and hit himself a walk off 3 run home run against the Cubs, winning the game for the Dodgers, and paying respects to a Dodger legend. Up 2 games to 0 the Dodgers heading to Wrigley Field in Chicago, the same place where they had experienced elimination the year prior to the same Cubs team they faced again. Things went differently this year for the Dodgers as in game 3 they silenced the rowdy Cubs fans winning game 3 6-1, and needing only one more win to make it to their first World Series since 1988. Despite their best efforts the Dodgers couldn’t manage to get that elusive game 4 win, losing 3-2 making the series score 3-1 Dodgers, and giving the Dodgers their first loss of the 2017 postseason. This loss didn’t seem to affect the Dodgers that much however as game 5 was all Dodgers. A solid start from Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw, and a 3 home run game from utility player Kike Hernandez led the Dodgers to a lopsided 11-1 victory over the Cubs, clinching a World Series birth.
Now as both teams ready to compete in the 2017 World Series, there is no clear cut favorite. Although the Dodgers were the best team record wise in the regular season, the Astros weren’t far behind the Dodgers, as shown by both teams winning over 100 games in the regular season (this is the 8th time both pennant winners finished with 100 or more wins, and the first time since 1970 this has happened). Both teams have stellar starting rotations, as the Dodgers have Clayton Kershaw who despite being the NLCS game 5 starter and the World Series game 1 starter for the Dodgers is on normal 5 days rest, and is ready to go. Backing him up are Yu Darvish who has been very good this postseason, Alex Wood who has had a few ups and downs this season, and Rich Hill, the veteran lefty. In the bullpen the Dodgers will look to turn the ball over to all-star closer Kenley Jansen as often as possible, as Jansen was 41/42 in save chances during the regular season, and has a 1-0 record this postseason through 8 innings of work. On the Astros side of things the Dodgers are going to have to face a tough 1-2 punch in Keuchel and Verlander. Despite getting hit hard in his last start against the Yankees, Keuchel is well rested and ready to turn the page as he looks to duel with fellow former Cy Young award winner Clayton Kershaw. For game 2 the Astros will once again turn to their hero Justin Verlander as the righty is 3-0 this postseason and will look to keep up his dominance against Dodgers lefty Rich Hill. For the lineups both teams have fantastic young hitting cores. The Dodgers have the young shortstop Corey Seager available this series, as he is returning from a back issue, the rookie sensation Cody Bellinger, and the showman of the team Yasiel Puig. Opposing the Dodgers offense is a super young, and super talented Astros lineup, consisting of MVP candidate Jose Altuve, star shortstop Carlos Correa, outfielder George Springer, and young third baseman Alex Bregman. Former player Alex Rodriguez summed up the matchup between these two teams perfectly, as he said “This is not Dodgers vs Astros, David vs Goliath, this is Goliath vs Goliath”. He described both teams as juggernauts, and with loaded up rosters. This World Series is bound to be a good one, as the Astros attempt to win their first ever Championship, and as the Dodgers attempt to break their championship drought. Who’s going to win? You’ll just have to watch and find out.