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Saturday, September 25, 2021

World Series 2017 Preview

KEITH ALLISON [(CC BY-SA 2.0)] / FLICKR
Astros, Dodgers will compete in Fall Classic

The Fall Classic is upon us once again, showing us that there is nothing quite like postseason baseball. The Houston Astros and the Los Angeles Dodgers will square off in the World Series –– an intriguing matchup between two franchises with very different title-game experience.

Each postseason, it is tremendously difficult to predict which clubs have the talent, the luck or the willpower necessary to pull off a magical playoff run. Each October, fans pay witness to new heroes, a new team that gets hot at just the right time or simply a dominating run by an overpowering ballclub. Fortunately for fans, this year’s postseason has combined all three of these storylines and more.

 

The team from LA:

The Dodgers are returning to the World Series for the first time since 1988, when the franchise won its sixth title, thanks in part to Kirk Gibson’s magical, walk-off moon-shot that sailed into the Dodger Stadium bleachers and landed among the iconic moments in MLB history. 29 years later to the day, Dodgers infielder Justin Turner launched a ball over the center field wall in the same building for a walk-off homerun of his own, giving the Dodgers a 2-0 series lead over the Chicago Cubs in the National League Championship Series. L.A. finished off the Cubs just three games later, defeating them at Wrigley Field behind Kiké Hernandez’s three-home run evening.

Los Angeles has lost only one postseason game so far this year, sweeping the Arizona Diamondbacks in the division series and conquering the Cubs in the NLCS in five games. This dominant run through the playoffs is mysterious compared to the Dodgers’ track record in recent years. The club has competed in the postseason in each of the previous four years, and each year the Dodgers have come up heartbreakingly short, including two NLCS losses over that span. This season, L.A. has finally found a way to get over the hump that has haunted it for so long.

But will the Dodgers getting over their NLCS woes culminate in a World Series victory? It would seem that this team certainly has the motivation and the talent to do so. The club won a league-leading 104 games during this year’s regular season and at one point looked to have a legitimate chance at challenging the 2001 Seattle Mariners’ MLB-record win total of 116. The Dodgers fell short of that mark, but more importantly geared up for a deep playoff run by bolstering an already impressive pitching staff.

L.A. made several moves before the trade deadline, improving its bullpen by bringing in relief pitchers Tony Watson and Tony Cingrani. But the team’s most high-profile trade was in acquiring right-handed ace Yu Darvish from the Texas Rangers. Darvish has indeed lived up to all the trade deadline hype; in his 11 and one-third innings pitched this postseason, Darvish has struck out 14 batters while giving up only two runs. A stronger relief staff and Darvish’s excellence combined with the skill of longtime Dodgers star Clayton Kershaw has proven to be a winning postseason formula.

Of course, the bats for L.A. have continued to remain active as well. Turner leads all players in the postseason with 12 RBIs and outfielder Yasiel Puig has the top postseason batting average (.414) among players with at least 20 at bats. The Dodgers have even found consistent hitting from lesser-known position players like Charlie Culberson and Chris Taylor.

 

The team from Houston:

While the Dodgers have appeared in the World Series nearly 20 times, the Houston Astros are playing in the Fall Classic for only the second time in franchise history –– the first since the team moved to the American League in 2013. The team made its first World Series appearance back in 2005 as champions of the National League before being swept by the Chicago White Sox.

After recent seasons of disappointment, Houston has constructed a formidable team around all-star second baseman Jose Altuve and Cy Young-winning pitcher Dallas Keuchel. Filling their roster with proven veterans like catcher Brian McCann and outfielder Carlos Beltrán, the Astros were able to win 100 games for the second time in franchise history. Carrying their regular season momentum into the playoffs, the Astros were able to defeat two perennial American League powers by first fending off the Boston Red Sox in the division series and then slipping by the New York Yankees in seven games to win the American League pennant.

Much like Los Angeles, Houston also prioritized improving its pitching staff before the trade deadline, as the team brought in another Cy Young winner, right-handed pitcher Justin Verlander. The pitching combination of Keuchel and Verlander has combined for 49 strikeouts this postseason, while only allowing nine earned runs.

With these two leading the defensive charge, the Astros have also clicked offensively. Altuve and his fellow infielders, Yuli Gurriel and Carlos Correa, are the top three postseason leaders in hits, with 16, 15 and 13, respectively. Altuve has also hit five home runs this postseason, the most among all players.

Both the Astros and Dodgers are teams built on shut-down pitching and consistent offense. Will defense rule the day? Or will offense overpower these formidable defenses? The depth of the lineups on each side will make it intriguing see which team’s bats will find the most success against the high-level pitching. Runs will most likely be hard to come by against the starting rotations, so late-game situations against the bullpen is what this series will really hinge on. Nonetheless, this should prove to be a fantastic finish to an exciting year of Major League Baseball.

 

Written by: Dominic Faria — sports@theaggie.org

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