2017 World Series
Dodgers in 7
After a nearly 30-year drought the Los Angeles Dodgers are finally back in the World Series. Not that the Dodgers have been awful since 1996 as they have had their share of playoff appearances, but each time ended in disappointment. This year, however the Dodgers are loaded with one of their best teams in franchise history as they are strong in every position from a deep lineup, a solid rotation to one of the best closers and bullpens in the game. The Dodgers had one of the greatest 50-game stretches in baseball history and appeared to be in for a historic season before their September swoon saw them endure an 11-game losing streak. However, due to their big lead it was just a mere bump in the road as the Dodgers won a MLB best 104 games and cruised through the Division Series, sweeping the Arizona Diamondbacks before knocking off the defending champion Chicago Cubs in five games in the NLCS.
The Houston Astros were picked by Sports Illustrated to win the 2017 World Series back in 2014, when they were still bottom feeders in the American League. The Astros switched leagues one year earlier and were in a stretch of three straight 100-loss seasons. While Houston struggled in the majors they formulated a plan to build through the farm system and it has paid off as most of the core members of the Astros were home grown talent. After a midseason slump the Astros while dealing with the devastation of Hurricane Harvey in Houston acquired Justin Verlander at the 11th hour of the roster deadline. Verlander has been unbeaten since joining the Astros and was key to their trip to the Fall Classic. In the ALDS, Verlander won two games against the Red Sox, including the Game 4 clincher at Fenway Park out of the bullpen, while handcuffing the Yankees twice in the ALCS to win MVP honors as the Astros after trailing 3-2 heading home won the series in seven games.
The matchup of the Houston Astros and Los Angeles Dodgers is the first time two teams with 100 wins are meeting in the World Series, as Houston won 101 games in 2017. Both teams have equally strong lineups without an easy out to be found. The Dodgers have been spurred by the exploits of likely Rookie of the Year Cody Bellinger, while NLCS co-MVPs Justin Turner and Chris Taylor have delivered several key postseason hits along with Yaseil Puig. One player the Dodgers have been without is Corey Seager who missed the NLCS. However, in showing how solid their bench is Enrique Hernandez stepped up and filled his shoes perfectly hitting three home runs in the Game 5 clincher at Wrigley Field. The Astros meanwhile are led by their mighty mite at second base Jose Altuve a prime MVP candidate who has had a big postseason, starting with his three home runs against the Red Sox in the Division Series opener. Carlos Correa has also been big in the middle of the Houston lineup. While the top of the lineup George Springer and Josh Reddick struggled in the ALCS, they got some of their biggest hits at the bottom of the lineup, with Evan Gattis and Brian McCann delivering the key hits in the final two games.
Each team has gotten terrific starting pitching in the postseason as Dallas Keuchel and Justin Verlander have helped the Astros in a big way by winning the first two games in the ALDS and ALCS. The Dodgers meanwhile have gotten fair pitching from Clayton Kershaw, who has been hardly dominant but good enough to allow the Dodgers to win each of his three starts. However, the rest of the staff has been spectacular led by Yu Darvish who has been dominant so far in the postseason. The front two pitchers could play to a stalemate, beyond that things begin to shift in the favor of Los Angeles with Alex Wood and Rich Hill being much more reliable than Charlie Morton and Lace McCullers Jr, notwithstanding their heroics in Game 7 against the Yankees.
Where this World Series may be decided is in the bullpen. In the NLCS the Dodgers bullpen featuring players like Kanta Maeda, Tony Cingrani, Josh Fields, Brandon Morrow and Ross Stripling being nearly perfect in middle relief. The Astros middle relief has been their Achilles Heel, as Brad Peacock, Chris Devenski and Joe Musgrove have all been hit hard. Add in the closers and the Dodgers are able to shorten the game, as Kenley Jansen was the best closer in 2017, while Ken Giles has been shaky at times for Houston.
In modern day baseball, the bullpens have become the most important weapon in the playoffs. The Yankees nearly beat the Astros thanks to their bullpen advantage, while the Dodgers dominated the Cubs in the pen. That trend continues in the World Series as the Dodgers having the bullpen advantage will get the big wins when they are needed and claim the World Series in seven games.