Tuesday, Oct. 24: Houston (Keuchel 14-5) at L.A. Dodgers (Kershaw 18-4), 7:09 p.m.
Wednesday, Oct. 25: Houston (Verlander 15-8) at L.A. Dodgers (Hill 12-8), 7:09 p.m.
Friday, Oct. 27: L.A. Dodgers (Darvish 10-12) at Houston (undecided), 7:09 p.m.
Saturday, Oct. 28: L.A. Dodgers at Houston, 7:09 p.m.
x-Sunday, Oct. 29: L.A. Dodgers at Houston, 7:16 p.m.
x-Tuesday, Oct. 31: Houston at L.A. Dodgers, 7:09 p.m.
x-Wednesday, Nov. 1: Houston at L.A. Dodgers, 7:10 p.m.
(Best-of-7; x-if necessary)
All Games Televised by Fox
A delicious World Series matchup is in store for baseball fans, even though it may not be the one America was looking for.
The Dodgers and their great pitching will face the Astros and their killer lineup in a clash of two of the top teams in 2017.
Purists may have preferred a Dodgers-Yankees showdown for nostalgic reasons, but this one should be more evenly matched and has the potential to be a classic.
Both teams were dominant in their leagues all season long, with the Dodgers finishing with 104 wins and the Astros 101. It’s the first World Series meeting between teams with 100 or more wins since 1970, when the 108-win Orioles beat the 102-win Reds 4-1 behind Series MVP Brooks Robinson.
And neither team has been there in a while, which means it’s Cinderella vs. Cinderella _ if a team like the Dodgers with a $265 million payroll can still be considered a Cinderella.
The Dodgers’ last World Series appearance was in 1988, when Kirk Gibson hit his famous walk-off home run off Dennis Eckersley in Game 1 of a five-game Los Angeles win. The Astros never have won a championship and have made it this far only once, winning the National League before getting swept by the White Sox in 2005.
The Astros, led by MVP candidate Jose Altuve, hope to become the third straight champion that rose to power after rebuilding through the draft, following the 2015 Royals and last year’s Cubs. The Dodgers also have drafted well, but their payroll is tops in the game, led by Clayton Kershaw, the best pitcher on the planet.
We’ve seemingly been waiting forever to see Kershaw in a World Series, and he recalled some of the Series of his youth.
“I guess my first like real memory is probably the Yankees in the late ‘90s, early 2000, winning maybe three in a row or something like that,” he said after beating the Cubs in Game 5 of the National League Championship Series. “I remember that pretty well. I remember when the Diamondbacks won 2001.
“So I guess the point is that I remember. You remember watching. You remember who went to the World Series. Unless you’re a real baseball fan, you (don’t) remember who loses, so we need to win.”
Both teams hit speed bumps during the season but managed to right the ship in October. The Dodgers were seemingly on their way to challenging the all-time record of 116 wins after reaching 55 games above .500 at 91-36. But the roof caved in with an 11-game losing streak during a 1-16 stretch before they finally recovered at the end of September.
Despite missing star shortstop Corey Seager in the NLCS, they breezed past the Cubs, winning 4-1 and limiting the defending champs to eight runs and a .156 average. Seager is likely to return for the World Series.
Former Cubs media relations head Ned Colletti has much to do with the Dodgers’ success. He spent nine years as GM and took five teams to the postseason, but was kicked upstairs when President Andrew Friedman arrived from the Rays after the 2014 season, the signing that allowed Joe Maddon to exercise an opt-out clause and come to the Cubs.
Friedman and his baseball operations posse will get the credit, but Colletti was responsible for the signing, drafting or acquisition of the many of the current players, including Kershaw, Seager, Cody Bellinger, Justin Turner, Andre Ethier, Yasiel Puig, Joc Pederson, Ross Stripling, Pedro Baez and Kyle Farmer.
Turner, signed as a minor-league free agent, was co-MVP of the NLCS. Closer Kenley Jansen, the best in the game, was converted from catcher to pitcher under Colletti. Players in the Dodgers system or on the roster under Colletti were used to acquire Rich Hill, Alex Wood, Yasmani Grandal, Enrique Hernandez, Logan Forsythe and Austin Barnes.
“Ned has been so great, so encouraging, a great baseball mind,” Turner told the Los Angeles Times. “I no doubt owe him a lot of credit for taking a chance on me.”
The Astros had the division wrapped up early and had their lull in August, going 11-17, before acquiring Tigers ace Justin Verlander just before the Sept. 1 deadline for postseason roster eligibility.
Verlander keyed the rebound and was the MVP in their seven-game ALCS win over the Yankees.
After Houston was ravaged by Hurricane Harvey, the success of the Astros has been like a godsend to the city.
“I’ve touched on this before about having the experience of playing into a World Series with a city that kind of needed a boost and something to cheer for,” Verlander said. “And there’s a lot of people that are really hurting right now in this city. And it gives the city something to rally around and gives people something to cheer for that otherwise may not have a lot to be hopeful for.
“And to be part of that, no matter how big or small it is, whether you’re the MVP or whether you are the last pitcher in the bullpen, that’s something that you will never forget, and how this city embraces all of that, I’ll never forget.”
With two hungry fan bases and plenty of stars on both sides, this could be a series to remember.