This is the moment we’ve all been waiting for! Two teams with all of the punch a playoff contender could ever dream of are set to face off in a winner takes all seven game series. I’m so fired up, I could punt a bowling ball! Now, though that probably isn’t the smartest move, you can understand my excitement (hence the three exclamation points).
This year’s fall classic final has all the parts to drive a full seven game playoff. I mean, let’s be real, even most diehard fans of either team would love to see an action packed complete six or seven games. Even a fan as uninformed as Josele wouldn’t want to see a sweep! (Ha! Take that one!) Now, before I tell you who wins it all, allow me to give a quick Players and Moves To Look For Guide (it’s a working title, relax):
National League Champs: Los Angeles Dodgers (104-58)
No surprise here, this team should have all of the tools they need to make it as far as they have in the playoffs. They won more games than any other team in the league and that even came with a big loss of pace in the midst of the second half. Their efforts thoughout the year have been incredible and, largely due to their depth which includes the ability to shift leadership roles seamlessly.
As we’ve discussed on the show before; the team to achieve their ultimate postseason goal has consistently been the team with the best team chemistry and the Dodgers just might have an edge on just about everyone else. I’m sure I will hear arguments on this topic in more than one ways, but when you have a team hold their players as well as the Dodgers have been able to for the past 3 years, guys tend to have a better understanding for their roles not only on the field but in the locker room. Here are the key players to look for:
Clayton Kershaw. There isn’t much to say here. You know the name. Stats alone speak for themselves and, say what you want about his postseason past, you simply can’t deny the shear respect he demands every time he toes the rubber. Quality starts will be delivered like Chinese takeout, so buckle up, people!
Justin Turner. The most beloved ginger in baseball has been as flaming hot as his head and beard combination! He has performed better than anyone else at the plate has throughout the 2017 postseason. Expect to see him continue to look comfortable at the plate as he leads the Dodger offense into the tough battles versus Houston.
Chris Taylor. This stud was awarded co-MVP for his clutch work in the NLCS. You couldn’t ask for a better confidence booster in a young player and he got it just in time for the ‘ship! His impact on both sides of the ball is such an added plus to the already versatile Dodger squad, that he could bat in any spot in the lineup and make a significant impact. Keep your eyes on him in the late innings.
Cody Bellinger. This kid’s power swing is smooth, sweet, and fun to watch. Maybe watching the ball pop off of his bat is more intriguing because of his ability to get on base in more ways than just touching them on a round trip to home plate. It is still beyond me how he can change his line of sight so much and still make consistent contact, but he’s a pro and I’m a dude that helps run a sports blog - so I’ll stop second guessing his form. Good luck seeing anything get passed him at first base, that corner of the infield is on lockdown!
Yasiel Puig. Easily the most controversial player to watch on the big stage. Love him or hate him, you choose. You can see him for the overly dramatic, bat-flipping, and tongue sticking jerk that causes you to clinch your fists at first glance. You can see him as the Cuban with the football player build, a cannon for an arm, crazy spurts of greatness, and a fun-loving teammate. He really doesn’t care how you see him, the dude freakin’ embraces the nickname “Wild Horse” and he’s going to do whatever he can to run through the Houston Astros.
Kenley Janson. This might be the first robot to successfully pitch in the MLB. There’s no way this closer is human - he has been almost impossible to hit. His intimidation factor is unmatched by anyone else in the league dating back to the fear Randy Johnson would strike in opponents. If Astros fans spot this man opening the bullpen gate, they have every right to give up hope.
American League Champs: Houston Astros (101-61)
This team just screams New School from top to bottom! I know they have a few vets, but the pounding heart of this team comes from their tightly-knitted infield core. This team has kept baseball fans intrigued for about three years now, as they have been building and building to reach their new successful formula. It seems like each year they have brought new talent up and made it work on and off the field.
Their #2 AL ranking came from an outstanding season which saw two New Mexico natives thrive in their new Houston environment, two best friends put on a mid-infielder clinic, and pitching that has found comfort in strong run support. We can’t stop at the fact that their hard work and talent has done it, we have to dig just a bit deeper. #HoustonStrong and #EarnHistory are mottos that mean much more than any other in baseball right now and is why the Astros have an abundance of heart going into each pitch. Here are the players to watch for:
Justin Verlander. Arguably the best last minute pickup of the year. He has sliced up hitters on the Astros’ road to the ultimate championship. Poor Todd Frazier will probably sleep with the lights on all offseason after being embarrassed by Verlander’s buckling off-speed pitches. Watch out for the reigning ALCS MVP, he’ll be a large factor!
Jose Altuve. The smallest guy in the league has proved his point. His batting average has been sky high and his ability to scrap ABs together is insane. This dude has big power when his team needs it the most. Oh, and if you’re looking for someone to hate on this little baller you’ll come up empty. This grown man plays like a little leaguer living in the moment of his biggest dreams. He is every pitcher’s nightmare and every second baseman’s role model.
Carlos Correa. The hardest of work mixed with an abundance of talent is what drives this superstar’s constant stand out performance. Watch this guy’s E:60 documentary and you’ll appreciate the journey he has made. His dad used to have him field ground balls on gravel with overgrown tree roots sticking out of the dirt. If you have any doubts in the kid from Puerto Rico, keep them to yourself, he will inevitably come up big.
Alex Bregman. The final piece to the infield holding the keys to the Astros’ success. This shortstop-turned-third baseman has embraced the hot corner and the city of Houston has returned the favor. He plays well with others - making Altuve and Correa appear to be his best friends. Be on the lookout for this New Mexico native to smile his way through the World Series. He’ll find a way to be a part of some of the biggest plays throughout this big battle.
Evan Gattis. The White Bear. This absolute backstop of a man will be playing catcher while supplying a big added boom factor to the AL Champs’ lineup at any given time. Just watch the way this man handles the lumber, it’s kind of scary! The whole “one swing of the bat” phrase belongs to a swing like his. Beware LA fans.
Ken Giles. The Astros rely heavily on the arm of “100 Miles Giles.” Late in close games this man can shut the door. He’s certainly capable, but he holds the largest question mark in the bullpen. Known for his velocity and devastating slider, this guy has had problems unraveling when the going gets tough. I root for the guy (I mean he’s from New Mexico), but I call the numbers and even though 100 is his, he can be a liability.
This Is How It Goes Down...
Game 1: Dodgers draw first blood. This one belongs to pitching. (2-0)
Game 2: Dodgers stay strong at home. Turner does what he does and Puig has a clutch moment. (5-2)
Game 3: Astros put their foot down in their own turf. Three big home runs spark the offensive game we’ve been expecting. (8-4)
Game 4: Los Angeles swipes an important road win. Cody Bellinger stands out and Chris Taylor makes a big play. (4-3)
Game 5: Houston bounces back big. The statement they want to make is made. Bregman shows his worth and Altuve keeps balling. (9-2)
Game 6: Dodgers celebrate after their final game of the year. Cody Bellinger is one of the youngest to earn MVP honors, though Kenley Janson deserves ultimate praise. (3-1)