Cream rises to the top once again. It has been 47 years since the last World Series between two 100 win teams in a season, but that changed this past weekend when the Houston Astros, a team that has gotten to this far in the season off the power of their young bats, won game seven of the American League Championship Series by keeping the red hot New York Yankees to four hits in the deciding game. They join in the Fall Classic the 104 win Los Angeles Dodgers, who like the city where they hail from, is a team with enough star power to gross a billion dollars in a motion picture.
The Dodgers have been knocking on this October door for almost a decade. This year, the team stopped knocking and proceeded to bring down the door with a M48 tank. Led by Rookie of the Year favorite, Cody Bellinger, last year’s Rookie of the Year winner, Corey Seager and third baseman Justin Turner who looks more like an actual Viking than an MVP candidate, the team set a franchise record with their 104 wins.
In terms of pitching, their future Hall of Fame pitcher, Clayton Kershaw, added another season for the ages, boasting the top ERA and wins in the National League and being the favorite to win his fourth Cy Young award. The team topped the NL in terms of having the best team WHIP (walks+hits per inning) at 1.15, and batting average against at .228. The addition of Yu Darvish during the season has given the team the best one-two punch in terms of starters, with him and Kershaw. In their bullpen, Kenley Jansen’ 41 saves put him at the top of the NL’s saves leaders. Overall, the Dodgers took a page out of their in-state neighbors, the Golden State Warriors, and created a superteam to annihilate their competition. In the postseason, they swept through the Arizona Diamondbacks before dethroning last year’s champs, the Chicago Cubs, in five games.
On the other side of the rubber, the Houston Astros’ appearance in the Fall Classic is the final product of a long rebuilding period, which included three straight years of 100 loss baseball between 2011-13. During that time, the team built up their farm system through high draft picks and years of development in the minor league. The final product is now a team of very young players who are hitting their primes around the same time. Standing at 5’6, second baseman, Jose Altuve has been the spearhead for an Astros lineup that has been just as productive at the plate than the Dodgers have been on the mound. Houston led all of baseball in hits (1,581), runs scored (896), total bases (2,681), batting average (.282), on base percentage (.346), slugging (.478) and runs batted in (854).
Joining Altuve in the middle of the in-field is third year shortstop, Carlos Correa who took the jump this year from potential superstar to full fledged star player. In his first full season of baseball, third baseman Alex Bregman has looked like another player who has taken the jump from minor league product to everyday star baseball player. To help tutor the team’s young core, Houston’s team also include former All-Stars in Brian McCann and Carlos Beltran, who own more than a combined three decades of baseball experience.
In the postseason however, pitching is what determines the winners and losers. Coming into the season, Houston’s rotation was the biggest issue for the team. Ace Dallas Keuchel was coming off an up and down season and the team signed nine year veteran Charlie Morton who had miss the 2016 season with a torn hamstring. Though both saw a return to form in 2017, the move that push Houston from title contenders to favorites was trading to acquire Justin Verlander from the Detroit Tigers in the final hours of the trade deadline. In his twelve years of baseball, Verlander’s resume includes six All-Star games and four strikeout titles, as well as multiple deep postseason runs with Detroit.
These moves have proven to had paid off. In the ALCS, Verlander was the winning pitcher in two of the four victories, pitching 16 innings of one run ball to earn the ALCS MVP. Morton did his part by shutting out New York for five innings in the seventh game.
Whether you are sitting on a couch listening on the radio, screaming “Go Dodgers!” or enjoying a beer at a bar, watching the game in a Altuve jersey that would not fit the actual Altuve, this has been the match-up baseball fans had wanted to see since the All-Star break. The two top teams with the best players in the league squaring off under the October moon.