By: James “Jeep” DiCioccio

The World Series matchup has finally been set: The Houston Astros will be taking on the Los Angeles Dodgers for the 2017 MLB crown. Houston claimed victory in a thrilling seven-game series with the Yankees. They relinquished a 2-0 lead in the series as the Yankees won three consecutive games in the Bronx to send the series back to Houston, who was then trailing for the first time. Then, Houston won the final two games to clinch their first world series appearance since 2005. On the contrary, the Dodgers are coming off of an impressive and dominating series-win versus the reigning champion Chicago Cubs, disposing of them in just five games to return to the Fall Classic for the first time in 29 years.

Both of these teams are hungry for a championship and have competed at a high level the entire year. Both squads come into this series winning over 100 games and have displayed the young talent that this league thrives off of.

This is what baseball is all about: bright lights, packed stadiums, and the platform to etch oneself into history. 

This is the 2017 World Series.

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The Houston Astros have looked like the best team in baseball when in the familiar confines of Minute Maid Park. As a team, they have it .274 while driving in 30 of their 41 postseason runs with the Houston crowd behind them. Jose Altuve has proven his MVP worth, carrying the Astros’ offense with an astounding .400 AVG, knocking in 8 RBI’s, and collecting 31 total bases. Rookie first baseman Yuli Gurriel has had a wonderful postseason, collecting key RBI’s when his team has needed them the most, while also hitting an impressive .366. They are currently undefeated at home thus far, and they show no signs of slowing down offensively. But, playing away from Houston has provided a serious struggle this October. In five games on the road, they have managed to provide little support for their pitching staff, only scoring 11 runs with 36 total hits, which is in direct contrast to the regular season. In the ALCS, they batted a pitiful .187 and STILL were victorious. Pitching and defense are said to win championships, but Houston will need far more offensive production to secure their first title since joining the American League in 2013.

Speaking of pitching and defense, Houston had excelled in both fields during the ALCS. Carlos Correa and Jose Altuve delivered highlight-reel plays within the middle of the defense. Josh Reddick has also made catch   Justin Verlander has revived his career in Houston and holds a fabulous 1.46 postseason ERA. In two starts against a potent New York offense, he allowed just one earned run in 16 innings of work. Lance McCullers made one start and one relief appearance, also allowing one run in 10 innings. Dallas Keuchel, the ace of the starting rotation, posted a 2.60 ERA with 25 strikeouts. But, frankly, Houston’s bullpen has not been good. Brad Peacock, Will Harris, Ken Giles, Chris Devenski, and Joe Musgrove all had ERA’s over 6.50 while combining to surrender 18 totals earned runs in the LCS. The starting rotation has performed at the highest level, and now it’s up to the bullpen to step up and give this team the quality innings it so desperately desires to reach the pinnacle of baseball greatness.

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In the City of Angels, everything has been going according to plan thus far. After a sweep of Arizona and a dominating series-win over the Cubs, the Dodgers are simply cruising through their competition. Their bullpen and starting rotation have been equally impressive, as the staff has notched a 2.28 postseason ERA. Kenley Jansen has thrown eight complete innings of shutout baseball while baffling hitters with his high-velocity and sharp-breaking action on just about every one of the pitches in his arsenal. In his last start, Clayton Kershaw returned to his superstar essence, throwing six innings and giving up one run. There is not much negative to point out regarding the pitching of Los Angeles, but the best offensive team that they will face this postseason is coming to town Tuesday night, and they will be determined to bust out of their postseason slump by any means necessary.

Even with the absence of All-Star shortstop Corey Seager, the Dodgers still averaged 5.6 runs per game in the NLCS, with the supporting cast of guys like Kike Hernandez and Chris Taylor stepping into the spotlight and producing with great volume. In game five, Hernandez had the game of his life as he crushed three home runs (including a grand slam) while driving in seven. Chris Taylor hit .316, which includes five extra-base hits over the course of the series. All-Star third baseman Justin Turner continued his tremendous season, clubbing two home runs. This includes the dramatic three-run walk-off blast in game two of the series. It will be interesting to see how this offense reacts to the assortment of pitches thrown out of the strike zone by Verlander and Keuchel, as the Yankees were not able to lay off of the worm-burners that these two arms provided. But, every player that has been plugged into the Dodgers’ lineup has done their part to get them to where they are now, and it will be difficult to derail this runaway train hailing from Los Angeles, California.

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The new faces of baseball clash in this intriguing Fall Classic matchup. Will the Astros restore hope in Houston follow the devastating storm known as Hurricane Harvey? Or will the Dodgers end their 29-year World Series drought? Here are my predictions:

 

Predictions: The Dodgers dominate the Astros, winning the series in five games. Clayton Kershaw and/or Justin Turner will be named World Series MVP(s). Turner will launch two more home runs, and Kershaw will not give up a single run in each of his starts/appearances. Kenley Jansen will proceed with his dominance, closing three of the four wins for LA. The Astros will only find production from Jose Altuve and their inconsistent bullpen will fail them once more.  
 

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