WORLD SERIES PREVIEW

Breaking down the Astros and Dodgers in the World Series

Dallas Keuchel will start Game 1. Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

The Houston Astros and Los Angeles Dodgers will start the World Series on Tuesday night. There are numerous angles to look at in preparation for this series, including the fact that these teams are a lot alike.

First, let's take a look at the World Series schedule:

  Date  Location Probable Pitchers
Game 1           Tues., Oct 24              Dodger Stadium, Los Angeles                         Keuchel v. Kershaw                          
Game 2 Wed., Oct 25 Dodger Stadium, Los Angeles Verlander v. TBD
Game 3 Fri., Oct 27 Minute Maid Park, Houston TBD
Game 4 Sat., Oct 28 Minute Maid Park, Houston TBD
Game 5* Sun., Oct 29 Minute Maid Park, Houston TBD
Game 6* Tue., Oct 31 Dodger Stadium, Los Angeles     TBD
Game 7* Wed., Nov 1

 

Dodger Stadium, Los Angeles

TBD

* - If Necessary
All Games Start at 7PM Central on FOX

Now, let's break down how these teams match up:

Playoff Performance: The Dodgers are 7-1 in the playoffs to this point after a sweep of the Diamondbacks in the NLDS and a 4-1 series win over the defending champion Cubs in the NLCS. The Astros are 7-4 after a 3-1 win in the ALDS over the Red Sox and a 4-3 win in the ALCS over the Yankees. A case can be made for either team in this regard; a team that's had easy wins to this point could get trapped while a team that's only been good enough to scathe by could become the next team in line to get dominated.

Starting Rotation: The Dodgers have arguably the best pitcher in all of baseball in Clayton Kershaw and picked up Yu Darvish from the Rangers in a trade this year to further boost their rotation. Past those two, the Dodgers have Rich Hill who has been decent in the playoffs and Alex Wood who had a terrific regular season. The Astros have Dallas Keuchel who despite his last start has looked to be back in Cy Young form, and Justin Verlander who has been near perfect in an Astros uniform. The Astros also have Charlie Morton and Lance McCullers who combined for a shutout win over the Yankees in Game 7 of the ALCS and may find themselves in the 3 and 4 spots in the World Series rotation.

Offense: After three bad games in New York, the Astros' offense was able to bounce back and show that they are still one of the best offenses in baseball. Jose Altuve leads the way, hitting .400 in the playoffs with five home runs and eight RBIs. Past Altuve, the Astros have the hot bats of Yuli Gurriel, Alex Bregman, and Carlos Correa who have combined for 18 RBIs in the postseason. The Dodgers offense, while maybe not as potent as the Astros, is still strong. The Dodgers have averaged six runs per game in the playoffs highlighted with their most recent game, an 11-1 rout of the Cubs in Chicago where Enrique Hernandez hit three homers. Justin Turner leads the Dodgers in postseason RBIs with twelve.

Bullpen: Kenley Jansen, the closer for the Dodgers, has been one of the best relievers in the league all year including the playoffs where he has appeared seven times and has thrown twelve strikeouts and given up just two hits. For the Astros, their bullpen has had their woes in the playoffs. Usual pillars like Chris Devenski and Joe Musgrove have combined to allow seven runs in five and two-thirds innings in the playoffs. Ken Giles has not looked as strong in the playoffs to this point as he did in the regular season where he was capable of coming in and getting three strikeouts in the ninth day after day.

With a matchup as good as this one, it means home field advantage is that much more important. The Astros will need to steal one of the first two in Los Angeles in hopes they can continue their dominance at home to get a dominating lead in the series and get their first championship. The Dodgers will likewise hope to get past Keuchel and Verlander with 1-2 wins and try to steal some games in Houston to put them in good shape too.

This will definitely be a fun series to watch. I see very little chance this ends up being a repeat of the 2005 World Series where the Astros were swept in four games because of these teams matching up so well. I could easily see this going seven games, and although I would consider the Dodgers the favorites, I would not be surprised at all to watch the Astros bring Houston a championship to cap off what has already been an amazing, memorable year.

Win or lose, this season has been historic. This team has put a city on their backs and they deserve to be in the national spotlight. Four more wins will make them legends. 

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A WEEKLY REVIEW OF CRENNEL'S COACHING

Now my job: Texans feast on Lions

Photo by Getty Images.

Thanksgiving is full of tradition. There's the typical family gathering, large meal, and of course, football. Sometimes, new traditions are added and old ones are retired. I think the Texans did both in their impressive 41-25 win over the Lions in Detroit. Old traditions were carried on (Lions losing on Thanksgiving), some were put to rest (Texans not being able to get turnovers), and new ones were started (multiple passing touchdowns by Deshaun Watson in six straight games).

The fact that this defense got three turnovers in the game was unbelievable! They got all three in the first quarter within the span of eight plays. JJ Watt's pick-six was insane. He went for a batted ball, ended up catching it, and ran it in. They forced Jonathan Williams to fumble on the Lions' very next play from scrimmage and recovered it. On the Lions' next possession, the Texans recovered yet another fumble after the challenge was reversed. Great call by the coaching staff to challenge and win. The defense looked good. Tyrell Adams stood out because he was in on those two fumbles, made 17 total tackles with 14 of them being solo tackles. They also brought pressure that seemed to make Matthew Stafford very inaccurate and resulted in four sacks. I give defensive coordinator Anthony Weaver credit for knowing he needs to blitz to get pressure, but the run defense has to improve.

The offense kept the tempo up in this game as well. The spread and hurry-up were used to keep the Lions already staggered defense off balance. Knowing the Lions were without a couple defensive backs, I thought it would be the perfect marriage of their defense and the Texans' offense. A buddy asked before the game about the line (Texans -3.5) and the over/under (52.5). I told him bet the Texans and the over because neither team can play defense and both have good quarterbacks. Offensive coordinator Tim Kelly put together another good game plan and Watson executed it flawlessly. One route combo I saw later on in the game I particularly enjoyed. Two receivers were tight to the left side. Cooks ran a hook/curl and settled in the middle of the zone while Fuller ran a vertical route. Duke Johnson ran a swing route to that same side. It left Cooks wide open as the attention went to Johnson in the flat, Fuller deep, and the action to the other play side. Route combos are important because it gives the quarterback different reads as he goes through his progressions and lets him pick apart the defense based on what he sees. Combine that with Watson's play and the way Kelly has changed his play calling now that he's liberated from he who shall not be named, we're seeing a beautiful thing.

As good as things were, there's still room for improvement. The defense gives up way too many easy yards, both run and pass. They can't get pressure bringing only four and will often give up big plays if the blitz is picked up. Plus the run defense is still an issue as evidenced by the Lions' first possession of the second half. The Lions ran the ball 10 plays straight for a total of 58 yards on that drive. Utterly ridiculous! Watson was good (17/25 318 yards and four touchdowns), but he missed two more touchdowns with passes slightly off, and continues to hold onto the ball too long at times. The difference between these two issues I've presented here is the fact that Watson has so played well, his "issues" are minor and very correctable, while the defense is terrible and there's no easy fix in sight. But let Romeo Crennel and Anthony Weaver tell it, they're getting the most out of these guys and they're playing disciplined.

The thought that this team may actually creep into the playoff picture may take shape better after next week if they can beat the Colts. I doubt it, but it is getting interesting. Let's see what else happens around them because they need help getting there.

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