In 2013, the Houston Astros had finished their third consecutive 100-loss season and were on their couches watching the Boston Red Sox celebrate a World Series championship. The Los Angeles Dodgers, however, won their first National League Western Division title in three years, and they have finished in first place every year since.
The Astros gradually rebuilt their team in those four years, and the two 100-win teams faced off in what would be one of the most historic World Series in history. With all of the records set and broken, the Astros came out on top as the 2017 World Series champions.
Game 1: Los Angeles Dodgers 3, Houston Astros 1
What better way to start of the World Series than with a pitchers’ duel between two former Cy Young Award winners? Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw faced the crafty left-hander Dallas Keuchel in the hottest and one of the fastest World Series games in history.
When the game started, it was 103 degrees in Chavez Ravine, nine degrees hotter than the previous record (2001 World Series). The heat may have made Kershaw even hotter as he struck out 11 in the seven innings he pitched to lead the Dodgers to a 3-1 victory.
Dodgers outfielder Chris Taylor started off the series with a home run, and Dodger third baseman Justin Turner hit a two-run shot in the bottom of the sixth inning.
I’m a baseball fan who loves a good pitching matchup, and that’s exactly what this game was. Kershaw and Keuchel threw a combined 167 pitches, 109 of those for strikes. Runs for each team came quickly in the form of home runs, but at just 2 hours and 28 minutes, it was the fastest World Series game since 1992. The home runs would set the tone for the rest of the series going into Game 2.
Game 2: Houston Astros 7, Los Angeles Dodgers 6 (11 innings)
This was one of the best all-around baseball games I’ve ever watched. After taking a 3-2 lead into the top of the ninth, the Dodgers surrendered one run, and after the Astros scored two in the top of the 10th, the Dodgers answered with two of their own. The Astros put up another two-spot in the top of the 11th. Even though the Dodgers got one back, they fell short by just one run.
This victory marked the first ever for the Astros in a World Series game, and how sweet it was. There were a combined eight home runs in the game which set a new World Series record. Five of those homers came in extra innings, a record not only in the postseason but in any MLB game ever.
If the home runs were scattered over nine innings, I’m not sure I’d be writing about the game this way. But because it was in extra innings when the game matters most, especially in the World Series, it made it one of the best games in recent memory. This is a game where you can throw technical analysis out the window — the only thing that could win a game of that caliber was passion and execution. The Astros got a big two-run homer from George Springer in the 11th inning, and reliever Chris Devenski was able to hold the Dodgers to one run to seal the victory.
Heading back to Houston, could the two 100-win teams follow suit and give fans another memorable performance? Simply put: Yes.
Game 3: Houston Astros 5, Los Angeles Dodgers 3
Instead of having late-inning drama, the Astros decided to get on the board early with a four-run second inning. They took out Dodgers starting pitcher Yu Darvish in that same inning, and on a strong performance from starting pitcher Lance McCullers Jr., Houston took a 2-1 series lead.
Astros first baseman Yuli Gurriel opened the scoring with a solo shot in the second. Later in the inning, two RBI singles and a sacrifice fly put Houston ahead 4-0.
Darvish, a trade deadline acquisition for the Dodgers, had been nearly flawless in earlier postseason performances. Expectations for a strong start from him were high, and he simply didn’t execute his pitches well enough to stay in the game. Credit has to be given to the Astros, though. They strung together disciplined at-bats and created momentum that they never lost.
McCullers Jr. has one of the best curveballs in baseball, and although he wasn’t as sharp as he usually was, he was still effective enough to help his team win. It’s never good when a pitcher walks more than he strikes out, but McCullers Jr. only allowed four hits and three earned runs. After his 5 1/3 innings were done, reliever Brad Peacock threw 3 2/3 no-hit innings, earned the first save of his career and tied former Dodgers pitcher Steve Howe (Game 6, 1981) for the second-longest save in a World Series game since it became an official statistic in 1969.
While it wasn’t an extra-innings-fest or a stellar pitchers’ duel, Game 3 had everything a baseball fan could want: above average pitching, a big offensive inning, a home run and some great defensive plays. As one of the more conventional baseball games played in this year’s Fall Classic, the series continued to build momentum and set things up for a great Game 4.
Game 4: Los Angeles Dodgers 6, Houston Astros 2
After going down 2-1 in the series, the Dodgers needed a win, and they would take it any way they could get it. Dodgers starting pitcher Alex Wood threw 5 2/3 innings of one-run baseball and Astros starting pitcher Charlie Morton did his part, giving up one run in 6 1/3 innings. With a 1-1 tie going into the ninth, the Dodgers exploded for five runs and finally found their rhythm offensively.
The Dodgers got two runs on a sacrifice fly and a double, but outfielder Joc Pederson delivered the knockout punch with a three-run homer to put the Dodgers up 6-1. The Astros got one back in the bottom of the ninth on a home run from Alex Bregman, but the Dodgers had the momentum and were destined to win this game.
Again, it wasn’t anything like Game 2, but it had a little bit of everything to make it great. Great pitching for the first six innings, back-to-back scoring and then a slugfest for half an inning. In a must-win for the Dodgers, Wood stepped to the mound and delivered as if he were the Dodgers’ ace. Morton was strong for the Astros, but the depth of the Dodgers bullpen got the better of the Houston. It was also nice to see Dodgers rookie first baseman Cody Bellinger break out of his slump and deliver not once, but twice for his team.
Game 5: Houston Astros 13, Los Angeles Dodgers 12 (10 innings)
What a game. Almost equal with Game 2, this game was a battle of the bats, and somehow the Astros came out on top. There was no telling who was going to win this one, especially when the Dodgers went up 4-0 after the first four innings. The Astros answered with a four-run bottom of the fourth, and each team had a three-run fifth inning. The Dodgers scored once in the seventh, but the Astros put up a four-spot to go ahead 11-8. Each team scored once in the eighth to make it 12-9, but a three-run top of the ninth for the Dodgers tied it at 12. In the bottom of the 10th inning, Alex Bregman hit a walk-off single to put the Astros ahead 3-2 in the series.
These two teams combined for seven homers in this game alone and already set a new record for most long balls in a World Series (22). Astros pitchers have said they believe the baseballs used in the World Series are slicker than the balls in the regular season, and this makes it hard for pitchers to throw a good slider. Whatever the case may be, the home run turned this series on its end, and while it’s exciting, a 13-12 final score in the World Series is a little ridiculous for my taste. Whew.
With a 3-2 lead, the Astros had a chance to win their first World Series in franchise history when they traveled to Dodger Stadium for Games 6 and 7.
Game 6: Los Angeles Dodgers 3, Houston Astros 1
Justin Verlander toed the rubber for the Astros in a must-win game, and he was probably their best option in that kind of situation. Although Verlander hadn’t lost in an Astros uniform since being traded to Houston from Detroit, the Dodgers rallied in the bottom of the sixth and used a strong bullpen performance to force a Game 7.
The Dodgers bullpen, which had been lights-out before the World Series, benefited from a travel day on Monday and found their form. Dodgers relievers allowed seven of 13 runs given up in Game 5 — Brandon Morrow allowed four runs on six pitches, and closer Kenley Jansen gave up the walk-off hit to Alex Bregman — but Morrow, Jansen, Kenta Maeda and Tony Watson were stellar following starter Rich Hill.
The way Verlander was pitching through the first five innings, it seemed like Springer’s homer would hold up as the game-winner. But the Dodgers won 104 games for a reason — they wouldn’t give in and made necessary adjustments against Verlander after seeing him in Game 2. After a leadoff single followed by a hit by a pitch to start the sixth, the Dodgers were in business, and once again, Chris Taylor was the man for the job. After revamping his swing and playing style, Taylor has been one of the most clutch performers for the Dodgers this postseason. The Dodgers went up 2-1 after Corey Seager hit a sacrifice fly, and Joc Pederson hit a solo shot in the seventh to put the Dodgers ahead by two.
If we’ve learned anything from this series, it’s that baseball is unpredictable. A two-run lead is never safe, even if you have one of the best bullpens in baseball like the Dodgers. It was nice to see Morrow, who was in the minor leagues to start the season, execute big pitches, and Jansen was back to his old self.
The unpredictability of this Fall Classic was sure to set up an outstanding Game 7 between two teams who, in my opinion, were both equally deserving of winning a ring.
Game 7: Houston Astros 5 vs. Los Angeles Dodgers 1
In the final game of the Fall Classic, the Astros stormed out of the gate in the first inning to take a 2-0 lead, but not without a little help from the Dodgers. After a leadoff double from George Springer, who was voted as the series MVP after the game, the Dodgers made a costly error that allowed Springer to score and led to another run.
In the top of the second, Astros starting pitcher Lance McCullers Jr. had an RBI groundout to put the Astros up 3-0. He became the first American League pitcher since 2009 to have an RBI in the World Series. Then, Springer launched a two-run homer, his fifth of the World Series, and that’s all the Astros needed to seal the deal.
This was an unbelievable series between two teams, but it was simply the Astros time to win. After three 100-loss seasons from 2011-2013, Sports Illustrated published a magazine cover in 2014 which had a picture of Springer and read, “Your 2017 World Series Champs.” Well, they got it right, and it was well deserved. Whoever won Game 7 would have deserved it, the Astros were the team of destiny. With everything that happened in Houston this year, the city needed this win, and the emotion from the players during the post-game celebration showed how much it meant to both their team and the city of Houston.
Only time will tell to see if the Astros can repeat as World Series champions. It’s tough to do because they have less rest in the offseason and the front office has to negotiate contracts, but every team has the goal of winning a championship, and the 2018 Houston Astros will be no different.
Graphic by Steve Marowski