It is not often that arguably the top two teams in the regular season end up meeting in the World Series, but that is just what we have in 2017.
The Houston Astros won the American League West with a 101-61 record, while the Los Angeles Dodgers claimed the National League West with a sparkling 104-58 mark. It is historically rare that two teams of this caliber navigated this far into the postseason, per ESPN Stats and Info:
Game 1 Schedule
When: Tuesday, Oct. 24 at 8 p.m. ET
Live Stream: Fox Sports Go
What is not a surprise is that both teams will trot out elite starters for their Game 1 tilt. Add in a pair of elite offenses, and Tuesday should be the start of a must-watch series.
The best arm of this generation, Kershaw was outstanding again in 2017 with an 18-4 record along with a 2.31 ERA. In fact, he has posted an ERA under 2.15 in each of the last four seasons, so the Dodgers should feel pretty good about him throwing in Game 1.
Yet, his postseason play has attracted criticism, especially considering he has been roughed up for an ERA over 6.00 twice since 2009, and he allowed a pedestrian 12 earned runs in 24.1 innings in 2016.
Pitching in the playoffs is difficult as it entails besting the top lineups in baseball. While Kershaw has not been untouchable in his postseason career, he has still been very good. He allowed just three runs in 11 innings in the NLCS, and his recent play has put him alongside another pitcher known for being clutch, per MLB Network’s Jon Morosi:
He has had some trouble against the current Astros lineup, though. Jose Altuve is an excellent 6-for-15 lifetime against Kershaw, including four doubles. Carlos Correa and Evan Gattis are also a combined 3-for-10 versus Kershaw.
While Kershaw could face some slight issues, he has much more room for error compared to his elite counterpart in Houston starter Dallas Keuchel.
Los Angeles’ bullpen is brilliant, having ranked fourth in MLB with a 3.38 ERA in the regular season before following up with just three runs allowed in 28.2 postseason frames.
Meanwhile, it took until Charlie Morton in Game 7 of the ALCS for any pitcher besides Keuchel and Justin Verlander to earn a win for the Astros. In the playoffs, the team’s bullpen has been tattooed for 19 runs in 34 innings, and guys like Lance McCullers Jr., who threw four scoreless innings in the aforementioned Game 7, are not going to be available in relief on Tuesday.
Keuchel and any other Astros starter has to be perfect to earn a win, especially against a juggernaut like the Dodgers. It is not like Keuchel has a ton of experience with the Los Angeles lineup to lean on, per Jake Kaplan of the Houston Chronicle: