By Steve Silverman
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There’s a notable sense of sadness for some as the World Series gets underway Tuesday night at Dodger Stadium because the Yankees are not in it.
After taking a 3-2 lead in the American League Championship Series over the Astros with a three-game sweep in the Bronx, the Yankees clearly had momentum as they went back to Minute Maid Park.
The Bombers, however, were unable to come up with a win in games 6 or 7, and while there may be a desire to assign blame or express frustration with manager Joe Girardi, his batting order or the starting pitching for not completely shutting down the Astros, the truth of the matter is that Houston earned those last two wins and deserve to be in the World Series.
The Yankees had a remarkable year, and their victory over the scorching hot Cleveland Indians was a remarkable achievement. So was pushing the Astros to the limit in a year that was supposed to be about rebuilding.
So although Yankees fans will feel a bit of disappointment when Clayton Kershaw takes the mound for the Dodgers against Dallas Keuchel in Game 1, there is real reason for optimism about 2018 and beyond. The Yankees have the Boston Red Sox quaking in their boots about what the future holds.
So, in reality, the Yankees should be celebrating as the World Series gets underway between two excellent teams.
The Dodgers won 104 games in the regular season and survived one of the most shocking late-season slumps by a championship-level team in recent memory. Los Angeles was on its way to winning 110 game, possibly even more, when it suddenly lost its way and dropped 16 of 17 games from late August until mid September.
Los Angeles was swept twice by the Arizona Diamondbacks during that streak and then got a chance to face them in the NLDS. Somehow, the Dodgers turned it around and swept the D-Backs and then whipped the Chicago Cubs in five games.
The Dodgers may be playing as well now as they have at any point this season.
The Astros won 102 games, and they were the best team in the American League from the start of the season until August when the Cleveland Indians bypassed them. However, they regained that crown, and the Yankees are the barometer. The Yankees won the ALDS on Cleveland’s home turf, but the Astros were able to hold off the Yankees on their home field.
The law of transitive properties tells us that, therefore, the Astros were better than the Indians.
Math enthusiasts may be hitting their foreheads at such an explanation, but you get the point.
With both World Series participants winning more than 100 games, baseball has a matchup to celebrate. This has not happened in a long time — a very long time.
The last time was 1970. The Baltimore Orioles won a remarkable 108 games that season and faced the Cincinnati Reds in the Series. The Big Red Machine was still approaching its best years and won 102 games that year.
The Orioles won that World Series in five games, and Hall of Famer Brooks Robinson took over that Fall Classic like few players ever have. In addition to hitting .429 with two doubles, two home runs and six RBIs, Robinson’s defensive play at third base was remarkable.
His fielding highlights in that World Series are regular staples on the MLB Network, and, for me, to watch it unfold as a 14-year-old was breathtaking.
There are some individual players who could take over this World Series the way Robinson took over that one. Dodgers third baseman Justin Turner is a brilliant player who has led the Dodgers so far in the postseason and shows no signs of falling victim to nerves.
He has plenty of company in Cody Bellinger, Chris Taylor and Yasiel Puig, and Corey Seager may be ready to return from his bad back and take his place in the lineup.
The Astros have the incomparable Jose Altuve, all 5-foot-6 (really 5-5) of him, and he has shocking power for a man his size. Throw in Carlos Correa, Yuli Gurriel, George Springer and Marwin Gonzalez, and you have perhaps the best offense in the game.
The Game 1 pitching matchup between Keuchel and Kershaw is worth the price of admission. Kershaw has the numbers to rank with the best pitchers of all-time, but his postseason record (6-7 with a 4.40 ERA) is a major disappointment and keeping him from that status.
He has been a little better this year, but Kershaw needs to shut down the powerful Astros and provide eight shutout innings while striking out 11 and giving up just two scratch singles to take his rightful place.
That is unlikely to happen, and the Astros should take a very competitive and low-scoring opener. While that’s a blow to Los Angeles, this will be a long World Series that will belong to the Dodgers in seven games.
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