World Series 2017: Series Preview and Game-by-Game Predictions

Joel Reuter@JoelReuterBRFeatured ColumnistOctober 23, 2017

World Series 2017: Series Preview and Game-by-Game Predictions

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    Ross D. Franklin/Associated Press

    The 2017 World Series begins Tuesday night at Dodger Stadium, as the Los Angeles Dodgers welcome to the Houston Astros to town to kick off this best-of-seven series.

    The Dodgers have home-field advantage after winning 104 games during the regular season. It's their first trip to the Fall Classic since 1988, when they beat the Oakland Athletics behind the MVP performance of Orel Hershiser.

    As for the Astros, they will be seeking their first World Series title in franchise history. Their only other pennant came in 2005, but the Chicago White Sox swept them in the World Series.

    Before the series gets underway, we have put together a quick preview of each team's lineup, starting rotation and a few X-factors to watch before making game-by-game predictions for how things will play out.

Projected Lineups

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    David J. Phillip/Associated Press

    Projected Astros Lineup

    • CF George Springer
    • RF Josh Reddick (L)
    • 2B Jose Altuve
    • SS Carlos Correa
    • 1B Yuli Gurriel
    • 3B Alex Bregman
    • DH Carlos Beltran (S)
    • LF Marwin Gonzalez (S)
    • C Brian McCann (S)

    The Astros were baseball's most potent offense during the regular season, leading the majors in runs scored (896), team batting average (.282) and team OPS (.823).

    MVP candidate Jose Altuve has led the way in October with a ridiculous .400/.500/.775 line that includes five home runs and more walks (8) than strikeouts (7).

    The only change likely to occur in that projected lineup will be slotting Evan Gattis in for a few starts as either a replacement for Brian McCann behind the plate or Carlos Beltran at designated hitter. McCann is hitting just .156 this postseason, and the pitching staff had a better ERA with Gattis behind the dish during the regular season (3.87 vs. 4.36).

    Alex Bregman could also find himself in the No. 2 spot in the batting order against the Dodgers' lefty-heavy rotation, especially considering Josh Reddick is batting just .171 in the playoffs.

             

    Projected Dodgers Lineup

    • CF Chris Taylor
    • SS Corey Seager
    • 3B Justin Turner
    • 1B Cody Bellinger (L)
    • RF Yasiel Puig
    • LF Andre Ethier (vs. RHP)/Kike Hernandez (vs. LHP)
    • 2B Chase Utley (vs. RHP)/Logan Forsythe (vs. LHP)
    • C Austin Barnes

    Corey Seager's health is the big question for the Dodgers after he was left off the National League Championship Series roster with a back injury.

    Seager took batting practice and ground balls at shortstop Sunday, and manager Dave Roberts is "very confident" he'll be back in the lineup when the World Series begins Tuesday, according to Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times. Otherwise, it will be either Charlie Culberson manning shortstop or Chris Taylor moving in from center field.

    Expect a straight platoon to continue both in left field and at second base. Catcher is a bit more of a fluid situation, with Austin Barnes seizing a bigger piece of the timeshare from Yasmani Grandal down the stretch and into the postseason.

    Curtis Granderson will likely be in the lineup when the series shifts to Houston and the team needs a designated hitter. He has two career home runs against Justin Verlander.

Projected Rotations

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    David Zalubowski/Associated Press

    Projected Astros Rotation

    • Dallas Keuchel (L)
    • Justin Verlander
    • Charlie Morton
    • Lance McCullers Jr.

    The Astros have only announced Dallas Keuchel and Justin Verlander as the Game 1 and Game 2 starters, and they will once again be choosing between Charlie Morton, Lance McCullers Jr. and Brad Peacock to round out the staff.

    Morton and McCullers combined for a gem in Game 7 of the American League Championship Series, and piggybacking them again might not be the worst idea depending on how taxed the bullpen is heading into Game 3.

    The Astros will have unfamiliarity on their side when Keuchel takes the mound. He's only ever faced Logan Forsythe (7-for-20), Chase Utley (1-for-4) and Chris Taylor (0-for-3), which could give him an upper hand in Game 1.

    It's not unreasonable to say the Astros will go as far as Keuchel and Verlander carry them this postseason.

               

    Projected Dodgers Rotation

    • Clayton Kershaw (L)
    • Rich Hill (L)
    • Yu Darvish
    • Alex Wood (L)

    Clayton Kershaw turned in the defining moment of his postseason career against the Chicago Cubs in Game 5 of the NLCS, allowing three hits and one run over six dominant innings. Now we will see what the best pitcher in the game can do for an encore in his first trip to the World Series.

    Rich Hill and Yu Darvish present an interesting matchup for the Astros, as both pitchers recently called the AL West home. Hill pitched for Oakland last season, while Darvish spent his entire career prior to July with the Texas Rangers.

    However, Astros hitters carry a paltry .190/.249/.288 line in 163 combined at-bats against Darvish, and he was dominant in his most recent start against them—allowing just one hit over seven innings of work on June 12.

    Alex Wood will once again fill the No. 4 starter role, and he could be used out of the bullpen later in the series if the need arises.

Biggest X-Factors

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    Mark Tenally/Associated Press

    Astros: Brad Peacock

    Whether he gets a start later in the series or works exclusively out of the bullpen, Brad Peacock has a chance to be a difference-maker for the Astros.

    Assuming he comes out of the bullpen, he could be asked to replace the struggling Chris Devenski as the team's primary multi-inning weapon. Devenski has allowed five hits, three walks and four earned runs in three innings.

    The Astros have other capable long relievers, including starter Collin McHugh, but there is a reason Peacock is also in the mix to earn a start.

    The 29-year-old went 13-2 with a 3.00 ERA, 1.19 WHIP and 161 strikeouts in 132.0 innings during the regular season. That included 21 starts and 13 relief appearances, and he pitched to a 1.77 ERA with 26 strikeouts in 20.1 innings when coming out of the bullpen.

    Houston has gotten a 5.03 ERA from its bullpen this postseason, so any sort of stabilizing presence would be welcomed with open arms.

           

    Dodgers: The Health of Corey Seager

    Seager's health is easily the biggest X-factor in this series, at least on paper.

    The 23-year-old was brilliant once again this season, hitting .295/.375/.479 with 33 doubles, 22 home runs and 77 RBI on his way to a 5.6 WAR. However, he was plagued by a sore shoulder down the stretch and hit just .210/.286/.356 in September as a result.

    He was active for the team's three-game sweep of the Arizona Diamondbacks in the National League Division Series, going 3-for-11 with a triple and two RBI in that series. But a back injury left him watching from the sidelines in the NLCS.

    Props to Charlie Culberson for doing a terrific job filling in after seeing a grand total of 15 plate appearances at the MLB level during the regular season. However, Seager is capable of transforming the offense if he's close to 100 percent. 

    At the very least, expect to see him penciled in as the DH once the series moves to Houston.

Game 1: Clayton Kershaw Wins Round 1 Against Dallas Keuchel

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    Nam Y. Huh/Associated Press

    If you are a fan of pitcher duels, it doesn't get much better than Dallas Keuchel vs. Clayton Kershaw matching up in Game 1 of the World Series.

    With the benefit of full rest, expect both pitchers to be on their game early.

    Keuchel has unfamiliarity on his side, as the Dodgers lineup has not seen much of him, but he was also significantly better at home (11 GS, 2.26 ERA, 0.95 WHIP) than he was on the road (12 GS, 3.53 ERA, 1.28 WHIP) this season.

    The Astros will strike first, with Jose Altuve continuing to swing a hot bat and delivering his sixth home run of the postseason. He's 6-for-15 in his career against Kershaw.

    However, that will be all the Astros get, and the Dodgers finally get to Keuchel the third time through the lineup to put a crooked number on the board.

    Kenley Jansen goes 1-2-3 in the ninth after Kershaw goes eight innings, and the Dodgers take the series lead.

            

    Score Prediction: Dodgers 4, Astros 1 (LAD leads 1-0)

Game 2: Justin Verlander Evens the Series

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    Eric Christian Smith/Associated Press

    The Dodgers had the best home record in baseball this season at 57-25, and they have kept that form going with a 4-0 record at Dodger Stadium this postseason.

    It would be huge if the Astros could steal a win before the series shifts to Houston, and ALCS MVP Justin Verlander is just the man for the job.

    Since joining the Astros in August, he's gone 9-0 with a 1.05 ERA and 0.66 WHIP in eight starts and one relief appearance, returning to ace form. That will continue in Game 2 as he scatters four hits and one run over 7.2 innings before turning it over to the bullpen with a 2-1 lead.

    Ken Giles gets the final out of the eighth, and the Astros tack on a big insurance run in the bottom of the inning on a solo home run from Marwin Gonzalez. Giles slams the door in the ninth and welcomes the travel day after running up a high pitch count to get those final four outs.

              

    Score Prediction: Astros 3, Dodgers 1 (Series tied 1-1)

Game 3: Corey Seager Proves He's Healthy; Dodgers Offense Explodes

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    Ryan Kang/Associated Press

    After being limited to pinch-hit duties the first two games of the series, Corey Seager is back in the starting lineup hitting second as the starting designated hitter in Game 3.

    He wastes no time making his presence felt with a two-run home run off Charlie Morton in the top of the first inning, and that sets the tone for an offensive explosion.

    Morton is chased before he can finish the third inning, and it turns into a bullpen game for the Astros.

    Houston manager A.J. Hinch wisely saves both Brad Peacock and Lance McCullers Jr. for Game 4, instead instead to Collin McHugh to eat up some innings in a game that's a lost cause early.

    Seager goes deep again in the seventh inning, and the Dodgers pour it on with five total home runs in the game. 

           

    Score Prediction: Dodgers 12, Astros 3 (LAD leads 2-1)

Game 4: Dodgers Win in Extras

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    Matt Slocum/Associated Press

    After seeing how well Lance McCullers Jr. pitched out of the bullpen in Game 7 of the ALCS, the Astros employ a similar strategy in Game 4. Brad Peacock earns the start and McCullers waits in the wings, ready to take the mound at the first sign of trouble.

    Peacock is sharp early with four scoreless innings, but after the first two batters reach base in the top of the fifth, he gets a quick hook. McCullers can't get out of the inning unscathed, as both of those runs come around to score and give the Dodgers a 2-0 lead.

    The Astros quickly get those runs back in the bottom of the inning, though, as Carlos Correa takes Alex Wood deep and chases him from the game in the process.

    It's a bullpen game from there—and a good one.

    Things are still tied 2-2 heading into the bottom of the ninth, and the Dodgers go to closer Kenley Jansen, who cuts through the middle of the Astros lineup with a 1-2-3 inning.

    Cody Bellinger plays the role of hero in the top of the 10th with an opposite-field home run off Astros closer Ken Giles, and Jansen slams the door in the bottom of the inning as the Astros lose a heartbreaker.

           

    Score Prediction: Dodgers 3, Astros 2 (LAD leads 3-1)

Game 5: Keuchel Wins Round 2 Against Kershaw

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    David J. Phillip/Associated Press

    Dallas Keuchel gets the ball again in Game 5 with the season on the line, and he delivers with a complete-game shutout.

    Clayton Kershaw nearly matches him pitch-for-pitch, with one mistake to George Springer proving to be the difference as he goes eight terrific innings but takes the tough-luck loss.

    The two teams combine for seven hits in one of the best-pitched games in World Series history and one of the fastest games of the season.

            

    Score Prediction: Astros 1, Dodgers 0 (LAD leads 3-2)

Game 6: Verlander Finally Takes a Loss; Dodgers Hoist the Trophy

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    Matt Slocum/Associated Press

    The series shifts back to Dodger Stadium for Game 6, and it looks like we might be headed for a Game 7 when the Astros plate three runs in the fourth inning to chase starter Rich Hill.

    However, Game 4 starter Alex Wood comes on in relief and throws three perfect innings, and the Dodgers load the bases against Justin Verlander in the bottom of the seventh.

    With two outs in the inning and Verlander still throwing a shutout and looking strong from a stuff standpoint, manager A.J. Hinch decides to leave the veteran in the game to try to work out of his own jam.

    Justin Turner has other ideas.

    He crushes a bases-clearing double into the right-center gap. And just like that, the score is tied.

    Yasiel Puig follows with the go-ahead RBI single off reliever Will Harris, and the Dodgers are just six outs from a World Series title.

    Manager Dave Roberts doesn't think twice about going to Kenley Jansen to get those final six outs, and he does just that, nailing down the save and proving to be worth every penny of that $80 million deal.

           

    Score Prediction: Dodgers 4, Astros 3 (Dodgers win series 4-2) 

             

    All stats courtesy of Baseball Reference unless otherwise noted.