Tomorrow is Game 1 of the 2017 World Series between the Astros and Dodgers.
This will be the first time the Astros have played in the Fall Classic since the 2005 team. That team featured Roger Clemens, Andy Pettitte, Roy Oswalt, and Brandon Backe. Depending on how A.J. Hinch uses his starters, this group of starters could be comparable to the 2005 bunch.
While the best pitcher could be Justin Verlander on this 2017 roster, this is Dallas Keuchel‘s team at the moment. Verlander started Game 1 of the ALDS versus the Red Sox but was used as a reliever in the deciding Game 4 of that series. This placed Keuchel ahead of him in the rotation, which makes up a dominating 1-2 punch for the Astros. This team may have been good without trading for Verlander. He wasn’t the MVP of the ALCS for nothing.
Will the Astros begin the World Series the same way they started the ALDS and ALCS with a 2-0 lead? Unlike the previous two series, the Dodgers will have homefield advantage in the World Series. Although the Dodgers are favored to win the series, the Astros will count on Keuchel to get them off to the right start.
While Keuchel has a strong postseason resume, he has never pitched past the division series until this season. How will he handle pitching Game 1 of the World Series at Dodger Stadium? He pitched relatively well versus the Yankees at Yankee Stadium, but he allowed four earned runs in only 4 2/3 innings in Game 5 of the ALCS after dominating in Game 1 in Houston.
Keuchel has a career 2.59 ERA in in 31 1/3 innings with 39 strikeouts. The strikeout rate is higher than his regular season rate which means he ups his game in October. His ERA is skewed by a bullpen appearance in 2015 in Game 5 and Game 5 in New York this year. Maybe he struggles in Game 5 situations, or it was just struggling on the road. Either way, stats don’t mean anything in the World Series.
Keuchel came up to the Astros after the move to the American League, so he has yet to face the Dodgers yet in his career. Logan Forsythe and Franklin Gutierrez have the most experience versus Keuchel, Forsythe is the only one to hit well versus the bearded ace. Forsythe and Chase Utley have a career OPS over .750, but Utley is unlikely to play.
Keuchel has never faced the Dodgers before.
There is no doubt that the Dodgers have watched videos of Keuchel pitching, but the lack of experience could lead to a win. However, the Dodgers have hit better against left-handed pitchers in the regular season (.253 AVG and .789 OPS) and the playoffs (.317 AVG and .908 OPS). If Keuchel can limit the Dodgers in Game 1, then the rest of the right-handers can do their thing.
One benefit for Keuchel will be that he will not have to face a designated hitter, but the Dodgers pitchers have experience hitting. He also has to bat as well, but he is a competitive athlete and should be able not to embarrass himself with the bat. The Dodgers have hit 13 homers this postseason and Keuchel has not allowed one this postseason.
Overall this season on the road, Keuchel has a higher ERA on the road (3.53) than at home (2.26). He has allowed 11 homers on the road and batters are hitting .245 versus Keuchel. While the stats may not favor Keuchel on the road, his poise and determination should help him succeed. Kershaw has not allowed a homer to any current Astros, but Jose Altuve is hitting .400 versus the lefty. Kershaw has allowed six homers this postseason. This will be an interesting matchup, go Astros!
***Stats from Baseball-Reference***