The last time the Astros played against the Dodgers, it was Game 7 of the World Series. The stakes will be much lower this time around, though.
On November 1st, 2017, the Astros earned their first World Series championship in club history. Fast forward 275 days later, and the club returns to the scene of its greatest triumph.
Now a rematch with the Dodgers await.
The pressure for an early August series is obviously not as high as the World Series. At the same time, I’d look for both teams to use this three-game series as a measuring stick. After all, there could be a World Series rematch between the two clubs in October. Entering Friday’s game, FanGraphs currently has the Astros have a 99.7% chance of clinching a playoff berth with a 22.3% chance of winning the World Series. The Dodgers have a 91.7% chance of qualifying for the postseason with a 15.5% chance of taking home the Commissioner’s Trophy. Incidentally the Astros and Dodgers possess the best chances of winning the World Series today. Of course, these numbers are subject to change as we are still in early August.
But this isn’t the same Dodgers team that the Astros saw last fall. Despite a rough start to the season, Los Angeles has rebounded in a major way.
There have been some personnel changes over in Chavez Ravine as well. Corey Seager, one of the top young shortstops in the game, is out of action through the postseason due to Tommy John surgery. Former Orioles’ star shortstop, Manny Machado, is now in Los Angeles, and he has made a positive impact on the club with a 123 wRC+ in 67 plate appearances. Former Twins’ second baseman, Brian Dozier, replaces Logan Forsythe, who was sent to Minnesota, on the Dodgers’ roster. Their bullpen has a mix of familiar and new faces. A top prospect last season, the Astros get their first look at Walker Buehler on Sunday afternoon.
The Astros have changed, too. Gerrit Cole was added over the winter, and he has become one of the top pitchers in the AL. The starting rotation has been the best unit in baseball. Despite missing Jose Altuve, Carlos Correa, and George Springer to injuries in recent weeks, the Astros have benefitted from the continued emergence of Alex Bregman along with contributions from the veteran core. Max Stassi has filled in admirably for Brian McCann, and the acquisition of Martin Maldonado stabilizes the positions until McCann’s return. Like the Dodgers, Houston’s bullpen has a mix of familiar and new faces.
All in all, this upcoming series at Dodger Stadium should be interesting to watch. Justin Verlander and Alex Wood start on Friday night followed by Lance McCullers and Kenta Maeda on Saturday. Sunday’s afternoon matchup between Cole and Buehler will be cool to watch. Off-the-field, there is the possibility of Roberto Osuna‘s highly controversial debut as an Astro since he is scheduled to be reinstated following his 75-game suspension on Sunday. Needless to say, there will be plenty to digest over this highly anticipated rematch in Los Angeles.