30 Clubs in 30 Days: Houston Astros

The NFL Combine began yesterday and there are a couple of things I want to bring to light. Penn State runningback Saquon Barkley was a freaking monster, as he ran the second-fastest 40-yard dash among runningbacks at an unofficial 4.41 and tied for the most bench press reps at 29. You can’t really say Barkley helped himself at the Combine because his draft stock couldn’t have been much higher already. On the other end, Oklahoma tackle Orlando Brown was abysmal. He ran a 5.86 40-yard dash (nobody who has ever run worse than 5.7 has ever made the NFL) then only did 14 bench press reps. Brown is 6’8 340 pounds and he did 14 reps at 225 pounds. I’ve got a buddy I work out with who I’m confident can do that and he’s a college freshman. Brown also got chewed out by a coach for dogging his drills. Bad day for Brown. I had him as my #3 tackle and a late first round prospect at that but those numbers are alarming. I’ll do a Combine recap after the event is done so we can get my full thoughts on who helped their stock and who hurt it. But for now, it’s day 12 of 30 Clubs in 30 Days and today we have the defending champion Houston Astros.

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2017 Results:

Record: 101-61, won AL West by 21 games over Anaheim Angels. Defeated Boston Red Sox in ALDS. Defeated New York Yankees in ALCS. Defeated Los Angeles Dodgers in World Series.

Notable Offseason Additions: SP Gerrit Cole, RP Joe Smith, RP Hector Rondon

Notable Offseason Subtractions: DH Carlos Beltran (retired), SP Francisco Liriano, SP Joe Musgrove, 3B Colin Moran, RP Luke Gregerson, OF Cameron Maybin

Best Offensive Player: 2B Jose Altuve

Best Pitcher: Justin Verlander

Depth Chart:

C-Brian McCann, Evan Gattis (DH), Juan Centeno, Max Stassi

1B-Yuli Gurriel, Tyler White

2B-Jose Altuve, Tony Kemp

3B-Alex Bregman

SS-Carlos Correa

LF-Marwin Gonzalez, Derek Fisher

CF-George Springer, Jake Marisnick

RF-Josh Reddick

SP-Justin Verlander, Dallas Keuchel, Gerrit Cole, Lance McCullers, Colin McHugh, Charlie Morton, Brad Peacock

Bullpen-Ken Giles (CP), Will Harris, Chris Devenski, Joe Smith, Tony Sipp, Hector Rondon, Buddy Boshers

Coaching Staff:

Manager-AJ Hinch (4th season with Astros)

Hitting Coach-Dave Hudgens

Pitching Coach-Brent Strom

1st Base Coach-Alex Cintron

3rd Base Coach-Gary Pettis

Bench Coach-Joe Espada

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The Houston Astros won their first World Series in franchise history just months after Hurricane Harvey ravaged the Houston area. This victory meant a lot for the city of Houston as it was a moment of happiness for everyone in a time of grief. This is VERY similar to the 2013 Red Sox, who won the World Series just months after the Boston Marathon bombings. But the Astros are also about as loaded a team as you’re going to find in Major League Baseball. Here’s how they’re projected to line up in 2018.

1. George Springer-CF

2. Alex Bregman-3B

3. Jose Altuve-2B

4. Carlos Correa-SS

5. Yuli Gurriel-1B

6. Josh Reddick-RF

7. Marwin Gonzalez-LF

8. Evan Gattis-DH

9. Brian McCann-C

There are superstars all over this lineup, most notably of course being reigning AL MVP Jose Altuve. Last season Altuve won MVP over the likes of Aaron Judge and Jose Ramirez by hitting .346 with 24 home runs, 81 RBI, 32 stolen bases, 112 runs scored, and was worth 7.5 WAR. Not bad for a guy who’s the same height as my mom. Protecting him in the lineup is Carlos Correa, arguably the best shortstop in the game and a guy that has drawn comparisons to Alex Rodriguez. Correa hit .315 with 24 home runs, 84 RBI, slugged .550, and was worth 5.2 WAR in an injury-plagued season. And we cannot forget World Series MVP George Springer at the top of the lineup. Last season Springer hit .283 with 34 home runs, 85 RBI, 112 runs scored, and was worth 4.5 WAR. In the World Series, Springer was a monster after a poor Game 1 where he struck out in all 4 at bats (he was the first World Series MVP ever to have such a game in the same Series). He hit .379 with 5 home runs and 7 RBI in the Fall Classic, and this is including that Game 1 performance. If you don’t include that, Springer hit .440. There are so many other guys in this lineup that can kill you too. Alex Bregman was clutch in the postseason. Josh Reddick hit .314 and was worth 3.5 WAR. Marwin Gonzalez, their usual super utility guy, hit .303 and was worth 4.1 WAR. This lineup is absolutely loaded with young talent and the Astros expect to be bullies in the American League for quite some time.

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The Astros’ starting rotation is arguably just as loaded as their lineup. They have two Cy Young Award winners in Justin Verlander and Dallas Keuchel at the top of their rotation with another Cy Young candidate in Gerrit Cole, whom they acquired from the Pirates in the offseason, right behind them. After being acquired by the Astros from the Tigers at the last minute, Verlander went 5-0 with a 1.06 ERA in 34 innings, striking out 43 batters in the process. Keuchel returned to his 2015 Cy Young-winning form after a down 2016 season by going 14-5 with a 2.90 ERA in 23 starts. Gerrit Cole comes from the Pirates after a down season, however he is capable of fantastic numbers, such as his 2015 season where he went 19-8 with a 2.60 ERA. The big question mark is going to be who the #5 starter is. The candidates for that job are Colin McHugh, Charlie Morton, and Brad Peacock. The losers will likely wind up in the bullpen because they’re all too talented to keep in AAA, which is a good problem for the Astros to have. Plus if anybody in the rotation gets injured, they’ll have each of these guys on retainer. My pick to win the 5 spot is Charlie Morton, who is suddenly getting his fastball up in the high-90’s and earned manager AJ Hinch’s trust to close out Game 7 of the World Series.

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The Astros’ bullpen struggled in the postseason, particularly in the World Series, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t a talented bunch. Closer Ken Giles pitched to a 2.30 ERA and struck out almost 12 batters per 9 innings while saving 34 games. It looks pretty apparent that the Astros won that trade with the Phillies after they traded former #1 overall pick Mark Appel to get Giles as Appel is stepping away from the game without having reached the Major Leagues. Will Harris was an All Star in 2016 and in 2017 he had an ERA of 2.98 and struck out 10 batters per 9. Chris Devenski pitched to a 2.68 ERA and struck out 11.16 batters per 9. They also added submarine pitcher Joe Smith to the bullpen as well as former Cubs closer Hector Rondon. I expect this group to return to their regular season form and make people forget about how brutal they were in the World Series.

Overall, I expect the Astros to be favorites to repeat as World Series champions. AJ Hinch’s club didn’t lose anybody of major significance and only got better, as they added the likes of Gerrit Cole to an already deep pitching rotation. Their core is also very young, as each of Springer, Altuve, Correa, and Bregman are all under the age of 28. Not only is this team going to score a ton of runs, but they’re going to prevent a ton of runs as well with their stacked pitching staff. Unlike last season, they will face a bit stiffer competition in their division as the Angels have added a lot of pieces to their roster that could make them challengers to the Astros’ throne while the Mariners could be a sneaky team in that division.

Projected Record: 101-61, Win AL West

That’s going to do it for this edition of 30 Clubs in 30 Days. Join me tomorrow where I discuss the Kansas City Royals, who will be in the first stages of life after their core that led them to their 2015 World Series title. Let me know what you think of the Astros’ chances in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10.

World Series Game 7 Recap

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The Houston Astros defeated the Los Angeles Dodgers 5-1 to win the first World Series in franchise history. Charlie Morton was the winning pitcher and got the final 12 outs. Yu Darvish got the loss. Some takeaways:

-This had a similar feel to the Boston Red Sox winning the 2013 World Series months after the Boston Marathon bombings. Or the 2001 Yankees who were an inning away from winning it all a month and a half after the 9/11 attacks. The city of Houston was devastated by Hurricane Harvey in late August, leaving much of the city submerged under water. Since Harvey decimated Houston, the Astros lost a grand total of 3 home games the rest of the way. The city of Houston needed something to boost their spirits as they recover from all the damage and this Astros team delivered. Here’s some evidence:

-This is REALLY creepy. A Sports Illustrated cover from 2014:

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They even got the World Series MVP on the cover in George Springer, who was absolutely incredible since Game 1. Springer was a disaster in the opening game, striking out all 4 times he came up to bat. He is the first ever World Series MVP to have such a game. But after that he was impossible for the Dodgers to get out. Including Game 1, Springer slashed .379/.412/.1000 and tied a World Series record with 5 home runs (Reggie Jackson in 1977, Chase Utley in 2009) and set World Series records with 29 total bases and 8 extra base hits. He also had a pretty great MVP acceptance speech. “I love each and every one of you. From the coaching staff to the players. Even Marwin Gonzalez!”

-We also got this from Carlos Correa:

-Every single player on the Astros is winning their first World Series ring, and that includes some hardened veterans: Carlos Beltran, Justin Verlander, and Brian McCann have all put together stellar careers and finally have a World Series ring to show for their efforts.

-And here we have the final out:

I was amazed in the confidence AJ Hinch had in Charlie Morton in this game, but Morton delivered. He went the final 4 innings, allowing the lone run in the 6th, which I thought would spell a short outing for him because it had that feeling that the Dodgers were ready to break out. But he quickly silenced that by striking out the next batter in Chris Taylor and all of a sudden the Astros felt like they were back in control. Dallas Keuchel and Justin Verlander both got up in the bullpen, but Hinch stuck with Morton, who had been touching 98 miles per hour on his fastball. With all the struggles the Astros bullpen had in this World Series, they really came through in Game 7, especially considering starting pitcher Lance McCullers was pulled in the third.

-The main killer for the Dodgers was they were unable to do anything with runners on base. They had no problem getting on for the first few innings, but only an Andre Ethier single could drive in a run. The Dodgers stranded a boatload of runners in this game and it just felt like a rally was brewing but never materialized.

-I have to say, considering how insane some of the other games in this Series were, this game felt like kind of a letdown. This was basically the Godfather of World Series’: the final installment was a disappointment but the rest was so good that this Series will be remembered fondly. As well it should. It set a record with 25 home runs between the two teams and don’t even get me started on Games 2 and 5. It was also the first best-of-7 World Series where only two starting pitchers earned winning decisions (Clayton Kershaw in Game 1 and Lance McCullers in Game 3).

-The entirety of the Astros offense came in the first two innings, capped off by this BOMB by MVP Springer:

It traveled an estimated 438 feet and knocked Yu Darvish out of the game.

-Darvish was not himself in this Series. He failed to get out of the second inning in both of his starts (first time that’s happened since 1960) and all 5 runs the Astros scored were on his watch. I think one reason for Darvish’s struggles in this Series is the familiarity the Astros have with them. Darvish had been a member of the Texas Rangers for a few years prior to being added by the Dodgers at the 2017 Trade Deadline. The Rangers and Astros have been division rivals since the Astros joined the American League starting in 2013. They’ve seen Darvish far more than any other Dodgers pitcher and I’m sure that had something to do with his struggles. That, and his pitches were super flat all game. The one bright spot was that Darvish essentially got an on-field apology from Yuli Gurriel for the racist gesture before his first at bat, as Gurriel tipped his helmet to Darvish.

-Brandon Morrow pitched to one batter in this game in relief of Darvish and became the second pitcher to ever appear in all seven World Series games. Morrow’s World Series ERA was a tick under 9 but a vast majority of that damage came in Game 5, when he really shouldn’t have been in there. Otherwise, he looked very sharp this Series.

-Lance McCullers got the start for the Astros and was pulled in the third inning despite not allowing a single run. The main reasoning for this was a lack of control that McCullers was displaying. But how can that be? McCullers didn’t issue a single walk! So no walks, no runs, what gives? McCullers plunked a World Series record FOUR batters in his 2.1 innings of work, including Justin Turner twice.

-Cody Bellinger reverted back to his early-series struggles, adding three more strikeouts and breaking Aaron Judge’s postseason record with his 29th of the postseason (17th in the World Series, also a record). I think Bellinger will bounce back but his confidence has to be at an all time low. Again, it was the curveball low-and-in that was the bane of Bellinger’s existence. It also bit Corey Seager a few times, but not nearly to the extent of Bellinger. He also committed the error that allowed the first run of the game to score for the Astros.

-The Astros had to persevere through three 100-loss seasons to get to where they are today. A lot of credit goes to owner Jim Crane and GM Jeff Luhnow for building a stacked roster that will compete for a title for the next few years. Even more credit has to go to the Astros fans for their patience through this process. Their faith was rewarded with a title, as they packed Minute Maid Park to watch both Games 6 and 7.

-Kudos also go out to the Dodgers, who played their hearts out all season but just ran out of gas for the last game of the season. It’s a young team with a TON of payroll and great coaching, no matter how critical I may be of it. They’ll be back.

Looking Ahead:

No more baseball in 2017, I’m afraid. As far as baseball-related blogs go, I will try and keep you up to date on any offseason acquisitions and potential trade speculations. If there is a slow day in sports, I may even do a blog or two where I try and find good fits for trade candidates.

Prediction:

It’s going to be another depressing few months of no baseball. At least there’s football and basketball.

World Series Game 3 Recap

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photo credit: Youtube User Baseball Breakdowns

The Houston Astros defeated the Los Angeles Dodgers 5-3 to take Game 3 of the World Series and have a 2-1 series lead. Lance McCullers was the winning pitcher, Yu Darvish got the loss, and Brad Peacock earned the save. Some takeaways:

-Yu Darvish did not have the good stuff at all. He looked solid in the first inning but in the second all movement on his breaking pitches just vanished. The pitch he served up the homerun to Yuli Gurriel on was about as flat a pitch can be.

He was yanked after 1.2 innings of work, allowing 4 runs. I wrote in the Game 2 blog that Darvish needed to go deep in this game to help Dave Roberts and the bullpen. He did no such thing, of course.

-Dave Roberts still used a ton of relievers in this game, but to significantly more success than in Game 2. They didn’t allow a single earned run (1 unearned run was charged to Tony Watson on an error he himself committed) in their 6.1 innings of work. The Astros were constantly getting on and threatening to do damage but they couldn’t push the runner home after that 4-run second inning.

-Kenta Maeda was a godsend for Roberts. After using every single reliever in Game 2, Roberts had to be sweating bullets when he had to pull Darvish in the second inning. But Maeda was able to go 2.2 strong innings, only letting up 1 hit and striking out 2, throwing fewer pitches than Darvish while pitching one more total inning.

-This game really wasn’t as close as the final score might indicate. The Dodgers couldn’t get anything going offensively all night. Their first run was scored on a double play after Lance McCullers walked the bases loaded with nobody out in the third. That was their only run until the 6th when they got runners on second and third with nobody out. Cody Bellinger then struck out, Yasiel Puig got an RBI groundout, then Justin Turner scored from third on a ball that skipped through Brian McCann’s legs. So the Dodgers score 3 runs but only 1 RBI on 4 hits.

-Corey Seager’s aggressiveness at the plate came back to bite him in this game. I’m talking in particular about his at bat in the third inning after McCullers had walked three straight hitters to load the bases after waiting 30 minutes between pitches because of the Astros’ offensive outburst. In that situation, if a guy isn’t throwing strikes, don’t swing unless he can prove he can get it in there, ESPECIALLY, if he just walked the bases loaded with nobody out. But instead, Seager went up there hacking on a couple of pitches that were definitely out of the zone. The first one he fouled off, the second he bounced into a very aesthetically pleasing 3-6-1 double play. I know he’s only 23, but he’s smarter than that.

-Brad Peacock has to be your player of the game. Lance McCullers was really shaky and was lucky to come out of this game with a decent line (5.1 IP, 4 hits, 3 runs, 4 walks, 3 K’s) and Peacock got off to a shaky start, as he let Puig hit the RBI groundout and threw the wild pitch that allowed Turner to score. But after that the Dodgers couldn’t touch him. Peacock went 3.2 innings, didn’t allow a single hit, walked one batter and struck out 4. He was in such a groove that manager AJ Hinch left him in there in the 9th inning with a 2-run lead despite having Ken Giles in the bullpen. In fact, he didn’t have anybody warming up in the bullpen in the 9th. Chris Devenski did warm up in the 8th, but that’s about it. The fact that Hinch only had to use one reliever sets the Astros up nicely for the remainder of the series. If it were Roberts in this situation, he would’ve sent out Kenley Jansen, Clayton Kershaw, Sandy Koufax, and Rick “Wild Thing” Vaughn to get the final six outs.

-Another note about Peacock’s performance. Basically the same formula that won Game 7 of the ALCS for the Astros against the Yankees worked here in Game 3 of the World Series: let your starter go just enough innings, then have another guy who started games this year finish the last few innings. I also bitched about Peacock in Game 1 and how he kept going to the same pitch in the same spot and wasn’t fooling a single Dodgers hitter. He did the exact opposite in Game 3. He was mixing his spots really well and I don’t know if I really saw any Dodger get a good piece on any of Peacock’s pitches

-Are Cody Bellinger and hitting coach Turner Wade having some sort of feud or something where they refuse to talk to each other? Because Astros pitchers keep throwing Bellinger the same pitch, curveball low and inside, and he keeps whiffing at them. It came to a head in Game 3 as he struck out 4 times in 4 at bats, the second youngest player to do that in World Series history (youngest was Mickey Mantle, so Bellinger has that going for him). But I can’t believe Wade hasn’t had some sort of conversation with Bellinger saying “hey, they’re probably going to throw you a curveball low and in. Don’t swing at it.” Or at least something along those lines because it’s getting really frustrating to watch a young hitter with as much talent as Bellinger make the same mistake over and over and over and over and over again. It wasn’t just this game, either, he’s been doing this all series. Normally, when a guy is slumping like this (Bellinger is 0-11 in the World Series), you sit him down and let him reset and work on things. But you can’t do that now in the World Series with one of your most potent hitters. Wade and Bellinger NEED to come up with something right now if the Dodgers want to even things up in Game 4 because whatever they’re doing isn’t working.

-This could get problematic for Gurriel:

I’m not just talking about his hair either, which looks like a cross between Pidgeot and Yu-Gi-Oh. It was a very brief shot where Gurriel seems to grab his eyes in a squinting motion, seemingly making fun of the fact that Yu Darvish is Japanese after Gurriel hit a bomb off the Dodgers pitcher. It was done so quickly that I’m not so sure if that was intentional or if he was just grabbing his face for some reason, but nonetheless there will be questions for the Astros first baseman and possibly a punishment on the way

-Should Gurriel get suspended for this gesture, there is a relatively easy fix despite Gurriel being the only player listed as a first baseman on the roster. Marwin Gonzalez, who has been the left fielder for most of the season, has a lot of experience at first base and the Astros can slide in Cameron Maybin into left field in his stead. I don’t think a suspension will come of this unless Major League Baseball can prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Gurriel’s gesture was racially charged.

-When Alex Wood makes the start for the Dodgers tomorrow, every single Dodger on the World Series roster will have appeared in the World Series, which is pretty crazy, but that’s what happens when your manager makes every move imaginable. If all goes well for the Dodgers, Roberts will only have to use Josh Fields, Brandon McCarthy, and Jansen in Game 4 because those were the only guys he didn’t go to in Game 3. Unfortunately for him, the fact that it’s Wood on the mound doesn’t bode too well for that outcome. He averages fewer than 6 innings per start this season and the way the Astros have been hitting of late, we may get more of the same.

Looking Ahead:

Game 4 pits Alex Wood of the Dodgers against Charlie Morton of the Astros. The Dodgers will have a very tired bullpen while the Astros have everyone except Peacock at their disposal. It’s going to be up to the Dodgers offense to wake up and get some runs on the board because they haven’t been able to consistently manufacture runs (8 of their 12 runs this series have come via the home run). We don’t know what we’re going to get with Morton in this game. He was absolutely terrific against the Yankees in Game 7 of the ALCS, but prior to that he had been a punching bag for opposing offenses. If the Dodgers are going to pounce on a guy and try to regain some momentum, this would be the guy because after him it’s Dallas Keuchel in Game 5 and Justin Verlander in Game 6 if they even get that far.

Prediction:

The coin toss called it right last time out and right now I’m not super confident in the Dodgers so I think I’m going to stick with the Astros in Game 4. They’re riding a huge wave of momentum right now and they have the city of Houston rallying behind them after they were devastated by Hurricane Harvey. I’m going to predict Astros win 6-3.

World Series Game 1 Recap

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photo credit: Youtube user Baseball Breakdown

The Los Angeles Dodgers won their first World Series game in 29 years by a score of 3-1 over the Houston Astros. Clayton Kershaw was the winning pitcher, Dallas Keuchel was saddled with the loss, and Kenley Jansen converted the save, the 12th straight save to start a postseason career, longest streak in MLB history. Some takeaways from the game:

-This game only took 2 hours and 28 minutes. As Joe Buck pointed out, it was the shortest World Series game since Game 4 of the 1992 World Series. Somewhere, Rob Manfred is trying to blame all the “ectoplasm” on a “spooky ghost.”

-Only 3 players on either World Series roster combined had ever played in a World Series prior to Tuesday night (Justin Verlander and Carlos Beltran for the Astros, Chase Utley for the Dodgers) and none of them started in this game (Beltran had a pinch hitting appearance in the 8th). Only Utley has a World Series ring.

-Can’t start much better than the Dodgers did. First pitch thrown by Keuchel to Chris Taylor nearly left Dodger Stadium.

Taylor is only 6’1 195 pounds, he should not be hitting a baseball that freaking far. That’s Stanton territory. Granted, the fact that it was 103 degrees probably helped (hottest World Series game ever).

-Can’t say enough about Clayton Kershaw. He was a machine all night. Not only did he strike out 11 batters, but he was also able to do it with minimal energy spent. He only threw 83 pitches over 7 innings of work. He easily could have gone all 9 had Dave Roberts not decided to play it safe and use his all-world bullpen. He’d had his struggles in the postseason in past years but they were non-existent tonight. The Astros, particularly George Springer, had no answer for him.

-Except maybe Alex Bregman.

This was the one mistake Kershaw made all night. A 1-1 93 mph fastball right down the middle isn’t going to miss too many bats, no matter how good you are and Bregman was able to tie the game up in the fourth. Bregman was the only hitter all night who seemed to have any semblance of success against Dodgers pitchers, as he also had a long at bat against Kenley Jansen before hitting a line drive to center that stayed in the air just a little too long. Also one thing to note about this home run. After it was hit, Kershaw had to face the heart of the Astros order in Jose Altuve, Carlos Correa, and Yuli Gurriel. He struck them all out. The great ones respond when adversity strikes.

-The Dodgers got a lot of contributions out of the leadoff spot. Taylor was hitting the ball hard all night, even on his outs, and he drew a 2-out walk to set up this Justin Turner go-ahead home run in the sixth.

-The Astros did not have the same luck. George Springer was 0-4 with 4 strikeouts in his World Series debut. 3 of which were against Kershaw.

-Kershaw’s final line was 7 innings, 3 hits, 1 run, 0 walks, 11 strikeouts. As I said before, he totally could have gone the complete game, but you can’t really fault Roberts for playing it safe.

-The Dodgers relievers were almost as impressive. Brandon Morrow was untouchable in the 8th inning, consistently hitting 98-100 mph on his fastball. Kenley Jansen looked a little wild at times in the 9th, but he didn’t allow any baserunners so you can’t really complain if you’re a Dodgers fan.

-You can complain if you’re an Astros fan, though. Brad Peacock had to have been frustrating you, as he kept trying the same pitch over and over and over and over again (slider low and away). Dodgers hitters never swung at it once yet he still kept going to it. He only faced two hitters, walking Logan Forsythe and getting Austin Barnes to fly out, but his pitch locations left a lot to be desired.

-Chris Devenski, on the other hand, was dynamite. He pretty handily struck out pinch hitter Charlie Culberson and Justin Turner. It took a nice running catch by Springer to retire Taylor, but otherwise Devenski’s performance had to be encouraging for AJ Hinch

-Lost in all this was the performance of Dallas Keuchel. A lot of guys making their World Series debut would cave when they serve up a home run on the very first pitch. But Keuchel kept his cool. After that home run, the Dodgers couldn’t seem to get a good swing off the Astros ace. He only finished with 3 strikeouts in 6.2 innings of work, but from Justin Turner’s at bat in the first inning until his home run in the 6th, Keuchel was forcing weak contact and ground balls left and right. In fact, the Astros turned 3 double plays in the first 6 innings. But that won’t be remembered because of the two home runs, which didn’t even come on bad pitches, they were just better swings by the hitters.

-Corey Seager looked like it hurt him more emotionally to not play in the NLCS than the physical pain he felt in his back because he was swinging early and often, and it seemed to work for him. He went 2-3 with 2 hard-hit singles. I was a little surprised to see him in the starting lineup given the injury, but there he was batting 6th. I wonder if this performance has Roberts considering moving him up in the lineup for Game 2 against Justin Verlander.

-Home Plate umpire Phil Cuzzi was consistently giving the low strike all night, even if it was a little bit too low, such as on Altuve’s strikeout or on one call against Cody Bellinger. That plays into both pitchers’ strengths, which John Smoltz pointed out several times throughout the broadcast. Cuzzi’s zone might have been a little low, but he was consistent with it and called it fairly both ways. If an umpire is going to have a strikezone that’s too big or too small, I want him to be consistent with it so I know what to expect. Cuzzi did just that, so I don’t mind the calls. I thought the umpiring crew had a solid game, though there weren’t really any hard calls to make.

Looking Ahead:

-Dont expect the Astros offense to get shut down in Game 2 like they did in Game 1. Dodgers Game 2 starter Rich Hill is a good pitcher, but he isn’t Kershaw. He throws a LOT of curveballs so the Astros will have to be a lot more patient with Hill than they were with Kershaw. The Astros were the number 1 offense in baseball in both runs scored and batting average this season so I don’t expect they’ll be down for too long.

-Don’t sleep on Hill, either. He went 12-8 with a 3.32 ERA in the regular season and has an ERA of 3.00 in the playoffs this year. He’s got one of the best curveballs in the Majors and he uses it a lot.

-Astros will send out Justin Verlander, who is coming off an absolutely dominant ALCS, where he went 2-0 with a 0.56 ERA. This will be his third Fall Classic, so I don’t think he will have the jitters that some of these other guys will. I expect him to continue his postseason dominance.

Game 2 Prediction:

I think we’re going to get another low-scoring affair with a fast pace. However I think this time it will go in the Astros’ favor. Sure both teams are unbeaten at home this season, but the World Series is a whole different kind of animal and nobody will be more ready for this than Justin Verlander. There wasn’t a whole lot of action on the bases in Game 1 (not counting the three home runs hit between the two teams, I don’t think either team ever once had a runner standing on third base) as all scoring was done via the long ball. We may see that again in Game 2. I’m going to pick the Astros to knot up the series with a final score of, oh I don’t know…..2-1.