With a minimum of four games left in the season, our writers make their final predictions of the postseason. While only one writer picked the Astros and Dodgers to meet in the World Series in their original postseason predictions, six writers still have a chance at picking the champion correctly. It will either be the first championship in franchise history (Astros) or first since 1988 (Dodgers).
Dodgers in seven:The two teams at the cutting edge of pitching—nobody spins it and loves the high fastball like these two—are primed for a long series of close games. Home teams are 23–8 this postseason, including 10–0 from the Astros and Dodgers, so in the first year World Series homefield advantage is earned by the team with the best overall record, the edge comes down to where the games are played.
Dodgers in six: I picked the Dodgers before the season, despite the Astros cover prediction SI (in)famously made three years ago, largely because I didn’t think the Astros had the pitching. Though the addition of Justin Verlander goes a long way towards making that up, I still think pitching gives the L.A. the edge, specifically their bullpen. For years that was L.A.’s Achilles heel; now it’s a strength, and it means they won’t need to push Kershaw (or any other starter) past his limits. The Astros’ offense is the best in the game, they have two real aces, and they won’t be easy to beat, but the Dodgers’ depth and balance made them the best team in the majors this season—and this postseason, too.
Astros in seven: The best part about Game 7 of the ALCS for the Astros, aside from the fact that they won it? That it was a smooth, relatively stress-free ride, thanks to the stellar work of Charlie Morton and Lance McCullers. Dallas Keuchel and Justin Verlander didn’t even have to stand up from the bench, except to cheer, and so they’ll be on full rest for Games 1 and 2 against the Dodgers—on an extra day’s rest, in fact, in the case of Keuchel. So instead of staggering out to LA an exhausted, banged up mess, as many Game 7 winners might have, the Astros and their aces will be fresh. That may limit the need for a bullpen that was exposed against the Yankees, and will allow the Astros to do as the prophecy foretold. The prophecy from 2014, not 2017, that is. The better prophecy.
Dodgers in six: The best team all season has, frighteningly, gotten better in October. The major question going into the playoffs was how to get from Clayton Kershaw to Kenley Jansen, and the answer seems to be a bullpen that didn't allow a run in 17 innings to the Cubs in the NLCS. The Astros' pitching staff is often able to limit big innings, but the Dodgers had the fourth-lowest groundball rate in the league this year, so they are always a threat for a home run or two, especially in the warm weather of a Los Angeles–Houston series.
Dodgers in six: At the outset of the postseason I picked the Astros to win it all, with my reservations about the Dodgers' bullpen and history of pushing Clayton Kershaw too far steering me away from them. Having seen Dave Roberts quick hook and his relievers' dominant performance in the NLDS and NLCS—particularly in contrast to the Astros' shaky relievers—I'm convinced this is the Dodgers' year.
Dodgers in six: The Dodgers just won a league championship series in which they outscored their opponent by 20 runs; the Astros, for all their 2017 offensive magic, just won a league championship series in which their opponent outscored them. The Dodgers enter the series with the better rotation (by a nose) and the better bullpen (by a mile). (Seriously, who's A.J. Hinch turning to in the middle innings when NL rules push him to pinch-hit for his starter?) To win, Houston will need to snag at least one win at Dodger Stadium, where L.A. held opponents to a .217 average in 2017. Even with NASA-level propulsion, that's a heavy lift.
Dodgers in six: Why change course now? There’s been nothing to suggest in either of the Dodgers’ frankly easy series wins over the Diamondbacks and Cubs that there are any real issues with this team. The lineup is hitting. The starting pitchers are going deep into games. The bullpen has been almost entirely untouchable. When you have Kiké Hernandez belting three homers in a game and Charlie Culberson having the week of his life, why wager against that? And assuming Corey Seager is back at close to full health, an already great team gets even better. The Astros have power, the otherworldly Justin Verlander, and a certain cover on their side. The Dodgers, though, are through and through the best team in baseball, and here’s betting that they cap off this incredible season with a deserved World Series win.
Dodgers in seven: The “Best. Team. Ever?” won’t go down as such, but will forever be remembered in Los Angeles. The Astros showed against the Yankees just how vulnerable of a team they can be on the road. Their high-powered offense was nowhere to be seen. Their bullpen squandered a four-run lead and has virtually no depth to it. They were rattled on the sport’s biggest stage. It’s not going to get any easier against a well-rested Dodgers team. The series will go the full seven games—largely thanks to a pair of starts from Dallas Keuchel and Justin Verlander—but the Dodgers will win it all for the first time since 1988. Prepare for a boatload of Kirk Gibson highlights.
Dodgers in seven: Even if the Dodgers were able to contain the Diamondbacks' and Cubs' usually torrid offenses, they haven't seen a lineup like the Astros'. Houston will steal a game in Los Angeles, and that will kick off a true Fall Classic. There will be plenty of irresistible matchups (Altuve v. Kershaw, Cody Bellinger v. Verlander, Yasiel Puig v. everyone) and rollicking atmospheres from two teams starved for a championship. In the end, the Dodgers' edge in starting pitching will tilt the series in their favor, but this will not be the lopsided affair that some are predicting it may be.