By Anthony McClean, Editor In Chief Emeritus
NEW HAVEN — Last year at this time, we were all talking about curses. The Cubs and Indians staged a thrilling, seven-game World Series that saw Chicago win their first world championship in over 100 years.
It also sent Cleveland fans back into baseball hell while still waiting for their first World Series crown since 1948. A five-game loss to the Yankees in this year’s ALDS following their historic season just added another chapter to their misery.
But that was last year. Like Mark McGwire once said, we’re not here to talk about the past. Well, maybe a little bit.
In a season that saw three 100-win teams make the postseason, it should be to no one’s surprise that two of them will face off in the Fall Classic. Both the Astros (101 wins) and Dodgers (104 wins) have shown flashes of their dominant ways during the regular season and postseason.
This year’s matchup will be the first time that two 100-win teams will face each other in the World Series since the Reds and Orioles in 1970 (Baltimore won 4-1) and the first time in any postseason series since the Yankees-Royals ALCS in 1977 (New York won 3-2).
For those of us who’ve followed the game for a while, seeing these two former NL West opponents playing for a world championship is a bit weird. A National League expansion team from 1962, the Astros began their franchise existence as the old Colt 45’s.
Three years later, upon their move into the Astrodome, they officially became the Houston Astros. In 1969, they became members of the NL West where they resided until MLB realigned in 1994.
Houston then moved to the NL Central where they remained for nearly two decades.
In November of 2011, the franchise agreed to move to the American League for the 2013 season. The move was part of an overall divisional realignment of MLB, with the National and American leagues each having 15 teams in three geographically balanced divisions.
During their time in the NL West, Houston and L.A. have cultivated into a contentious rivalry. In fact, the two clubs have a very extensive history against each other in the month of October.
In 1980, they finished tied atop the NL West, leading to a one-game tiebreaker in which Houston’s Joe Niekro tossed a complete-game victory to clinch the club’s first postseason berth. The Astros went on to lose the NLCS to the eventual World Champion Phillies.
The following year, the two clubs met again in a best-of-five NLDS that was set up to settle matters between the first- and second-half division champions in a season split up by a strike.
Los Angeles won that one in five games, coming back from an 0-2 deficit, en route to a World Series title. Seven years later, the Dodgers would win their most recent World Series by upsetting the heavily favored A’s in five games.
A win for Houston would be the organization’s first since being founded in 1962, 55 years ago. The Astros reached the World Series as a member of the NL in 2005 but were swept by the White Sox, who ended an 88-year drought of their own that season.
Now that we’ve given you a brief setup, let’s take a different peek at the series
Season series: Astros 3-0.
How they got here: Both teams dominated their respective divisions entering the postseason. Houston dismissed Boston in four during the ALDS and outlasted the Yankees in a hard-fought, seven-game ALCS. The Dodgers swept Arizona in the NLDS and took out the Cubs in four during the NLCS.
The skinny: In the Wild Card era, 23 teams prior to 2017 hit the century mark, but only three — the 1998 Yankees, 2009 Yankees, and 2016 Cubs — went on to win it all.
For what it’s worth: At the break in 2017, the Dodgers (61-29) and Astros (60-29) were far and away the best two teams in MLB, however, it’s still unusual for both clubs that hit that All-Star break with the best records to actually face each other in the Fall Classic. It’s happened just three times in the Wild Card era (1995 Braves-Indians, 1996 Yankees-Braves and 2013 Red Sox-Cardinals).
Postseason history: The Astros defeated the Dodgers in a one-game playoff for the NL West crown in 1980. A year later, L.A. overcame an 0-2 deficit in the NLDS to defeat Houston in five games.
Prediction: Both teams have been undefeated at home during this postseason. In fact, home teams are 23-8 overall this postseason (the highest winning percentage since 1987). That being said, I could very easily see either team taking a road game at their respective opponents park. Overall, I think it’s gonna come down to the bullpens. Look for Dave Roberts to become the second black manager to win a World Series. Dodgers in six.