Back during the summer of this baseball season, the Dodgers and Astros were outclassing the National and American Leagues by wide margins and talk was of a certain World Series matchup between the two. Now it's looking rather likely.
The NL West champion L.A. Dodgers at one point were threatening to break the record for most wins in a season when they stood at 91-36. Los Angeles went on an improbable losing binge of 1-16, which took away its invincibility.
AL West champion Houston had a rough patch in August, thanks to injuries to a couple of every day starters in the field and pitchers showing signs of fatigue. That coupled with Cleveland getting hotter than the surface of the sun caused the Astros to fall to second seed in the AL.
That is all over now, and it is not a coincidence the first two teams to advance to the LCS are Houston and Los Angeles -- it begs the same question we were asking this summer: Are these two destined to meet the in the Fall Classic?
Houston's Path To Los Angeles
Houston had the No. 1 offense in baseball at 5.5 runs per game, which should help it against either Cleveland or the NY Yankees in the ALCS. The Astros figure to be a rather small underdog against the Indians if they advance, only because the Tribe would have home-field edge. If Houston were to face meet the Yankees, they would be substantial favorites and have home field.
The Astros' addition of Justin Verlander was the No. 1 trade made by all postseason contenders. Verlander was already pitching much better in the second half with Detroit, and being moved to Houston raised his competitive juices; in six starts and seven appearances with his new team, he has 1.49 ERA.
This is a team back on top of its game with a complete lineup and two top starting pitchers it can set up fort the ALCS by ending the Boston series early.
Dodgers Might Have One Rough Hurdle
After losing six straight to Arizona, there were some who thought the Diamondbacks could make life hard for Los Angeles in the NLDS. That proved unfounded as the Dodgers offense has returned -- when that does, it makes the starting pitching and bullpen that much more effective and they swept the Snakes.
Los Angeles returns home and awaits the Washington/Cubs winner in the NLCS. Of course, L.A. is not going to say which team it prefers; however, if you are a Dodgers backer and making MLB picks you would want to face the Nationals. Washington was having trouble scoring against the Cubs, and Dusty Baker's decision-making again in the postseason is backfiring. Could the Nats beat the Dodgers? Sure, anything is possible, just not likely.
The defending World Series champion Cubs are another matter. Only Cleveland had a better second-half record and down the stretch and in the first few games of their series vs. Washington, last year's swagger was back.
Manager Dave Roberts' club believes it is the best in baseball, and a strong case can be made the Dodgers have the finest top to bottom bullpen at this point. Having home-field advantage and stellar 59-24 regular-season record at Dodger Stadium will be important, as will having 34-15 record vs. left-handed starters, since the Dodgers would face two such hurlers against the Cubs.
Is the Astros and Dodgers colliding inevitable? It seems that way, with the Cubs appearing to be the only stumbling block.Bet On MLB Futures At SBR's Top-Rated Sportsbooks