Hollywood innings: HOU-LA World Series begins

October 24th, 2017

LOS ANGELES -- October does not bow in reverence toward what the regular season wrought. October is a season unto itself, and we've seen, time and time again, six months of magic upended by one rough series of postseason play.

World Series gear: Astros | Dodgers

That's why it's so refreshing to see a Fall Classic that keeps it 100. With and opposing each other, the Astros and Dodgers open the World Series presented by YouTube TV tonight at Dodger Stadium having already achieved the rare feat of living up to their own individual acclaim and esteem.

Call it the Century Series, because these two teams, unlike so many others before them, have stayed true to their elite status.

"That's a great thing," Astros closer said. "You want to have the best teams face each other in the World Series. It doesn't get better than that."

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The Dodgers won 104 games in the regular season, the Astros 101. When Game 1 dawns -- mere minutes from Century City, and with high temperatures in the area expected to hit 100 -- it will be the first time two 100-win teams face each other in the Series since the Reds and Orioles in 1970, and the first time in any postseason series since the Yankees-Royals American League Championship Series in 1977. Only seven times have two 100-game winners met on this Series stage. Now come these two clubs. They have already accomplished so much this year, but they know a triple-digit win total, in and of itself, is far from enough.

"We're four wins away from accomplishing our goal," Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said.

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These teams play with purpose -- the Dodgers trying to end their 29-year championship drought dating back to 1988, and the Astros trying to win it all for the first time in their 55-year franchise history after getting swept by the White Sox in their lone appearance, in 2005. They play with passion, against the backdrop of what Hurricane Harvey did to Houston and what Hurricane Maria did to Puerto Rico, the home island of Astros stars and and the Dodgers' Game 5 hero in the NLCS, .

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They play with personal ties, such as the close relationship of Roberts and Astros skipper A.J. Hinch. And they play with the pride of representing two organizations that won big not only in the win column but at the two trade cutoffs this summer -- the Dodgers reeling in mere minutes before the non-waiver Trade Deadline at the end of July, and the Astros bringing to Houston mere seconds before the waiver deadline at the end of August.

"You saw two teams that played extremely well throughout the regular season and two front offices that stepped up to bring in the right players to make that final push," Astros third baseman said. "I think it just shows that both clubs are committed to winning."

Still, it's the homegrown-stud starters taking the hill in Game 1. Houston came all the way to Hollywood just to run into a Texan, with Dallas-native Kershaw lined up on regular rest against a fully rested Keuchel. Unmet October expectations for the Dodgers have been a bugaboo in Kershaw's probable Cooperstown-worthy career, and he's eager to change that narrative.

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"I grew up a Dodger and got drafted by the Dodgers," Kershaw said. "I didn't know a ton of Dodger history at the time, but coming up it kind of gets ingrained in you, which is a good thing; it's not a lot of organizations that have the type of history that the Dodgers do. It's been a special thing, and I hope after this week is over, they can talk about 2017 a little more and 1988 a lot less."

The Dodgers, who are 7-1 in this magic month, outscoring their opponents, 48-19, will have had four days of rest by the time Game 1 begins, and they've got star young shortstop back in action after a back injury held him out of the NLCS. ("I've checked all the boxes," Seager said.) Los Angeles has the home-field advantage by virtue of the superior regular-season record (the first club to gain that advantage under the new format). The Dodgers also had a built-in rotation advantage in the first two rounds of the postseason because of the hamstring injury that held up the Nationals' Max Scherzer and the five-game NL Division Series battle that compromised the Cubs.

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But this time, L.A.'s opponent is aligned exactly as hoped -- Keuchel in Game 1, ALCS MVP Verlander in Game 2. This gives the Astros added confidence coming off an epic seven-game battle against the Yankees in the ALCS presented by Camping World.

"Personally, I thought we were the best team [in the AL] from start to finish, and I thought the Dodgers were the best team in the National League start to finish," Keuchel said. "So this is going to be a great matchup. And it's not overblown, because we've both won 100 games."

Last year the Cubs defeated the Indians to break their 108-year drought without a World Series title, leaving Cleveland -- which has not won a title since 1948 -- as the team with the longest such drought. A win for Houston would be the organization's first since being founded in 1962. A Dodgers victory in the World Series would be their first since 1988, 29 years ago, despite winning their fifth straight NL West crown this season. So either way, a long stretch without a championship will end at the conclusion of this year's Fall Classic.

One drought will end in Dodgers-Astros WS

At the break in 2017, the Dodgers (61-29) and Astros (60-29) were far and away the best two teams in MLB, and at separate points in the season there was talk of each team challenging the 2001 Mariners' record for most wins in a season (116). That didn't happen due to some second-half stumbles that came long after they had both all but locked up their respective divisions, and they've advanced as advertised in October. Both are undefeated at home this postseason, so perhaps the built-in advantage for Los Angeles will prove to be a big deal; it certainly was to Houston in the ALCS, which became the fifth seven-game series in which the home team won every game. That has happened three times in the World Series: the Twins over the Cardinals in 1987, the Twins over the Braves in 1991 and the D-backs over the Yankees in 2001.

"They're a good team," Astros outfielder Beltran said of the Dodgers. "There's a lot of similarities when I look at the Dodgers and look at our team. They've got talent, and they seem like they really enjoy themselves, they seem like they have good chemistry in the clubhouse, which is great."

When strength meets strength -- and 100 meets 100 -- that's special stuff.