Commentary, Sports

Los Angeles Dodgers go up 1-0 over the Houston Astros in game one of the 2017 World Series

Anticipation for the 2017 World Series has swelled since the Los Angeles Dodgers clinched the National League pennant over the Chicago Cubs on Oct. 19. Having sealed their first trip to the fall classic in 29 years, “This Team” and LA County were more than ready to stage the quest for a world championship.

While the boys in blue have been the center of attention virtually all season, the Houston Astros have silently established themselves as one of the game’s most dynamic teams. Their road to the World Series included the franchise’s first 100-win season since 1998, and most recently a thrilling American League Championship series win against the New York Yankees.

After an iconic pitchers’ duel with a few clutch home runs sprinkled in to make the difference in L.A.’s game one victory, here are some takeaways from the World Series opener.

Headline after headline circulated through the media prior to the start of game one featuring the Dodgers’ perennial ace starting pitcher Clayton Kershaw and fellow left-handed pitcher Dallas Keuchel of the visiting Astros. What intrigued me the most was how Kershaw came out in his first appearance at the World Series after the woeful postseason numbers weighed down his hall of fame accolades during the regular season. With just nine pitches, he and the majority of the 54,253 fans in attendance would exhale after a 1-2-3 top of the first.

LA fans spent on average more than $3,000 per ticket for game one, only to be met by a scalding hot seat in a 103-degree Dodger Stadium.

Center fielder Chris Taylor hit a leadoff home run on the first pitch from Keuchel to open up the series. Much of the pregame conversation also included how the hot, thin air would affect the flight of fly-balls in leaving the yard, but Taylor’s blast needed no aid, as the 447-foot shot would have been a long-ball in any ballpark on Earth.

Kershaw fed off the energy from the early lead and retired the first seven Astros. He would strike out eight of the first 14 batters he faced — silencing the critics who doubted the guts he could show on the big stage.

In the other dugout, Keuchel bounced back like a seasoned veteran as he threw for 5 and ⅔ scoreless innings after the Taylor bomb.

Imagine how hard that had to have been; his first game in a World Series environment, a sold-out crowd in one of the most hostile environments in professional baseball, with the constant threat of hitters that make up the MLB’s regular season most winningest team.

As the game of baseball does, Keuchel’s gritty pitching was rewarded in the form of an Astro’s solo home run from third baseman Alex Bregman that tied the game 1-1 in the top of the fourth inning. Bregman saw his starting pitcher up on the mound working around base hits and grinding out at-bats against the Dodgers’ lineup, and was able to channel that into a heightened focus that resulted in a home run against arguably the best pitcher on the planet in Kershaw.

Fans saw two starting pitchers dueling, each absolutely bringing their best stuff. But they also saw three distinct lapses in focus from the two. Both solo home runs came on mistakes on the inner half of the plate, where a fastball should have no business being.

The final score of the game was a blast from none other than the Dodgers’ postseason hero, third baseman Justin Turner. Keuchel was ahead in the count 1-2 and threw his signature cutting fastball that ran in on Turner’s hands as is often the goal of a left handed pitcher against a right handed batter. The LA slugger was prepared for the offering, however, his hands getting far enough inside to lift the pitch just over the left field wall.

The two-run blast in the bottom of the sixth inning gave the Dodgers a 3-1 lead, and was all the bullpen would need to nail down a game one win.

World Series are defined by players and plays like that. While Turner already has four home runs and 14 RBIs in the playoffs, I can guarantee it won’t be his final contribution.

Starter Justin Verlander (4-0, 1.46 ERA, 24.2 IP in the postseason) takes the mound for Houston in game two, looking to even the series before it heads to Texas.

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