The Los Angeles Dodgers and Houston Astros kick off the World Series on Tuesday at Dodger Stadium, where temperatures are exceeding to the triple-digit mark. The unseasonably warm weather is simply another matter for starters Clayton Kershaw and Dallas Keuchel to navigate.
It’s a first time pitching in the World Series for both southpaws, but the moment is particularly gratifying for Kershaw, given his previous postseason demons. In the National League Championship Series, he posted a 2.45 ERA and 0.82 WHIP in 11 innings (two starts) against the Chicago Cubs, with nine strikeouts to two walks.
During the regular season, Kershaw pitched to an NL-best 2.31 ERA with a 3.07 FIP and 0.95 WHIP in 175 innings. He tallied a league-high 18 wins and accumulated 180 strikeouts to just 30 walks.
Kershaw, with eight career starts against the Astros under his belt, will face an unfamiliar opponent in Jose Altuve this series.
Altuve has torn the cover off the ball during the postseason. In 48 plate appearances, he’s tallied 16 hits, five home runs and eight walks, while only striking out seven times.
“He hits everything pretty well,” Kershaw said of Altuve. “I think that he’s super aggressive. But at the same time he hits a lot of different pitches. It’s not a guy that just hits fastballs well or just hits breaking ball well. He does everything pretty evenly throughout the board.
“Just a matter of execution with him. You’re just trying to mix up spots, pitches, locations, don’t give him any predictable counts, predictable pitches. He’s a tough out. I think he’s one of the toughest outs in the game. You just can’t give in to him.”
Keuchel has allowed just six earned runs in 17.1 frames during the playoffs (3.12 ERA). He struggled in his last outing against the New York Yankees in Game 5 of the American League Championship Series, where he yielded four runs and eight baserunners in 4.2 innings.
Ahead of Tuesday’s start, the southpaw elaborated on what makes the Dodgers’ lineup so difficult to face for opposing pitchers. “They’re extremely deep,” Keuchel explained.
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“I’m not going to take anybody for granted. I respect everybody in this game, anyway. But when you get to this stage one or two pitches might cost you or win you the game. So for me to take off a few pitches is not — it’s not going to be acceptable on my part. Each and every pitch, top to bottom, one through nine, I’m going to focus in on.”
Keuchel faces a Dodgers lineup that sees the return of Corey Seager after he missed the NLCS due to a lower back sprain. Seager is not in his usual No. 2 spot, however, instead batting sixth for the first time this year.
While the Astros similarly boast a potent lineup, it’s one that’s been slowed on the road during the postseason. The team is 1-4 away from Minute Maid Park, are averaging just 2.6 runs per game and batting .213/.300/.308.
CF: Chris Taylor
3B: Justin Turner
1B: Cody Bellinger
RF: Yasiel Puig
LF: Kiké Hernandez
SS: Corey Seager
2B: Logan Forsythe
C: Austin Barnes
P: Clayton Kershaw
CF: George Springer
3B: Alex Bregman
2B: Jose Altuve
SS: Carlos Correa
1B: Yulieski Gurriel
C: Brian McCann
LF: Marwin Gonzalez
RF: Josh Reddick
P: Dallas Keuchel