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MLB-World series-Verlander seeking to even the series vs Dodgers

A pair of 100-win teams will meet for the World Series title as the Dodgers and Astros hook up for an anticipated thrilling matchup. Los Angeles is coming off its first pennant since 1988, while Houston captured its first-ever American League pennant as the Astros are in their first World Series since 2005.

The Dodgers (104-58) began the season at 10-12 before winning 23 of their next 31 games. Los Angeles took complete control of the National League West division with an incredible 56-11 run from June through late August. Six different Dodgers clubbed at least 20 home runs, led by rookie outfielder Cody Bellinger’s 39 dingers. The pitching staff dominated all season long as Clayton Kershaw paced the Dodgers with 18 victories and a 2.31 ERA, both tops in the NL, while closer Kenley Jansen finished tied for first in the NL with 41 saves.

The Astros (101-61) missed the postseason in 2016, but were poised to take that next step in 2017 and didn’t blow the opportunity. Houston started 29-12 at the quarter-pole mark, while finishing the first half at 60-29, capped off by a 19-1 blowout of Toronto. The Astros lost 22 of their next 40 games, while having to deal with the catastrophic effects of Hurricane Harvey hitting the Houston area. That storm resurrecting Houston’s season, as A.J. Hinch’s team finished 22-8 down the stretch, one game shy of the best record in the AL behind Cleveland.

Los Angeles put together a terrific postseason by winning seven of eight games to rebound from last season’s NLCS loss to Chicago. The Dodgers swept the Diamondbacks in three games of the NLDS, while scoring 20 runs in those victories. Los Angeles had another shot at Chicago in the NLCS and didn’t mess around by winning, 4-1, while limiting the defending champion Cubs to one run in three of those wins. Kershaw beat the Cubs twice, as the three-time Cy Young winner allowed three earned runs in 11 innings of work.

Houston took care of its home-field advantage in the playoffs by winning all six games at Minute Maid Park. The Astros eliminated the Red Sox in four games of the ALDS, but had their hands full with the upstart Yankees in the ALCS. After capturing the first two games from New York at home, the Astros’ offense fell flat in the Bronx by scoring only five runs in three consecutive losses. Houston rebounded at home with back-to-back wins, including a tremendous pitching effort from Charlie Morton in the Game 7 clinching 4-0 shutout of New York.

The team owning home-field advantage has won six of the last eight World Series, as Game 1 takes place at Chavez Ravine on Tuesday. Home squads are 6-2 in the previous eight series openers, as the Indians grabbed Game 1 last October against the Cubs, but ended up losing in seven games. The OVER has cashed in four of the past five World Series openers, as the four-year OVER streak ended in Cleveland’s 6-0 shutout of Chicago in 2016.

Kershaw (18-4, 2.31 ERA) has his first crack at a World Series start in Game 1, as the Dodgers posted a magnificent 26-4 record in his 30 appearances this season. It doesn’t matter where Kershaw pitches, he has dominated everywhere, as his home ERA was actually a touch higher than the road (2.82 to 1.99). Since going 0-2 in the 2014 playoffs against the Cardinals, the Dodgers own a 7-2 record in Kershaw’s last nine playoff starts.

Rich Hill (12-8, 3.32 ERA) has turned into the second starter in this rotation behind Kershaw as the veteran southpaw has finally found a home in Los Angeles. Hill tossed nine no-hit innings against Pittsburgh in late August, while the Dodgers have won each of the left-hander’s last five starts. Yu Darvish (4-3, 3.44 ERA with L.A.) has stepped up recently as the former Rangers’ ace has allowed one earned run or fewer in five consecutive starts, while tossing a pair of gems in road victories over Arizona and Chicago in the first two rounds.

Dallas Keuchel (14-5, 2.90 ERA) took home the 2015 AL Cy Young winner, but he couldn’t help the Astros get past the Royals in the ALDS that season. Keuchel overcame a neck injury in early June following a fast start to the season as the Astros have split his last 14 starts. Keuchel dominated in his first two starts of the playoffs at home, but couldn’t deliver in his last appearance in Game 5 at New York by giving up four earned runs in 4.2 innings of a 5-0 defeat. The southpaw has been listed as an underdog of +130 or higher since the start of 2016, losing at Boston in May 2016, while allowing eight earned runs.

Justin Verlander (15-8, 3.36 ERA) proved to be the biggest prize that was moved during the season as the Astros acquired the former MVP and Cy Young winner from the Tigers in late August. Since Verlander joined the Astros, Houston owns a perfect 8-0 record in his eight starts, while striking out 21 in two victories over New York in the ALCS. Verlander last took the mound in the World Series with Detroit back in 2012, getting lit up for five earned runs in four innings of an 8-3 loss at San Francisco.

The Dodgers and Astros used to face each other every season when Houston was a member of the National League, but these teams haven’t hooked up since 2015. In that series in August at Minute Maid Park, Houston pulled off a three-game sweep of Los Angeles, which included a victory over Kershaw in the series finale. Houston hasn’t played at Dodger Stadium since 2012 when Los Angeles grabbed two of three meetings.

In interleague play this season, the Astros posted a 15-5 record, while the Dodgers put together a dominating 16-4 mark. Houston mainly faced the NL East, while Los Angeles took on the AL Central, but each team crossed into the other Western division for their rivalry series with the Astros facing the D-backs for four games and the Dodgers meeting up with the Angels

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