There's one bit of advice for those planning on watching Game 7 on Wednesday night: Buckle your seatbelts.
The upstart Houston Astros will take on the surging Los Angeles Dodgers tonight in a winner-take-all situation for the 2017 World Series title. Simply put, this is how it was supposed to happen. The Dodgers and the Astros have been the two-best clubs throughout the regular season. Each dismantled the competition en route to division titles. Strong performances then led to pennant wins -- which effectively created a match-up of two juggernauts.
We've seen no shortage of utter brilliance. Each game has provided the collective fan bases with burgeoning cases of chest palpitations and the residual heartburn. In Game 1, the Dodgers utilized their incredibly deep bullpen en route to a 3-1 victory. Game 2 saw Houston come-from-behind with late-inning home run heroics from George Springer and Marwin Gonzalez. The third game of the series saw Houston tag Yu Darvish early en route to a two-run win.
Showing terrific amounts of resiliency, the Dodgers bounced back with a five-run ninth inning in Game 4. Joc Pederson's three-run home run ultimately notched the series at 2-2. Game 5 of this series will go down as one of the best baseball games ever played. The two teams combined for 25 runs, 28 hits, and seven home runs. Houston narrowly defeated Los Angeles by a score of 13-12 in what ended up being a 5-hour and 17-minute affair. It was the second-longest game in World Series history. With their backs against the proverbial wall, the Dodgers came back home and held the high-powered Astros' offense to one run. The 3-1 Game 6 victory now sets up an absolutely unbelievable conclusion to what's been an iconic series.
Game 7 will provide theater akin to a Broadway play. Houston's young hurler Lance McCullers will hope to silence the Dodgers' bats. He's been lethal in the postseason -- often neutralizing hitters with a tantalizing knucklecurve. As for Los Angeles, Darvish will get the ball. This situation is exactly why the Dodgers went out and got him at the trade deadline. Possessing terrific stuff and a postseason pedigree, Darvish will be given every opportunity to pitch deep into the game.
In his first start versus Houston, he didn't get out of the second inning. Darvish's wipeout slider flattened considerably -- which enabled Houston hitters to pick up on it quite well. One has to think Darvish will be highly motivated to have a bounce-back performance. Tonight's game will be played in a pitcher's park -- rather than the little league field in which Houston plays on. Secondly, Yuli Gurriel's decision to offer a racist taunt at Darvish in the dugout after a Game 3 home run could cause the karma bug to come back and bite them.
Sans Justin Verlander and Rich Hill, every single pitcher will be available tonight. Though based on the craziness of the series, would it surprise anyone if we did see Hill or Verlander again? It's very feasible to assume that Charlie Morton and Dallas Keuchel will have some involvement. The same can be said for Alex Wood -- as both Wood and Morton were spectacular in their starts. And then...there's Clayton Kershaw.
We could totally see a scenario in which Kershaw goes all Madison Bumgarner on the Astros. A Darvish-Kershaw-Kenley Jansen set-up may be manager Dave Roberts' dream situation. However, we've also seen Roberts extensively mix-and-match his bullpen. Should the Dodgers be faced with the heart of the Houston line-up in a threatening part of the game, Jansen could easily be inserted as early as the sixth or seventh inning. In this hypothetical, Kershaw may be asked to pitch the remainder of the game. His legacy could be impacted even further with a stellar performance.
Major League Baseball must be loving this unfolding of the series. Each team possesses dynamic and likable young stars. The play on the field has been spectacular -- as has the collective drama. Based upon the preceding six games, tonight's final chapter shapes up to be a historic one.
Image Source: Richard Mackson/USA TODAY Sports, Matthew Emmons/USA TODAY Sports