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4 things to watch in the Dodgers-Astros World Series

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MLB: ALCS-New York Yankees at Houston Astros
Carlos Correa and Jose Altuve headline a prolific Houston Astros offense.
Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

LOS ANGELES — The Houston Astros and Los Angeles Dodgers will meet in the World Series, beginning on Tuesday night at Dodger Stadium (8 p.m. ET, Fox), in a matchup of two of the best teams in baseball throughout 2017. Here are a few things to watch heading into the 113th Fall Classic.

Astros offense

Houston led the major leagues with 5.53 runs per game in the regular season, and they slugged .478 as a team, the highest mark since the 2003 Boston Red Sox. The Astros’ 121 wRC+ — which is adjusted for park and league — is the fourth-highest in the last 115 years, trailing only New York Yankees teams from 1927, 1930, and 1931, with Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig anchoring the middle of that murderer’s row lineup.

This Astros lineup — one that scored a whopping 501 runs on the road in 2017 — is buoyed by MVP candidate Jose Altuve, the larger-than-life diminutive hit machine who batted .346/.410/.547, his third batting title and fourth straight season with 200 hits; and superstar shortstop Carlos Correa, the former No. 1 pick who hit .315/.391/.550 with 24 home runs.

But that offense nearly disappeared during the ALCS, hitting just .181/.271/.294 while averaging under three runs per game. The Astros kept their season alive by scoring 11 of their 20 runs in the series in those final two games at home, both wins.

Dodgers bullpen

Kenley Jansen has been one of the best relief pitchers in baseball for a few years, but in recent seasons the Dodgers’ main bugaboo come October has been finding a suitable bridge to get from their starting pitchers to Jansen. So far this postseason, that bridge has been rock solid thanks to a relatively unheralded cast.

Brandon Morrow is the main setup man, the former starter who throws in the high 90s with a wipeout slider. Signed to a minor league deal before the season, Morrow held opposing batters to just .194/.241/.213 this season. The Dodgers acquired a pair of left-handers at the non-waiver trade deadline in Tony Watson and Tony Cingrani, and those two combined for a 2.75 ERA with Los Angeles, while holding left-handed batters to just .200/.235/.308.

But it all came together in the bullpen when Kenta Maeda switched roles from starter to relief. Maeda made 57 starts the last two seasons for Los Angeles, but since moving to the bullpen has a 1.38 ERA with 17 strikeouts in 13 innings, including retiring all 15 batters faced this postseason.

“It was so foreign to him as far as the role,” manager Dave Roberts said. “For him to embrace it and to come out firing and throwing the way he has is probably the most surprising because he’d never done it outside of a couple times this season.”

MLB: NLCS-Los Angeles Dodgers at Chicago Cubs
Kenta Maeda has retired all 15 batters faced this postseason, with seven strikeouts.
Jim Young-USA TODAY Sports

Through eight playoff games, the Dodgers bullpen has been truly dominant, with a 0.94 ERA and 32 strikeouts against only two walks. They carry a postseason-record 23-inning scoreless streak into the World Series.

The century mark

The Dodgers won 104 games this season and the Astros won 101 games, making this the first postseason matchup between 100-win teams since the 1977 ALCS between the Yankees and Kansas City Royals.

It’s the first World Series with two 100-win teams since 1970, when the Baltimore Orioles faced off against the Cincinnati Reds.

The Astros got off to a 42-16 start and really never looked back in the American League West. They owned the best record in baseball for 65 days, until the Dodgers passed them on July 8. Los Angeles hit their stride in early June, and went on a sublime 52-9 stretch that propelled them to 90 wins with a week left to play in August. The Dodgers held the best record in baseball for the final 86 days of the season.

Home bodies

This has been a banner postseason for home field advantage, with the Astros and Dodgers leading the way. Home teams are 23-8 (.742) this October, the best mark in the Wild Card era.

The Astros are 6-0 in Houston, and their ALCS against the Yankees was just the fifth seven-game postseason series in which the home team won every game.

The Dodgers are 4-0 at home in these playoffs and finished the regular season 57-24 at Dodger Stadium, the best home mark in the majors. Los Angeles has 165 home wins in the last three seasons, 11 more than any other team. The Dodgers have home field advantage in this World Series.

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