On November 1, 2017, the Houston Astros of the American League defeated the Los Angeles Dodgers of the National League 5–1 in Game 7 of the World Series, capping off a captivating championship matchup that featured some of the most exciting playoff baseball that fans of the game have seen in years. Here, we’d like to look back on a few of the factors that made this hard-fought battle so uniquely exciting.
—2017 marked the first time in the free agent era (i.e. from 1976 onward) that two 100+ win teams faced off in the World Series. The last such meeting took place in 1970 between the Baltimore Orioles and the Cincinnati Reds.
—Coincidentally, Los Angeles and Houston are arguably the two Major League teams that rely most heavily on advanced analytics to run their teams. The Dodgers, for example, distributed cards to each of their outfielders that not only told them where to stand for each different batter in the Astros’ lineup, but also factored in for the different pitchers that the Dodgers were using as well.
—Los Angeles had only lost one playoff game coming into the World Series, a 3–2 defeat at the hands of Jake Arrieta and the Chicago Cubs in Game 4 of the NLCS (the Dodgers won Game 5 to take the series four games to one). They won the rest of their playoff games by two runs or more.
The Astros, on the other hand, had faced a bit of a tougher road: three of their seven playoff wins prior to the World Series were decided by only one run, and they had to climb back from a 3–2 deficit in the ALCS to defeat the New York Yankees in seven games.
—That being said, both teams had at least one thing in common: neither had lost a home game in the playoffs thus far. But when it came to the World Series, the Astros would take wins on the road from the Dodgers — Games 2 and 7 — and Los Angeles would win game 4 on Houston’s home turf.
—On October 24, the recorded temperature for the first pitch of Game 1 was 103 degrees Fahrenheit. The hottest World Series game on record before that? October 27, Game 1 of the 2001 World Series, New York Yankees at the Arizona Diamondbacks: 94 degrees.
—Before Game 2 of this season, the Dodgers were 98–0 when in the lead at the top of the 9th inning. A big part of that equation was their closer, Kenley Jensen: he had converted 41 of 42 save opportunities, sported a 1.32 ERA and a 15.57 strikeout/walk ratio, and held opposing batters to a .177 average. However, Jansen blew the lead in Game 2 by giving up a solo Marwin Gonzalez home run in the ninth inning, allowing the Astros to knot the score at 3–3.
—But, Game 2 was remarkable for reasons beyond that as well. The Dodgers and Astros combined to hit eight home runs over the course of the game, a World Series record. What’s more, five of those home runs came in extra innings: Jose Altuve and Carlos Correa of the Astros hit back-to-back shots in the top of the tenth, to which Yasiel Puig responded with one of his own in the bottom of the inning. George Springer responded for Houston with a two-run bomb in the top of the 11th, and although Charlie Culberson tried to bring the Dodgers back with a solo blast in the bottom of the 11th, it ultimately wasn’t enough as Los Angeles fell, 7–6.
—Game 5, a ten-inning, 25-run affair, saw the Dodgers slip from the lead on three separate occasions, defy expectations by coming back from a three-run deficit in the top of the ninth inning to tie the game, and ultimately to blow it in the bottom of the 10th. The losing pitcher? Kenley Jansen.
—Down 3–2 in the series, Los Angeles looked to be down for the count: the Astros had won every single game that Justin Verlander (their Game 6 pitcher) had started since they added him to the roster on August 31. Verlander took a 1–0 lead into the sixth inning, having only allowed one hit to that point. However, he gave up two runs on the inning and the Astros went on to lose, 3–1.
—Game 7 was undoubtedly the most boring matchup of the series. After scoring two runs in the first inning and three in the second, the Astros more or less cruised to a 5–1 victory to seal the first World Series title since the club’s foundation in 1962.
The only other game that had been decided by more than two runs was Game 4, a 6–2 Dodger victory. Even so, that one was tied 1–1 before Los Angeles scored five runs in the top of the ninth inning.
—The Astros and Dodgers combined to hit 25 home runs in the 2017 World Series, shattering the old record of 21. George Springer, the World Series MVP, accounted for five of those home runs by himself, also a World Series record.
—Brandon Morrow of the Dodgers quietly became just the second pitcher to appear in all seven games of a World Series. But he wasn’t the only member of the Los Angeles bullpen to see heavy usage: head coach Dave Roberts made a record 32 pitching changes over the seven-game series.
—Cody Bellinger, the likely NL Rookie of the Year, struck out a record 17 times — almost 2.5 per game — in the World Series, blowing past the old World Series record of 13 and the playoff series record of 16 set by Aaron Judge in the ALCS.
—Both teams smelled something fishy about the World Series, sort of. Pitchers for the Dodgers and the Astros alike (most notably Los Angeles’ Clayton Kershaw and Yu Darvish and Houston’s Verlander), as well as their pitching coaches, claimed that the baseballs used in the 2017 World Series were slicker than those employed during the regular season. This allegedly gave them the most amount of trouble with their sliders: conspiracy theorists point to the fact that Kershaw, Darvish, and Verlander all used that pitch with much less success than usual in the series.