For the second year in a row, the finale of the Major League Baseball season gave fans the best possible gift: a seven-game World Series. But unlike last year’s come-from-behind Chicago Cubs victory over the Cleveland Indians — who, at one point, were up 3–1 — the 2017 World Series saw the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Houston Astros battle a fair and tough fight, as expected from two teams that have both won over 100 games in the regular season.
The Dodgers showcased and honoured their impressive franchise history even before game one. October 24 marked the 45th anniversary of Jackie Robinson’s death, and the 2017 MLB season marked the 70th anniversary of his breaking the colour barrier. Robinson’s widow and children threw the ceremonial first pitch at Dodgers stadium, precursing a series rife with excitement and controversy.
Clayton Kershaw was the starting pitcher for the Dodgers, and his performance was as hot as the Los Angeles weather; he struck out 11 while the nearly 40°C temperature was the hottest ever recorded for a World Series. All runs came on home runs: the Astros’ Bregman hit a solo homer, and the Dodgers’ Chris Taylor and Justin Turner combined sent two balls out of the park, cementing the 3–1 score that would hand the Dodgers the first win in this World Series.
The newly acquired Justin Verlander took the mound for the Astros in game two, with Rich Hill for the Dodgers. Neither team held onto a lead for longer than two innings, resulting in a game that would run 11 innings and end with a 7–6 Astros victory. The competition felt more like a home run derby than a well-pitched affair as the teams collectively hit eight home runs. Also of note: the Dodgers’ Kenley Jansen, arguably the most reliable closer in baseball, recorded only his second blown save of the season thanks to Marwin Gonzalez’s home run in the ninth.
Returning to Houston with the series split, the Astros won game three with a 5–3 score, though the match will be remembered for actions off the field rather than on. The Astros’ first baseman, Yuli Gurriel, made a racially insensitive gesture in the dugout after hitting a home run off of Yu Darvish, who is Japanese.
After a regular season that saw players using homophobic slurs and fans yelling racially derogatory phrases at players, the unfortunate trend crept into the most pivotal series in baseball. Moreover, Gurriel’s punishment — suspension for the first five games of the 2018 season — only solidified the inadequacy showcased by the MLB when faced with this kind of conflict. The decision, arguably extremely inconsequential, surely left some baseball fans disappointed.
The Dodgers won game four thanks to a dominant performance by Alex Wood. The Astros’ George Springer and Alex Bregman and the Dodgers’ Joc Pederson each hit their second home run of the series, resulting in a 6–2 finish for the Astros. Commenting on the number of home runs hit in the postseason, Dodgers pitching coach Rick Honeycutt alleged that his pitchers had found the balls “slicker” and thus more difficult to control. This only fueled circulating rumours that the playoff baseballs were different than ones used in the regular season, a notion swiftly shut down by MLB’s Vice-President of Baseball Operations, Peter Woodfork.
Yet again, the series was even. Game five marked the last game of the series to be played at Minute Maid Park, and the Astros made sure it was one to remember. Entering the ninth with a three-run deficit, LA tied it, only to lose the game in an extra-inning’s walk-off victory due to Bregman’s single. Back at Dodger Stadium for game six, George Springer’s fourth home run of the series couldn’t quite win it all for the Astros. LA held on to a 3–1 victory, pushing game seven.
Last year’s game seven was a nerve-wracking, anxiety-inducing, and curse-breaking show but this year’s, not so much. It took Houston only two innings to achieve a 5–0 lead, and the Dodgers failed to come back, finishing the game with only one run scored, granting Houston their first World Series victory in franchise history with a score of 5–1. Springer hit his fifth home run of the series in the game, tying with Chase Utley and Reggie Jackson for most home runs hit in a single World Series. He was unsurprisingly named World Series MVP after the game ended.
A series marked by racial controversy, technical conspiracies, and records being broken and tied, the 2017 World Series was a joy to watch, for better or worse. Both the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Houston Astros flexed their pitching and hitting skills, the latter only slightly edging out the former. Both teams will remain relatively the same next year, making a rematch in 2018 a likely possibility — and if it’s anything as exciting as this year’s, baseball fans will find themselves spoiled again.