Dan's Dugout: Balanced Dodgers Seek First Crown Since '88 • Latino Sports

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Dan’s Dugout: Balanced Dodgers Seek First Crown Since ’88

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Like Kate Upton, the Los Angeles Dodgers are stacked.

Kate Upton is rooting for fiancee Justin Verlander

Kate Upton is rooting for fiancee Justin Verlander

The Sports Illustrated cover girl, whose secret identity is playing girlfriend to Astros ace Justin Verlander, certainly can’t be overlooked.

Nor can the heavy-hitting Houston ballclub be overlooked.

It’s just that the Dodgers are a better all-around team, with more depth in the starting rotation, a deeper bullpen, and a versatile array of young stars who provide speed, defense, and power.

That’s why the Dodgers led the major leagues with 104 victories despite a 1-15 slump in late summer.

Los Angeles, long recovered, is just lethal.

Clayton Kershaw, the only pitcher more potent than Verlander, is about to win his fourth Cy Young Award.

Cody Bellinger will be National League Rookie of the Year, probably by unanimous vote.

Cody Bellinger is a rookie who plays like a veteran

Cody Bellinger is a rookie who plays like a veteran

Cory Seager, the slugging shortstop who won the rookie trophy last year, is back from his back problems to add yet another potent bat.

And Justin Turner, a mere mortal with the Mets, was the best hitter in the playoffs. On any team.

“We’re in good shape,” said Dave Roberts, the former Red Sox World Series hero who has settled in as a popular players manager in Los Angeles.

His team started both the Division Series and Championship Series at home, then proceeded to beat the Arizona Diamondbacks and Chicago Cubs, respectively, on the road.

Only the Cubs, the World Champions of 2016, defeated the Dodgers since the end of the regular season. And they won just one of five in the NLCS.

Even the vaunted duo of Verlander and Dallas Keuchel, who made mincement of the powerful Yankees in the American League Championship Series, will find the Dodgers no walk in the park.

For all their hitting prowess, the Astros can be kept at bay – especially away from the friendly confines of Minute Maid Park.

Diminutive Jose Altuve swings a big bat for the Astros

Diminutive Jose Altuve swings a big bat for the Astros

Sure, they have great players in Jose Altuve, the probable American League MVP, and Carlos Correa, who should clear his trophy shelf for the slew of MVP trophies likely to come his way.

But Houston’s bullpen is bruised, battered, and overwhelmed by postseason pressure. Even when closer Ken Giles wasn’t getting hit hard, he was so shaky on the mound that it seemed like the earth was moving under his feet. That actually happen in Los Angeles, in more ways than one.

Astros manager A.J. Hinch played his cards right in the decisive seventh game of the ALCS when he followed journeyman starter Charlie Morton with curveball specialist Lance McCullers, Jr. Between them, they blanked the Yankees and the likely AL Rookie of the Year, Aaron Judge.

For Houston to win, starters may take on relief roles again.

By contrast, Dodgers closer Kenley Jansen is one of the best in the game. If hitters even see the ball he

Control artist Kenley Jansen is a force in the bullpen

Control artist Kenley Jansen is a force in the bullpen

throws, they can’t hit it.

If the roof is closed in Minute Maid Park, decibel levels and train whistles could give the Astros home-field advantage but Chavez Ravine will be rocking too. And the temperature on Opening Night Tuesday could hit 100 degrees – not good for an opponent used to playing indoors.

The Dodgers, once regulars on the October stage, haven’t been to a World Series in 29 years. They don’t want to screw it up.

And the Astros, a 1962 expansion team once called the Houston Colt .45s, have never won a World Series game. They were swept by the Chicago White Sox in 2005, the only team they reached the Fall Classic.

Even Verlander is winless in the World Series. He appeared twice before as a member of the Detroit Tigers, in 2006 against the St. Louis Cardinals and in 2012 against the San Francisco Giants.

Want a prediction?

It says here the Dodgers win in six. Maybe even less.

About Dan Schlossberg

Former AP sportswriter Dan Schlossberg of Fair Lawn, NJ has produced 35 baseball books, including autobiographies of Ron Blomberg, Al Clark, and Milo Hamilton. Also a broadcaster, he is the host and executive producer of Braves Banter and Travel Itch Radio and a contributor to Sirius XM.

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