The Houston Astros have never won the World Series, and the Los Angeles Dodgers haven’t won it since 1988. So regardless of what happens in this year’s Fall Classic, it’s going to be historic.
Tuesday’s Game 1 figures to be closely contested, especially with Clayton Kershaw and Dallas Keuchel taking the hill for L.A. and Houston, respectively.
What should a hitter’s mindset be against elite pitchers such as these? Look for the first good pitch to hit, or try to work the count to get the pitch count up?
“The smartest thing to do is to attack the fastball and force them to have to get their secondary pitches over for a strike,” MLB analyst and nine-time All-Star Gary Sheffield said on CBS Sports Radio’s Tiki and Tierney. “When you step into the box, you’re ready to hit right away – not taking fast balls down the middle just to see the speed of the pitch. You have to get the gauge of the speed on the on-deck circle, but when you step in there, if he’s just trying to (get a strike over), you’re not giving him that strike. You’re making him earn three of them as opposed to earning two.
“When you get him off his fast ball, they’ll miss a lot with breaking balls and you work the count that way,” Sheffield continued. “You can get the count in your favor. They know you’re in swing mode. Obviously it’s easier than done because you got to hit the fast ball, (but) that’s what you tell your guys: Go up there ready to swing and put him on the defensive where you take him out of his game. His fast ball sets up everything. If you take that pitch away, then he becomes an average pitcher.”
Both teams have potent lineups with players who hit for average and power. Yasiel Puig, for example, is hitting .414 with one homer, six RBIs, two doubles and a .514 OBP this postseason.
Sheffield credits Dodgers managers Dave Roberts for handling Puig as Sheffield advised all along: Let him be himself.
“I think Dave Roberts deserves a lot of the credit,” Sheffield said. “Everybody has a different type of personality. Some guys are serious, some guys like to joke around, some guys like to play with a lot of flash. If you take that way from them, you take their game away from them. Thank God that Dave Roberts gave him an opportunity to be himself. But you (also) have to buy into what the team concept is. I think Yasiel Puig bought into that. Now you’re seeing the real player.”
Puig, 26, hit .263 with 28 home runs and 74 RBIs. this year. With him, talent has never been an issue.
“If you look at him, he’s a Bo Jackson baseball player,” Sheffield said. “With the build of this guy and defensively, strong-armed – he has the tools to be great. But if you take (away) his passion, the way he plays, then you’re not going to get the same performance. I think the Dodgers just bought into letting Yasiel be Yasiel.”
The Astros, meanwhile, have a complete hitter of their own: Jose Altuve, who hit .346 with 24 homers this season and is hitting .400 with five homers and a .500 OBP in the postseason.
“Yeah, he is amazing. He’s a unique player,” Sheffield said. “You don’t see that kind of at-bat to at-bat every day with today’s player. Today, strikeouts are acceptable. It’s the home runs that they’re after. And this kid, he’s the one guy that stands out to say he’s basically a throwback player, he plays the game the right way, and he does the little things that’s necessary to win. He’s just not up there for show, to hit home runs and strike out. Whatever the team needs, he provides it.”