OK, so the comparison isn’t quite perfect, but I needed a catchy headline to get you to read about this craziness.
When the Cardinals lost starting shortstop Rafael Furcal for the season they called up Pete Kozma from Triple-A, where he’d hit just .232 with a .292 on-base percentage and .355 slugging percentage in 131 games. And that offensive ineptitude was nothing new for Kozma, whose career numbers in the minors include a .236 batting average and .652 OPS.
Kozma was the 18th overall pick in the 2007 draft coming out of high school, but at no point in his six-season career as a minor leaguer has he ever hit. His career-high OPS is .702 and his batting averages by season are .233, .258, 231, .243, .214, and .232. Based on his lengthy track record Kozma projected to be one of the majors’ worst hitters.
But the Cardinals called him up, mostly because they lacked other options, and then a funny thing happened: Kozma started hitting. So much, in fact, that manager Mike Matheny couldn’t possibly take him out of the lineup. So now through 23 games as a major leaguer Kozma has hit .338 with a .600 slugging percentage and .975 OPS. And the Cardinals, despite injuries to multiple key players, have hung tough in September and are headed to the playoffs, where Kozma can see if his deal with the devil extends past Game 162.
The Dodgers and Astros have selected their starters for Game 1 of the World Series. Left-hander Dallas Keuchel will open the series for the Astros, while fellow lefty Clayton Kershaw will take the mound for the first of two home games at Dodger Stadium.
Keuchel, 29, has been a steady presence for the Astros this postseason. He clinched Game 2 of the ALDS with 5 2/3 innings of one-run, seven-strikeout ball against the Red Sox and returned for his second postseason win with seven scoreless innings against the Yankees in Game 1 of the ALCS. He was outmatched in Game 5 of the Championship Series, however, scattering four runs and eight strikeouts across 4 2/3 innings while the Yankees worked their way up to a 5-0 shutout. Nevertheless, he’s perhaps the Astros’ strongest arm behind ALCS MVP Justin Verlander and has not surrendered a single home run in 17 1/3 consecutive innings this postseason.
Kershaw, on the other hand, has had a less consistent track record in the playoffs. While his postseason yips have been well-documented thus far, his struggles on the mound haven’t always led to disaster — at least not this time around. The Dodgers are 3-0 in all three of Kershaw’s starts this month and enjoyed a quality start from their ace during Game 5 of the NLCS last Thursday. The 29-year-old southpaw recorded his second win of the playoffs with a run, three hits, a walk and five strikeouts over six innings. Unlike Keuchel, he’s given up a home run in each of his outings to date (and four homers in Game 1 of the NLDS).
Game 1 is set for Tuesday evening at 8:00 PM ET. The Dodgers have home field advantage through Games 1 and 2 before the series moves to Houston, and will try to capitalize on that advantage in order to extend their postseason winning streak at Dodger Stadium. They’re 4-0 at home and 3-1 on the road this October, while the Astros boast a 6-0 advantage in Houston and a significantly less impressive 1-4 record away from home.