The baseball season reaches its climax over the next week with its October showcase event: the World Series.
It’s when the best teams from Major League Baseball’s two leagues – the American League and the National League – face off against each other to decide who takes home one of sport’s most eye-catching trophies.
The Houston Astros and the Los Angeles Dodgers will battle it out in the best-of-seven series – the first side to win four games are champions.
The Dodgers haven’t been to the World Series since winning it in 1988, while Houston’s only other appearance there was a loss to the Chicago White Sox in 2005.
How did we get here?
The Los Angeles Dodgers beat the Chicago Cubs to reach the World Series (Matt Slocum/AP)
The World Series is the culmination of one of the most gruelling seasons in world sport. Each of the 30 MLB teams plays 162 regular season games with the best progressing to the post-season play-offs.
Houston won the American League’s West division before beating the Boston Red Sox in the first round of the play-offs and then, in dramatic fashion, the New York Yankees.
The Dodgers, meanwhile, won the National League West before brushing aside the Arizona Diamondbacks and last season’s World Series winners, the Chicago Cubs.
Who are favourites?
Justin Turner is a key member of the Dodgers’ line-up (Charles Rex Arbogast/AP)
The Dodgers go in with the edge after being totally dominant in the play-offs so far. They beat the Diamonbacks 3-0 in the best-of-five National League Divisional Series before topping the Cubs 4-1 in the best-of-seven Championship Series.
Either way, it should be a great series – these really are two of the best sides out there.
Who should we look out for?
In Clayton Kershaw, the Dodgers have probably the best starting pitcher in the game. He will be on the mound for game one and, with starting pitchers typically only playing once every five days or so, would likely return for game five assuming the series gets that far. The left-hander has won all the individual honours a pitcher can win, but has never been to the World Series before.
They have impressive depth to their pitching rotation with veteran Rich Hill and Japanese superstar Yu Darvish slated to toe the rubber in games two and three. Their bullpen – the relief pitchers who take over in later innings once the starter tires – is also strong.
Hitting-wise, keep an eye on Corey Seager. The young shortstop has been a star for the Dodgers for two straight seasons now, but missed the series against the Cubs with a back injury. He’s expected to play in the World Series, but if he’s much below 100% it could be a big blow for the Dodgers.
And how about the Astros?
Jose Altuve has been one of the hottest hitters in baseball all season (David J Phillip/AP)
It’s hard to look past star second baseman Jose Altuve. He finished the regular season with an MLB-leading batting average of .346 (anything north of .300 is considered elite) and has gone up a level in the play-offs, belting five home runs in eight games.
On the pitching staff, the most compelling storyline surrounds Justin Verlander. The 34-year-old righty has been one of baseball’s best pitchers for a decade, spending his entire career with the Detroit Tigers until this summer.
On August 31 he was traded to Houston, and has showed some his best form in years – including being named the MVP in the ALCS series victory over the Yankees. He now has the chance to win the World Series ring he never got with his beloved Tigers.
And why is it called the World Series?
It’s the stick most often used to beat the occasion with: why is it called the World Series when there are only American (and occasionally Canadian) teams involved?
The reason often cited for this is a sponsorship deal with a newspaper, the New York World, in the early part of the last century.
However, there seems to be very little evidence to back this claim up. In all likelihood, the name was just a marketing gimmick.
When’s it on?
Game one starts in Los Angeles at 1.09am on Wednesday BST. The schedule goes as follows:
Game one: Astros @ Dodgers, Oct 25 1.09am
Game two: Astros @ Dodgers, Oct 26 1.09am
Game three: Dodgers @ Astros, Oct 28 1.09am
Game four: Dodgers @ Astros, Oct 29 1.09am
Game five (if needed): Dodgers @ Astros, Oct 30 12.16am
Game six (if needed): Astros @ Dodgers, Nov 1 12.09am
Game seven (If needed): Astros @ Dodgers, Nov 2 12.10am
All games will be live on BT Sport – or you can pay to watch them online with MLB.TV.