Two of the three oldest ballparks in major league baseball will provide the backdrop as two of the most storied franchises in the sport will meet to decide the World Championship. The Red Sox and Dodgers have been around, in one form or another, since the early 1900’s yet they’ve met only once in the World Series. That was 1916 when the Red Sox beat the Brooklyn Robins, four games to one.
Iconic Fenway Park will host games one and two (six and seven if necessary) as the Red Sox earned the home field advantage (the right way) by winning a franchise record 108 games. Games three, four and five are scheduled for Dodger Stadium, a ballpark that has it’s own glorious history and will be hosting World Series games for the 10th time. (It’s actually the 11th appearance for the Los Angeles Dodgers in the “Fall Classic.” In 1959, the World Series games in LA were played at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum)
The Red Sox won 16 more games than the Dodgers during their franchise record setting regular season but the teams are not as far apart as the numbers would indicate. In fact, the Dodgers and Red Sox match up very well which could make for a very interesting 2018 World Series.
Those silly “position-by-position” match ups that you see will not determine the winner. Players on opposite teams, that play the same position, don’t directly compete against each other. Sometimes there is an “X-factor” that comes into play. There are twists and turns and momentum swings that occur during a series. There is also the unexpected mistake from a usually reliable source. A “GOAT” in the World Series is not portrayed the same as the acronym, “Greatest of All Time.”
The basic fundamental match up of this World Series is the Dodgers pitchers will be facing the best hitting lineup that they’ve seen all season, while the Red Sox hitters will be facing, arguably, the best pitching staff that they’ve seen all season. The credo has always been “good pitching can stop good hitting.” Did the Red Sox see “good pitching” from the Astros but this offense is just so good that they can hit anybody or did they get pitches to hit and they just didn’t miss ‘em? The Dodgers pitching staff will be challenged.
Like the Yankees offense, the Dodgers had problems with situational hitting during the regular season. They were able to “steamroll” an inexperienced Braves team in the NLDS and then got some clutch hits to get by Milwaukee in 7 games. LA pitched very well and made their hits count. They will need to duplicate that formula in the World Series.
Going into the post season, there was some concern with Boston’s bullpen, not to mention the health of staff ace, Chris Sale who has not pitched a whole lot down the stretch.
The Red Sox eliminated the Yankees in four games without much of a contribution from Sale. In the ALCS, Boston’s top rated offense went to another level thanks to the production from the bottom third of the order and the bullpen did not falter. If the Sox’ offense continues to produce, against the Dodgers, like they did against the Astros, then this could be a very short series, but the bullpen will need to remain a solid unit.
Defense plays big in any short series.
The Red Sox outfielders have already demonstrated what they can do but third base can be problematic. Eduardo Nunez and Rafael Devers are not exactly “gold glove” material. The Dodgers defensive problems begin with catcher Yasmani Grandal. So far, LA has not gotten burned by Grandal’s glove work, but you may see a little more of Austin Barnes behind the plate.
Boston is thinking of using Mookie Betts at second base during the games in Los Angeles because they lose the “DH.” That would enable the Red Sox to play J.D. Martinez in the outfield, but does first year Manager Alex Cora stay with that set up for the entire game. Pinch-hitters and substitutes will need to be used and if the game is close, one way or another, Cora will have to make some decisions for his defensive lineup.
These teams have not played each other a whole lot in the era of interleague play, but there are some players who have a history against the opposing team and that begins with Dodgers shortstop Manny Machado.
You only need to go back to April of 2017 when Machado had an incident with the Red Sox over a hard slide into second base. Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia was injured which didn’t sit too kindly with some of his teammates. Two days later, Red Sox pitcher Matt Barnes took matters into his own hands and threw a pitch at Machado’s head that sparked a bench clearing incident.
Machado has played 95 career games vs. Boston. Here are his numbers vs. some of the Boston pitchers:
vs David Price: 12/41, .293 with 5 HRS and 8 RBI’s
vs.Rick Porcello: 13/38, .342 with 2 HRS and 5 RBI’s
vs. Joe Kelly: 6/16, .375
vs. Nathan Eovaldi: 1/10, .100, one hit is a HR
vs. Matt Barnes: 2/13, .154
vs. Craig Kimbrel 0/7
The Red Sox and Dodgers have played nine times since 2010 but game 1 starter Clayton Kershaw has never pitched at Fenway and has never faced Boston. Red Sox game 1 starter Chris Sale has a limited history against the Dodgers. The unfamiliarity with the opposing hitters and vice versa will add to the unpredictability of any World Series.
Some things to keep an eye on:
The Red Sox were otherwordly with their ability to get two out hits against Houston. As mentioned previously, the bottom of their order, led by Jackie Bradley Jr., lengthened the lineup and made it tough on the Astros’ pitchers, particularly their bullpen. Boston has shown they can hit bullpens but will they get the same production as they did in the ALCS. The Dodgers cannot allow the bottom third of the Red Sox’ order to beat them.
In the NLCS, LA’s pitching was able to take some pressure off of an offense that was able to make a limited amount of hits count on the scoreboard. NLCS MVP Cody Bellinger had only five hits in the series but one was a walk off single in game 4 and then he hit a big home run in the second inning of game 7 that gave the Dodgers a 2-1 lead. The Dodgers will see a lot of left handers in this series and that may work to their advantage.
Dodgers’ third baseman Justin Turner was the 2017 NLCS MVP but he struggled in the World Series. Turner feasts on left hand pitching and should be problematic for Sale and Price at Fenway. He’s turned himself into a pretty good hitter against righties also but is 0 for 5 against Boston starter Rick Porcello and 0 for 6 against Kimbrel.
Kimbrel has pitched well against the Dodgers during his career in the National League. The 30 year old has 9 career saves in 16 appearances against LA.
Dodgers hitters vs Kimbrel:
Matt Kemp 0/5, 3 K’s
David Freese 0/4
Ian Kinsler 0/3, 2K’s
Yasiel Puig 1 for 2
Puig is 2 for 9 in his career vs. Boston but all of those have come at home so game 1 will be his first career at-bat at Fenway Park. Will he succumb to the lure of the “Green Monster.” Puig had a terrific NLCS and may be starting to get hot but he has a tendency to take himself out of at-bats. If he stays disciplined, he could have a good series. Puig is also 2 for 8 against Red Sox reliever Joe Kelly in his career. Those at-bats came when Kelly played with the Cardinals.
Puig’s unfamiliarity with Fenway’s right field corner could cause a problem on a ball down the line. He’s not experienced with the caroms near the “Pesky pole.”………Of course, there is the short left field area in front of “the Monster.” Dodgers left fielder Chris Taylor, who made that game-turning catch in game 7 of the NLCS, has played three games at Fenway but all of those was as a shortstop. Joc Pederson has never played at Fenway……Games in Los Angeles will be starting with shadows so the hitting may be affected early on in those games……Red Sox base runners will be aggressive with Grandal and pitches in the dirt. They’ll also like to run when it fits the situation. Dodger left handers could help negate some of the running game.
The Red Sox are functioning on all cylinders and have a swagger about them as they begin the Series. 108 wins and seven more in the post season will do that.
For the Dodgers, they have to not allow the 7, 8 and 9 hitters to burn them at Fenway and set the table for the big guns. The same for the 6, 7 and 8 hitters at Dodger Stadium. Overall, the Dodgers will have to limit the damage from the dynamic trio of Mookie Betts, Andrew Benintendi and J.D. Martinez at the top of the order. Not easy.
After losing the 7th game of the Series at home last season, the Dodgers were on a mission to get back and have another chance to end the proud franchise’s 30 year drought without a title.
The Red Sox are a great team but I have a funny feeling LA ends that drought. Dodgers in 7.
I’m torn on an MVP pick so I’ll go with Justin Turner and Yasiel Puig as co-MVP winners.
NY Sportsday’s Joe McDonald and Rich Mancuso will be in Boston for games 1 and 2 with full coverage of the 2018 World Series