With 2,460 games played this year in the MLB over a six month span, we are now down to the culmination of it all, the Fall Classic, baseball’s biggest stage: the World Series.
This year’s World Series will be played between the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Boston Red Sox starting on October 23. The two have matched up only one time in World Series history, back in 1916. The Red Sox ended up winning the series over the then Brooklyn Robins. This year will be a much anticipated match-up between two big market teams and sports cities separated by 3000 miles. Let’s take a look at how both teams got to the World Series.
Sox Clinch the AL Pennant
This year, the Red Sox had their best season in their 117 year history, ending the regular season at 108-54. They achieved this success on the backs of Mookie Betts (likely MVP), J.D. Martinez (likely MVP runner-up), Chris Sale, David Price and first year manager Alex Cora.
The playoffs started with a match-up against their rivals, the New York Yankees, in the team’s first playoff matchup since 2004, when the Red Sox pulled off one of the greatest comebacks in sports his- tory, erasing a 3-0 deficit in the ALCS to reach the World Series. After splitting the first two games of the series in Boston, the Sox had a little extra motivation going into Yankee Stadium, after Yankees star Aaron Judge walked by the Sox clubhouse blasting Frank Sinatra’s famous song “New York, New York” following Game 2.
The Red Sox proceeded to topple the Yanks in Game 3, and clinched in Game 4 in the Bronx.
The Sox’s next task was the Houston Astros. The Astros were the second best team in the MLB with three strong starting pitchers in Justin Verlander, Gerrit Cole and Dallas Keuchel, and a potent lineup with Jose Altuve, George Springer, Alex Bregman and Carlos Correa. The Astros took Game 1, but proceeded to win the next four games (three of which were in Houston) and clinch the American League pennant.
Series headlines from the ALCS included David Price’s first postseason win in a dominant performance in Game 5 and Jackie Bradley’s winning the ALCS MVP with nine RBI’s in the series and a grand slam.
Another interesting storyline did not occur on the field. The Astros’ star third baseman, Alex Bregman, posted three videos on his Instagram story of the Astros going back-to-back-to-back off of Game 3 starter Nathan Eovaldi. Eovaldi responded by going 1.1 innings without giving up a run in the decisive Game 5. If the Dodgers can learn anything from Bregman and Judge’s mistakes, it may be not to troll the Red Sox.
Dodgers Win Back-to-Back Pennants
The Dodgers ended the season at 92-71, a good year coming off a World Series appearance just a year ago. They stymied the Braves and young phenom Ronald Acuña in the NLDS.
The Dodgers dropped just one game in the series, Game 3 on October 7. They were powered by home runs, and lots of them at that. As a team, they hit eight home runs in the four games against the Braves. They also got a much needed solid performance out of their star pitcher in Game 1, Clayton Kershaw, who has historically struggled in postseason play.
They went on to face the Brewers in the NLCS, who were the Cinderella story of the year with likely NL MVP Christian Yelich.
The series was back and forth, and it took the Dodgers a full seven game series to get rid of the pesky Brewers. Yasiel Puig, Jus- tin Turner and Manny Machado were huge contributors for the Dodgers with 10 RBIs between the three of them. Clayton Kershaw also played a huge role in the series, picking up a win in Game 5.
A headline that came out of this series was Machado’s dirty play in Game 5 of the series, where it looked like he intentionally tripped Brewers first baseman Jesús Aguilar on his way past the bag. Machado is known for being a dirty player, and he was certainly chastised for the incident by the Brewers.
The Dodgers came out of the series as NL champions and will look to give the Red Sox a run for their money.
Machado, coincidentally, has bad blood with the Red Sox, as he was a contributor to Dustin Pedroia’s injury on a dirty slide into second base a season ago. The Red Sox did not take too kindly to this, and Machado was thrown at later in the series, which he vented about vehemently to the media afterwards.
Puig is also another perceived villain on the Dodgers. He’s got a cockiness and fire to him that not many opponents like. The Red Sox will likely try not to read too much into these storylines, but as fans we should prepare to see a couple sparks fly this series.
Coastal Battle for the World Series
There are many intriguing storylines to follow in this series. One is the potential Game 1 match-up between Chris Sale and Clayton Kershaw, two of the best pitchers in the game. Kershaw has struggled in the post- season in years past, but has picked it up this year. Chris Sale, who is coming off a trip to the hospital from apparent stomach irritation due to a belly button ring, has not been himself, but is excited to showcase his stuff in the World Series. Kershaw’s breaking ball and Sale’s slider are going to be a nightmare for opposing batters.
When the Red Sox go to Los Angeles, they can not play a designated hitter, so they must bench one of either Betts, Andrew Benintendi, Jackie Bradley or Martinez.
Sox Manager Alex Cora might consider playing Betts at second base, which was Betts’s natural position in the minors, so he can play all four guys. Though Cora can be unpredictable, many of his decisions have worked out this postseason.
Both teams have strong offenses. The Dodgers, in the regular season, hit the second most home runs in the MLB. The Red Sox counter with Martinez, Betts, Xander Bogaerts and Benintendi. The Sox led the league in both hits and batting average.
I would give the slight advantage to the Dodgers right now, who always have a home run threat and are deeper up and down the lineup than the Red Sox.
The Sox rotation of Chris Sale, David Price, Nathan Eovaldi and Rick Porcello counters the Dodgers’ Kershaw, Hyun-Jin Ryu, Walker Buehler and Rich Hill pitching staff. Price finally got his first postseason win against the Astros and is trying his best to erase his postseason demons of the past. Eovaldi and Porcello were also dominant in both playoff series, and the Red Sox bullpen was unbelievable after their below average regular season.
Kershaw is one of the best pitchers of this generation, but there is a little bit of uncertainty in the pen for the Dodgers. Ryu has struggled, and Buehler is young and inexperienced. Give the advantage to the Red Sox who have been dominant in the postseason.
As for defensive match-ups, the Red Sox have an outstanding defensive outfield, and you can make cases for Gold Gloves for all three of those players (Benintendi, Betts and Bradley).
The Dodgers defensive outfield is also good with Cody Bellinger, who made some outstanding plays against the Brewers, and Puig’s cannon of an arm, but the Red Sox had the best defensive outfield in baseball this season. Inside the diamond, the Dodgers are stronger, featuring Machado and Turner.
For me, I just don’t think the Red Sox can lose. They are on fire right now and look like the best team in baseball.
Their reliable offense combined with the stellar pitching staff just can’t be stopped. I have the Sox in 5, and they will take home their 4th championship of the 2000s.
Contact Cam Cobey at [email protected]