After about seven months of Major League Baseball, the field of 30 teams has finally been narrowed to two, and the 114th World Series will begin play on Oct. 23.
This year’s edition of the fall classic sees the 108-54 Boston Red Sox clash with the 92-71 Los Angeles Dodgers. While these are two of the most historic franchises in baseball, this is the first time they have met in the World Series since 1916.
Los Angeles Dodgers:
The representatives from the National League find themselves in the exact same position as a year ago and look to earn some redemption after falling just short in seven games to the Houston Astros a season ago. A World Series title has eluded them since 1988.
The Dodgers knocked off a young, powerful Atlanta Braves team 3-1 in the NLDS and took care of the Milwaukee Brewers in a exciting seven-game series to grab the National League pennant and get to this point.
One massive difference between last season’s Dodgers and these Dodgers is shortstop Manny Machado, who was acquired from the Baltimore Orioles in a midseason trade. Machado has been worth every bit the Dodgers gave up to get him as he’s paced their offense in the postseason, leading the team with three home runs and nine RBI. On the pitching side, ace Clayton Kershaw has looked like his regular season self this postseason, for the most part. Aside from a rocky start against the Brewers in the NLCS, Kershaw has been effective to the tune of a 2.37 ERA and 0.79 WHIP in his 19 innings pitched. The bullpen has also been a strength for the Dodgers to this point as Kenley Jansen, Pedro Baez, Ryan Madson and Dylan Floro have led the way and combined to allow just one earned run in 24.1 innings pitched this postseason.
Boston Red Sox:
The American League champs have looked the part for the entire season, cruising through the summer with this World Series opportunity on their minds the entire way. The solid play hasn’t let up in the postseason, as the Sox dismantled their rival Yankees three games to one in the ALDS and made quick work of the defending World Series champs; taking down the Houston Astros four games to one to claim the American League championship. The Red Sox are looking to capture their ninth World Series title in franchise history, with the last coming in 2013.
The story of the season for the Red Sox has been the two-headed monster in the middle of their lineup that each have legitimate MVP cases – outfielder Mookie Betts and offseason signee J.D. Martinez. Martinez has looked strong, batting .313 and tied for the team lead with two home runs and nine RBI. Betts, on the other hand, hasn’t quite looked himself in the playoffs, hitting just .205 at the plate after posting a Major League-best .346 average in the regular season. But Boston has been able to weather the offensive struggles of their best player with the depth of their lineup. Timely contributions from Brock Holt and Jackie Bradley Jr. (who is tied for the team lead in HR an RBI with Martinez) have filled the void and make the Red Sox a major threat to the Dodgers. The Red Sox pitching has been far from perfect, but the starters have done enough to give them a chance to win. Bullpen arms such as Joe Kelly, Matt Barnes and Ryan Brasier, like the Dodgers staff, have done an excellent job shutting the door allowing just one earned run over a combined 18.2 innings. It is worth noting that closer Craig Kimbrel has struggled to this point for the Red Sox with a 7.11 ERA (much higher than his 2.74 regular season mark), and he will be one to watch as he will be the man Manager Alex Cora will turn to in high-leverage situations more often than not.
There’s a reason these two teams have reached this point, as both rosters are incredibly deep from top to bottom. As it always seems to be in playoff baseball, this series appears to be one that will be evenly matched and come down to whoever can get a timely home run and receive the most effective pitching from their bullpens. I think the Dodgers are more equipped to do this. While Boston has looked strong and are understandably the favourites in many people’s minds, the Dodgers performances to this point have been resilient, they’ve managed to pick up wins in games where they’ve been outplayed and that is scary from a Red Sox perspective. The Dodgers have the feel of a team that is built for the moment – Manny Machado, Yasiel Puig, Justin Turner, Cody Bellinger…the list goes on. I think Clayton Kershaw finally captures a World Series ring and Manny Machado helps the Dodgers onto the positive side of a tight seven-game series and wins the MVP.