The 2018 World Series is set, with the Boston Red Sox and Los Angeles Dodgers poised to take on each other in what figures to be an epic matchup between two of the sport’s flagship and historic franchises. It’s the series that we needed.
It’s a meeting of two of the game’s powerhouses; two of the MLB’s better teams over the years. The Red Sox are seeking their 9th overall championship and fourth this century, while the Dodgers are looking to end the franchise’s 30-year drought for their seventh ring.
Boston Red Sox
How they got here:
108-54, 1st in American League East (best record in baseball)
Defeated New York Yankees in ALDS in four games
Defeated Houston Astros in ALCS in five games
Boston was the best team all season long, hardly, if ever, facing turbulence. Their opponents in this year’s Fall Classic started the 2017 season 91-36, but then eventually hit a rough stretch where they lost 16 of the next 17 games in August and September.
However, the Red Sox were able to avoid the same letdown and keep their foot on the gas pedal. They fended off a 100-win Yankees team in the regular season and then proceeded to defeat them and the 103-win defending champion Houston Astros in just nine games during the playoffs to put them four wins away from arguably the most impressive stretch, arguably, ever, in the MLB’s history.
They were the highest-scoring team in the regular season, and that followed them into the postseason, scoring 56 runs in nine games. Their lineup is loaded at the top, anchored by MVP candidates Mookie Betts and J.D. Martinez.
But beyond them, Andrew Benintendi, Xander Bogaerts, Rafael Devers, and Mitch Moreland are adequate support pieces, especially Benintendi and Bogaerts. The lineup isn’t as deep as you would assume, but the top of the lineup is heavy enough to carry them.
The pitching is an intriguing place to look at. Boston’s starting rotation had a 3.77 ERA in the regular season, showing their “bend but don’t break” ability. They are anchored by Chris Sale at the top, who would have been the easy selection for the 2018 AL Cy Young award if he would have stayed healthy this season. Heading into the postseason, however, the rotation behind him was a weakness.
David Price has been shaky as a Red Sox but found a groove starting in August to reestablish himself as the team’s number two. However, his postseason demons are no secret and they came back to haunt him. He allowed seven runs in his first two starts over 6.1 innings, before six shutout innings in the series-clinching win vs. the Astros. But that is just one start among 20 playoff appearances; he has a lot to prove still.
Rick Porcello has a lousy postseason track record and once again was mediocre in the regular season while Nate Eovaldi was unproven in October. But both stepped up in the first two rounds and had their moments of brilliance. All in all, they had a 3.92 ERA as a unit in the first two rounds.
And in the bullpen, there was a huge question mark because there weren’t any proven arms other than closer Craig Kimbrel. But the roles switched, as the unproven arms caught fire and Kimbrel struggled. Take out Kimbrel’s 6.1 innings and Brandon Workman’s one inning of work, and the relief corps has a 1.53 ERA in 29.1 innings.
Los Angeles Dodgers
How they got here:
92-71, 1st in the National League after beating Colorado in a Game 163
Defeated the Atlanta Braves in NLDS four games
Defeated the Milwaukee Brewers in seven games in NLCS
What can be said about the boys in blue this season? It was the definition of an up-and-down rollercoaster ride with drama and storylines throughout. After making it to one win away from the World Series, the Dodgers started off the season an abysmal 16-26 and “the world was falling.”
However, they turned things around on May 16th, going an NL-best 77-45 from there on out, although they did endure some more turbulence during that stretch, and even had to play a tie-breaking 163 against the Colorado Rockies for the NL West crown. Whenever the Dodgers hit a streak, they would follow it up with a disappointing slump, and worse, it was against bad competition.
Injuries affected them (again), and they were unpredictable all year long, looking like they may even miss the playoffs outright. But, in the end, the numbers won out, and the Dodgers find themselves four wins away from a title.
Dodgers started 16-26 …
They are 3rd team in MLB history to lose at least 26 of their 1st 42 games and reach the World Series.
The others: 2005 Astros (15-27), 1914 Braves (13-28-1)
— Katie Sharp (@ktsharp) October 21, 2018
They led the National League in runs scored, home runs (second in baseball), OPS, run differential, and had the best overall pitching staff statistically. The starting rotation was easily the best, and second-best in all the MLB, but it was the bullpen that was viewed as the weakness because of the injuries and inconsistency. However, they bent, but did not break, and helped the team make the playoffs, where they have been downright unhittable once again.
They have a 1.30 ERA in 41.2 postseason innings, and the workload has not been concentrated on just two arms like last season. At least eight relievers have thrown four innings each, and all have come in and delivered. And unlike the Red Sox closer, LA’s superstar closer Kenley Jansen is looking like Kenly Jansen and is looking unhittable once again.
The lineup may not have the same hype as the Red Sox’s, but they scored just 0.5 runs less per game without a designated hitter and in a pitcher’s park. They don’t have a Mookie Betts and J.D. Martinez in their lineup, but Justin Turner and Manny Machado aren’t too shabby themselves; both are elite, MVP-caliber hitters. And when you have the depth 1-8 that the Dodgers have, you don’t need a Betts or Martinez.
The Dodgers have the most depth in the game, and they needed all of it to get to the World Series. It’s a real sign of a complete team, and they are looking to do what the Kansas City Royals in 2015 and win the Fall Classic after losing the previous season.
They have a team that is strong in all facets of the game, and with a Clayton Kershaw who is having the best postseason of his career. This is as battle-tested as a team can come, and things are clicking for them, and even though the Sox are favored, this may be the Dodgers’ year because the experience, resilience, and talent they have is a dangerous combination.