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Red Sox – Dodgers: A World Series preview

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After six months and 162 games – plus a couple of hard-fought playoff series – MLB’s remaining contenders have been whittled down to just two. The Boston Red Sox and the Los Angeles Dodgers will be facing off in the 2018 World Series. This will mark the 114th edition of the Fall Classic.

The Dodgers are back for the second consecutive year after outlasting the Milwaukee Brewers in a nail-biter of an NLCS that went the full seven games. The Red Sox are here thanks to a surprisingly brisk five-game dispatching of the Houston Astros in the ALCS.

Despite the fact that these are two of the oldest franchises in MLB history – and two of the most successful – this marks the first time in over a century that these squads have faced off in October. The last time was all the way back in 1916 – so long ago that the Dodgers not only hadn’t moved out of Brooklyn, they weren’t even called the Dodgers – they went by the sobriquet “Robins” at that time.

So let’s have a look, shall we?

Obviously, my inherent homer tendencies make it difficult for me to make any sort of unbiased appraisal of this series. My heart has always been and will always be with the Boston Red Sox. So it will come as no surprise that I’m going to choose them. However, I could well be making the right call, just for the wrong reasons.

After all, the gentlemen in Las Vegas agree with me – they’ve got the Red Sox favored to win. Granted, they’re not huge favorites, but they’re favorites. And it makes sense – this Red Sox team had the most regular season wins in team history and went through two teams in the playoffs – the Yankees and Astros – that had over 100 wins themselves. They’ll have home field advantage, so if there is a Game Seven, it’ll be in Fenway Park.

Oh, you want reasons aside from “This is my favorite team and I want them to win,” do you? Fine.

The Red Sox, thanks to relatively easy series wins in both rounds of the playoffs, are a fairly well-rested team at this point. They’ve had a chance to allow their players – particularly their starting pitchers – to get some rest. Hence, ace Chris Sale has had an opportunity to deal with what’s been ailing him over the past 10 days or so. Yes, guys like Nathan Eovaldi and David Price and Rick Porcello have stepped up and been good-to-OK, but a Sale-less Sox rotation is a vulnerable one.

As for the lineup, well – Mookie Betts is probably this year’s AL MVP, so that’s pretty good. J.D. Martinez is probably going to get a few votes on that particular ballot as well. Martinez has been very good in the playoffs thus far, while Betts has scuffled. However, it hasn’t mattered much, thanks to unanticipated offensive excellence from the likes of Rafael Devers and Brock Holt and remarkably timely hitting from ALCS MVP Jackie Bradley Jr. The offense hasn’t been as potent as it was in the regular season, but it has been strong enough.

The bullpen – perceived as a weakness coming into the postseason – has been topsy-turvy. The one guy Boston thought they could count on – closer Craig Kimbrel – has been flat-out bad. Meanwhile, the rest of them have been legitimately excellent, led by Matt Barnes and Ryan Brasier, who have given up a combined total of exactly one run this postseason.

On the Los Angeles side of the ledger, there’s no disputing the talent. The rotation is legit, as per usual, led by Clayton Kershaw, who might be on the verge of finally shaking his not-entirely-deserved reputation as a postseason choker. Rich Hill has been good as well, while Hyun-Jin Ryu and rookie Walker Buehler have been up-and-down. It’s a solid quartet, to be sure.

In terms of offensive talent, there are some quality bats in the L.A. lineup. Chris Taylor has had a heck of a postseason so far, as has Yasiel Puig – Taylor’s OPS was over 1.000, while Puig’s was over .900. Manny Machado has looked pretty good at the plate (though his attitude hasn’t been the best), while others like NLCS MVP Cody Bellinger weren’t consistently great, but performed with excellence when the time called for it. Other guys, like 2018 breakout star Max Muncy, have struggled throughout. Still, it’s an impressive lineup.

Not as impressive as the bullpen, though. L.A.’s bullpen has been exceptional – Ryan Madson managed a 1.42 ERA in seven appearances and was still outshined by Pedro Baez, Caleb Ferguson, Dylan Floro and closer Kenley Jansen, none of whom has given up so much as a single run this entire postseason. They are GOOD.

So – the prediction. Not that there’s any doubt who I’m going to take. However, I do think it is going to be a hard-fought series across the board. Ultimately, Dodgers fans are going to be disappointed for the second year in a row and the Red Sox are going to further cement their status as the team of the 21st century with their fourth title in the past 15 years.

Red Sox in seven.


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