It’s the most wonderful time of the year for baseball fans as the Fall Classic has arrived. The journey that began all the way back in spring training has finally reached its final chapter and the field is whittled down to two: the Boston Red Sox and the Los Angeles Dodgers. The Red Sox defeated the Yankees and Astros on their path to the Fall Classic, while the Dodgers beat the Braves and Brewers to reach their second consecutive World Series. With the series beginning tonight, let’s look at what each team has going for them heading into Game 1.
The Case for the Red Sox
When it comes to making a case for the Red Sox to win this series, it really isn’t difficult. They dominated the majors this season, winning a league-high 108 games, they have dispatched of two 100-win teams during the postseason, and are anchored by two legitimate MVP candidates in their lineup in the forms of Mookie Betts and J.D Martinez. They have proven that they are the most complete team in baseball and have the ability to beat any team on any given day.
The Sox have received contributions across their roster during the postseason, but none have been more surprising than the pitching performances from Nathan Eovaldi. Eovaldi currently sports a postseason ERA of 1.88 and has shown an ability to win on the road, picking up victories at both Yankee Stadium and Minute Maid Park. Key contributions from a nervy Red Sox bullpen has also been a big part of their success thus far, with pitchers such as Ryan Brasier (7 innings, 0 runs allowed), and Matt Barnes (6.1 innings, 1 run allowed) helping to balance out the struggles of closer Craig Kimbrel (6.1 innings, 5 runs allowed). Their ace Chris Sale has also struggled this postseason, with his velocity issues from the end of the regular season carrying over into the playoffs. Sale has been bailed out by a bullpen that has been on top of its game this postseason, taking some of the burdens off of him. David Price rebounded from an abysmal start in the divisional series to help Boston finish off Houston in the ALCS, throwing 6 shutout innings. Boston will be hoping that he will carry the momentum from this start in the World Series. The Boston pitching staff was one of their main strengths during the regular season and has continued to steady the ship in the playoffs.
The bats in Boston’s lineup, however, is where they truly thrive. The Sox led the MLB in runs scored this season, and are able to score in a multitude of ways. They have depth at every position and are able to mix and match with plenty of different options. In the division series versus the Yankees, the Red Sox overwhelmed their rivals, in part to key contributions from Brock Holt and Rafael Devers. In the championship series though, they got an unexpected boost from Jackie Bradley Jr. In the series, Bradley hit 2 big home runs in clutch situations and drove in 9 runs on his way to ALCS MVP honors. Bradley’s big series shows how unexpected heroes emerge in the playoffs. He is not alone however, as Mookie Betts and JD Martinez remain the driving forces behind one of the most dominant teams in recent history. Betts a 5 tool player, and Martinez, one of the most elite right-handed hitters in the game, are the biggest threats on the Red Sox offense. When these two are on their game, they elevate the lineup around them as their teammates will get more quality pitches to hit. If the Boston bats get going early, it could very well be a nightmare on the mound for Clayton Kershaw and co.
The Case for the Dodgers
Enough said. If the Dodgers hope to avenge their failure last year in the World Series, Clayton Kershaw must be the big time pitcher we have come to know. While Kershaw’s postseason struggles in previous years have been well documented, he has come up big for LA this year, pitching to the tune of a 2.37 ERA over 19 innings pitched. Kershaw needs to come out in Game 1 and silence the Red Sox bats at Fenway. Beyond Kershaw, the Dodgers’ rotation consists of Hyun-Jin Ryu, Walker Buehler, and Rich Hill. Unfortunately, the Dodgers can’t pitch Kershaw every game and will need their other starters to step up as well. The Dodgers also have shut down closer Kenley Jansen, who recorded 38 saves this season (finishing 4th in the league in saves), and has the ability to get big outs.
When it comes to hitting side, the Dodgers also boast a multi-faceted attack. Led by midseason acquisition Manny Machado, the Dodgers have been tenacious at the plate. Machado played well in the championship series, amidst the controversy of his unsportsmanlike action in Game 4. Machado came up big in Game 7 for the Dodgers, collecting two hits against the Brewers and acting as the team’s offensive catalyst.
Behind Machado, the Dodgers boast a wide range of talent including Chris Taylor, NLCS MVP Cody Bellinger, and the enigmatic Yasiel Puig. The Dodgers offense was 4th in the league in runs scored, and was 2nd in home runs behind the record-setting Yankees. If the Dodgers can hit home runs the way they did during the regular season, they will have a chance of taking home the World Series crown.
When it comes down to it, the Dodgers are the underdogs in this series. Their regular season was marred by inconsistency and injuries which held them down in the standings. With the team now arguably the healthiest it has been all year, they have a chance to take home the Dodgers first championship since 1988.
When it comes down to who wins this series, it boiled down to one simple question for me: which team is more complete and consistent? Both teams have players capable of taking over games and series but in order to win a World Series, you need to get consistency out of your star players.
My inner Yankee fan is telling me not to say this, but they’ve been too good to ignore this year
Prediction: Boston brings home the title in 6 games.
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