Can you believe it’s been five years since an AL East team represented the Junior Circuit in the Fall Classic? That would be the Red Sox, of course, in 2013, and it’s crazy to think that only one East Coast team has made it at all in that span (the 2015 Mets). East meets West in a big way in the 2018 Fall Classic, and this has the makings of a good one. Can the 108-win Red Sox finish what they started and has seemed inevitable from almost day one? Or can the Dodgers eschew being the 2010-11 Rangers and instead be like the 2014-15 Royals? Let’s take a deeper look at this matchup between the Sox (108-54) and Dodgers (92-71):
Both clubs run deep in offense. The benches both have viable options, and no lead will feel safe in this series. Obviously, the Red Sox have a little more star power with the top three guys in their lineup, particularly your top two AL MVP finishers in Mookie Betts and J.D. Martinez. The Dodgers have had a nasty habit of sleepwalking on offense through parts of games, which didn’t cost them in the end against the Brewers but undoubtedly would against the Red Sox. Boston will break your heart and your spirit with two outs hits, and for as much as the Dodgers grind out at-bats, the Red Sox do it better. Even though much has been made about the Sox’s supposed shortcomings against left-handed pitching, with the Dodgers have a lot of, they find ways to score runs either with big ball or small ball. Edge: Red Sox.
This one is tough. Clayton Kershaw takes a lot of heat for not being a big-game pitcher, and that’s just not true. He’s had plenty of big performances in the playoffs, both as a starter and a reliever. Game 4 of the 2015 NLDS, Game 1 of the 2017 World Series, and Game 5 of this year’s NLCS are all good examples of that. Hyun-Ryu was bad in his Game 6 start, but has been very good overall. Walker Buehler and Rich Hill have been excellent. It would seem that LA has the edge. But a healthy and rested Chris Sale is the great equalizer, as is the potential of a David Price that no longer has to wear the moniker of winless postseason pitcher. You never quite know what you’ll get from Rick Porcello, but Nathan Eovaldi has been outstanding. This is basically a toss-up. Edge: Even.
A lot was made about the Dodgers not making any big offseason moves for their bullpen while watching Brandon Morrow and Tony Watson depart in free agency. Still, unheralded names like Scott Alexander, Caleb Ferguson, and Dylan Floro has been stellar in bridging the game to Kenley Jansen, who looks to be back in business after a rough stretch in late August. The Red Sox’s bullpen has also been great in the playoffs, even as Craig Kimbrel seems to endure a shaky outing every time he’s out there. Ryan Brasier and Matt Barnes in particular have been shut-down, and Joe Kelly has made an impact pitching in long relief. Drew Pomeranz replaces Brandon Workman, perhaps in part because the Sox don’t have a true matchup lefty. Though he’s off the roster, a wild card here could have been Steven Wright, who dominated the Dodgers in his one career start against them, a three-hit shutout at Dodger Stadium in 2016. Give the slight edge to the NLers here. Edge: Dodgers.
In Alex Cora and Dave Roberts, both former members of Sox championship teams, you may be looking at the 1 and 1A of MLB managers right now. Both are masterful tacticians who have guided their clubs through adversity, even though both have stacked rosters to work with. Roberts simply outmanaged Craig Counsell in the ALCS, and Cora’s chops, even as a rookie skipper, have been on display the entire postseason. There really isn’t a decided advantage here one way or another. Edge: Even.
The Dodgers should be hungry for the franchise’s first World Series title in 30 years. They are trying to take the exact same path as the 2015 Royals, who had made it to their first World Series in 29 years the previous season, then came back to win it the next year on the 30th anniversary. At the same time, that could provide more pressure for the Dodgers. The 2-3-2 format might actually be to their advantage, as they split the two two-game sets in Milwaukee and took two out of three at home (just as the Astros did to them in last year’s World Series). The Red Sox have some pressure too in the sense that Boston is Titletown and just getting to the grand stage never feels like enough, plus they entered 2018 with the league’s highest payroll. But their road to the Fall Classic has been exponentially tougher, having gone a blistering 7-2 against AL powerhouses New York and Houston, including a stunning 5-0 on the road. The Dodgers were the NL’s best team, but that might not be saying much, nor is getting past the Braves and the Brewers (barely) to get here. Edge: Red Sox.
I was a year off with my Sox-Dodgers prediction, as I had LA over Boston in 2017. I officially went with Yankees-Cubs in 2018, with a disclaimer that if it wasn’t the Yankees winning it this year, it would be the Red Sox. So I’m going to “stick to my guns” and go with Boston. There isn’t a conspiracy theory and plenty of people might discount it, but the vibe around Boston sports is so positive and powerful that it just feels that no matter what the circumstances, they’ll find a way. I was tempted to pick the Dodgers because of how painful losing two straight World Series would be, but the Red Sox have just been the best all-around team from the start (well, after Opening Day at least). The Red Sox are more battle-tested and this team is too loaded, so even if the star power isn’t up to snuff, you know a new hero might emerge (Steve Pearce?). Prediction: Red Sox in 6.
Well, I said a new hero might emerge, but I’ll go with one of the safer picks here and say that the man who will also be taking home the AL MVP will be the star of this series. Mookie Betts has been a star for several years now, and he will get a chance to show anyone that may have been living under a rock that he deserves consideration for the best all-around player in the sport.