After 162 regular season games and a handful of playoff games, the 2018 World Series between the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Boston Red Sox is just hours away. The Red Sox sported the best record in all of baseball with 108 wins. The Dodgers are making their second appearance in as many years and are looking to avenge a loss to the Houston Astros. Needless to say, this series has ample storylines which will undoubtedly make for a classic battle for baseball supremacy.
Clayton Kershaw vs. Chris Sale
It’s hard to not start with the two Game One starters for each respective team. Clayton Kershaw is perhaps the best pitcher of this generation and Chris Sale has been one of the best since he entered the league in 2010. Each has been the clear ace for their team and given how the conclusion of each Championship Series played out, we have the privilege of seeing these two go ahead-to-ahead to kick off the series. If we are lucky, we will see it again later in the series as well.
Since 2010 (Sale’s first season) the two have started over 200 games apiece. 207 for Sale and 265 for Kershaw. Both rank in the top five in strikeouts. Kershaw’s 1,990 are second only to Max Scherzer and Sale is not far behind with 1,789 of his own. Kershaw has logged the fourth-most innings in that time with 1,895. Sale is 20th on the list with 1,482. In addition, each has thrown over 300 strikeouts in a season (Sale had 308 in ’17, Kershaw had 301 in ’15) with Kershaw having a pair of 20-win seasons under his belt as well.
With that said, they are not without their playoff struggles. Kershaw’s career ERA of 2.39 balloons to 4.09 in the playoffs. In 22 starts, Kershaw is 9-8 with 155 strikeouts. Despite being a much smaller sample, Sale’s ERA inflates as well entering postseason play. Sale sports a career ERA of 2.89 but in the playoffs… he is 1-2 with a 5.85 ERA. Kershaw was able to shake off some of his struggles last year but both will look to shed those playoff question marks with a win over each other.
Dave Roberts and Alex Cora
The two former players-turned-managers share a ton of history. And that is before you mention that each opposed each other in last year’s World Series. The two were teammates with the Dodgers for parts of three seasons from 2002-2004. They each won World Series titles with the Red Sox. Dave Roberts spent just a handful of games with the club in 2004 but had the greatest stolen base in team history and helped the team win the World Series for the first time in 86 years. Three years later, Alex Cora helped the 2007 Red Sox team win their second championship in four seasons.
Roberts, of course, managed the Dodgers to the World Series last year in his third full season as the bench boss. There, the team fell to the Astros in seven where Alex Cora was the bench coach. Now, in his first season as the Red Sox manager, Cora led the team to a franchise record 108 wins and is looking to become the third manager of the last four to win the World Series with the Sox in his first season. Terry Francona (2004) and John Farrell (2013) accomplished that feat. Bobby Valentine (2012) failed spectacularly in his first and only season.
In addition, this World Series will be the first time that each participating team will be led by a minority manager. Cora, of course, is the first manager from Puerto Rico to coach in the World Series and Roberts is of African American and Japanese descent.
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Can David Price build off of ALCS closeout?
When it comes to elite lefty pitchers in this series, the list is not limited to just Kershaw and Sale. David Price has had a dominating stretch himself since 2010. He ranks just behind Sale in strikeouts with 1,739 over that span, albeit with several more starts under his belt. He has started the same number of games as Kershaw (265) and has only won seven fewer games (133) than Kershaw (140). And, just like Kershaw and Sale, Price carries with him a doubt come playoff time. For instance, his win to close out the ALCS was his first in 12 postseason starts.
If Price continues to build off that ALCS start then the Red Sox have a significant advantage at pitcher. Even if you consider Sale and Kershaw a wash or give the Dodgers a slight advantage. This gives the Red Sox a bit of flexibility in some of the later games in the series. Especially considering they are not shy from using their starters out of the bullpen in high-pressure situations.
Red Sox ‘Dodger Stadium’ Strategy
The Red Sox come in with home field advantage with games 3-5 set to take place in Los Angeles at Dodger Stadium. Of course, that means the games will be played without a designated hitter by virtue of the National League rules. That leaves Red Sox manager Alex Cora with some decisions to make because their DH happens to J.D. Martinez. Perhaps the league’s best slugger this season.
Now, Martinez can play right field. However, that is currently occupied by likely A.L. MVP Mookie Betts. Fortunately for the Red Sox, Betts has experience at second base and could find himself taking Ian Kinsler’s spot in the lineup in Los Angeles. The downside is that it weakens a great strength of the Red Sox and that is their outfield defense. A defense that played crucial roles in their series victories over the Yankees and Astros.
Manny Machado and the Boston Red Sox
Manny Machado is certainly no stranger to controversy. It is by no means a new thing since his arrival in Los Angeles. Machado built this reputation in Baltimore as a rival of the Boston Red Sox. And, in a lot of people’s eyes, Machado is the reason why one the team’s leaders, Dustin Pedroia, has been a spectator for all but a handful of games this season. The incident occurred in a game in 2017 between the Red Sox and Orioles where Machado slid into Pedroia to break up a double play. Ultimately it injured Pedroia’s knee and the issue has plagued him ever since.
A few days later, Red Sox reliever Matt Barnes was suspended four games for throwing behind Machado’s head. Later in the year, game one starter, Chris Sale drew the ire of Machado with a few close pitches to start the game. Something that set Machado off after the game.
Chris Sale throws a ball behind Manny Machado let the Orioles know this ain’t over.. Notice Sale demeanor after.. he is nasty pic.twitter.com/1DGqyEs7kV
— Boston Sports Info (@bostonsportsinf) May 2, 2017
Needless to say, the approach the Red Sox pitchers have on Machado will be an interesting story to watch play out. Aside from all the antics, Machado has been his usual steady self through these playoffs. Machado has nine RBI’s in 11 games this postseason, including six in the NLDS.