Boston Red Sox (108-54) vs. Los Angeles Dodgers (92-71)
The Dodgers might have scuffled early in the year, and injuries may have plagued their campaign, but make no mistake, this is no David vs. Goliath battle against the 108-win Red Sox. It’s more like Goliath vs. Goliath. Both teams boast powerful lineups that can put up crooked numbers in a hurry. The Dodgers hit the most home runs in the National League, while the Red Sox led the majors in pretty much every meaningful offensive category EXCEPT home runs. Both teams have aces, Chris Sale and Clayton Kershaw, that, when right, can stifle even the most impressive offenses. Behind their aces, both teams have mercurial starters who can either amaze or disappoint in equal measure. Both teams have All-Star level closers, Craig Kimbrel and Kenley Jansen, who have displayed shakiness at times this season. Kimbrel, especially, has looked downright vulnerable at times. And both teams have the same notable weakness. Neither team has a rock-solid plan to get to their closer. Both bullpens have been maddening at times with control issues, inability to lock opponents down and nerves plaguing both bullpens. The Red Sox used starters Nathan Eovaldi and Rich Porcello multiple times this postseason when the game was on the line. The Dodgers used their closer as a bridge, then turned to ace Clayton Kershaw to pitch the ninth inning of the win-or-go-home game seven. Neither scenario is ideal, but in the playoffs, you worry about tomorrow when it arrives. What does this mean? I suspect that it means that we won’t be seeing a lot of 2-1 wins in this World Series.
Looking down these rosters, there’s good balance on both sides. Both lineups can do damage one through nine, and I don’t see a lot to separate them. The Dodgers boast the more dangerous infield with Manny Machado and Justin Turner, while Boston has the advantage in the outfield with Betts, Benintendi and Bradley. Boston clearly has the edge with the DH, as their triple crown threat J.D. Martinez occupies that hole, and it looks like Matt Kemp, who cratered out during last year’s playoffs will occupy that slot for Los Angeles. The Red Sox have been offering up a platoon at catcher, with Sandy Leon and Christian Vasquez being used almost interchangeable. Neither has caught lightning at the plate, but both have been reliable defensively. Yasmani Grandal certainly carries more pop in his bat than either of Boston’s guys, but he’s had a tough time behind the plate, allowing passed balls at a historic rate in the NLCS. Eventually, the Dodgers chose to bench him, but he’s back in the lineup for tonight’s game one.
Prediction: I foresee a pretty evenly matched series. The Dodgers have been better, and healthier towards the end of the season than they were in the beginning, but let’s not forget that this is a Red Sox team that won 108 games with their ace on the D.L. several times, among other injuries to key starters. Chris Sale only won twelve games for the Red Sox this year. Let that sink in for a second.
IF the Dodgers can win both Kershaw games, that’s a big chance for them to capture the crown. But if the Red Sox can get all over the big left-hander early in game one, it might be exceptionally difficult for L.A. to stop the bleeding. The Dodgers come close. Again. But not close enough.
Red Sox in six.
Image Source: USA Today