After three weeks of intense playoff matchups, the Los Angeles Dodgers and Boston Red Sox will meet on Oct. 23 to battle for the league championship.
Each team has one of the largest sport markets and fan bases in the entire league. Despite both of their successful pasts, this will be first time that the Dodgers and Red Sox will meet up in the World Series.
The Dodgers are returning to the World Series after a Game 7 defeat last year at the hands of the Houston Astros. The Dodgers defeated the Atlanta Braves, 3-1 with ease, behind the dominant pitching from starters Hyun Jin Ryu, Clayton Kershaw and Rich Hill. In a nail biter series, the Dodgers defeated the Milwaukee Brewers in an elimination Game 7. They knocked off Milwaukee with a 5-1 victory, clinching their second straight National League Pennant.
Their lead was solidified after outfielder, Yasiel Puig, launched a 3-run Home Run in the 6th inning. First Baseman and Outfielder, Cody Bellinger, won the NLCS MVP with his game-winning walk off RBI single in the 13th inning of Game 4, two run go-ahead Home Run early in Game 7 and game-saving catch in the 10th inning of Game 4. This series was crucial in boosting Bellinger’s confidence as he went hitless in 11 at bats against the Braves and is notorious for underperforming in the playoffs.
“Last year, it felt like a lot of things came easy for us, and we fell one game short,” said third baseman Justin Turner, one of several key Dodgers players, via The New York Times. “This year, there was a lot of hurdles to get over. A lot of fighting.”
The Red Sox carried their season-long dominance into the playoffs. They defeated the New York Yankees swiftly in four games (3-1), in the most anticipated and heated rivalry in the league. Many expected their series with the defending champions, Houston Astros, to be the toughest matchup of the playoffs, but the Red Sox were able to handle the Astros easily, beating them in five games (4-1).
Continuing their historic season, they are the third team to ever beat two 100-win teams on their path the World Series. The offense has remained dominant, as they are outscoring opponents 56-35 in the playoffs. The Sox have one of the deepest rosters in baseball, with an effective pitching staff and explosive offense.
“We have 108 wins. Two or three guys don’t do that,” said Designated Hitter, JD Martinez to ESPN. “It’s a full team. This whole series, this whole playoffs, has been a display of that. We’ve been doing this all year. On this stage, it’s just a bigger platform.”
If the Dodgers have a chance of beating the Red Sox, they will need to rely on strong outings from their starting pitchers, specifically Clayton Kershaw and Walker Buehler. Kershaw is regarded as one of the best, if not the best, pitcher in baseball, but he has faced heavy criticism for his postseason performance with a record of 9-8 and Earned Run Average of 4.09. Kershaw is definitely pitching with a chip on his shoulder and his success will immensely impact the Dodgers’ overall performance. Buehler is an elite rookie, who is one of the hardest throwers in the league and has been a key component of the Dodgers playoff success. However, it will be interesting to watch if the pressure of pitching on baseball’s largest stage will have a detrimental effect on Buehler’s performance.
The other key to the Dodgers’ success will be the consistency of the offense. A majority of their runs tend to come off of Home Runs, but it is evident that when they are not hitting Home Runs, their offense is extremely ineffective. It is important that they are able to piece together base hits and not leave men in scoring position, in order to pose a threat to the Red Sox.
On the other side of the diamond, Boston has been the hottest team in all of baseball. If the Red Sox are able to continue their offensive dominance, it is nearly impossible to beat them in a seven game series. They also have home-field advantage and will be backed by the entire Boston fan base.
Overall, the Red Sox hope to top off their historic season as league champions, as the Dodgers seek their first World Series victory in 30 years.
“It’s going to be as pure of a baseball experience as you can have in the modern era,” said Dodgers’ president, Stan Kasten.