On Tuesday evening, Clayton Kershaw will toe the rubber at Fenway Park for the Los Angeles Dodgers in Game 1 of the World Series.
Kershaw, this generation’s most accomplished pitcher, is still looking to change the narrative on his October performances as the Dodgers return to the World Series for the second consecutive season.
The Red Sox will hand the ball to their own southpaw ace, seven-time American League All-Star Chris Sale. Boston find themselves the early favorites to win their fourth World Series title in a 15-year period.
In addition to Kershaw and Sale, this World Series will present fans with even more star power: Manny Machado, Mookie Betts, Yasiel Puig, Xander Bogaerts, Justin Turner, J.D. Martinez, Walker Buehler, David Price, Kenley Jansen and Craig Kimbrel will all compete in this 114th Fall Classic.
We asked our staff to give their predictions on the World Series. Here’s what they came up with…
Tim Kelly, Phillies Nation Editorial Director
When I was a kid, if there was a World Series matchup between the Boston Red Sox and Los Angeles Dodgers with two Hall of Fame caliber pitchers set to square off in Game 1, the sports world wouldn’t have been able to contain their excitement.
That feeling seems to be lacking today, which doesn’t speak to a lack of interest in baseball, but rather to how disastrous baseball’s national marketing has been.
In any event, it’s still a World Series that figures to be riveting to those who do choose to tune in. After a 108-win regular season, the Red Sox, guided by first-year manager Alex Cora, appear to have a chance to make this a quick series after winning the final four games of the ALCS over the defending World Series champion Houston Astros. But the Dodgers starting pitching makes me lean in their direction.
Like many, I’ve been burned by picking Clayton Kershaw in the postseason before, but I’ll give an edge to him over a less-than-100 percent Chris Sale. Though Hyin-Jin Ryu struggled in the NLCS and David Price was excellent in Game 5 of the ALCS, I’m still hesitant to bet on Price in October. And while Walker Buehler hasn’t been his normally impressive self in the postseason, I just have a gut feeling he’ll outpitch whoever the Red Sox ultimately decide to have pitch Game 3.
After an NLCS that saw him generate headlines for all the wrong reasons, long-time Baltimore Oriole Manny Machado has as many career regular season home runs at Fenway Park as he does at Dodger Stadium. Machado, on the cusp of free-agency, will embrace being a heel and win the World Series MVP as the Dodgers win the series in six games.
Matt Veasey, Phillies Nation Staff Writer
The Red Sox and Dodgers are meeting in the Fall Classic for just the second time (1916) in the history of these two storied franchise. It also marks the first-ever World Series in which both managers – Dave Roberts of Los Angeles and Alex Cora with Boston – are minorities. This is just the third time (1964, 2014) in MLB history that two franchise who have each won at least a half-dozen World Series will be meeting.
Before I researched the positional match-ups, my gut instinct was to heavily favor the BoSox in this World Series. But when you truly evaluate the talent, the Dodgers prove at least as likely to gut out a victory.
Still, my feeling is that Boston’s infield can hold their own, while the Red Sox outfield of Andrew Benintendi, Jackie Bradley Jr. and Mookie Betts is hands-down the best all-around group in baseball.
On the mound the biggest key for me is Chris Sale. If the big lefty is healthy and in his usual dominant form, I’ll take the Red Sox in five games. If he struggles and/or isn’t fully healthy, then I’m still going to take Boston, but would then call it six or seven games.
I don’t think much of the catching on either side. Which says to me that if any of the backstops on either club steps up with a hot series, they could actually make the difference.
But for an actual MVP choice, I’m going to take Benintendi. The 24-year-old plays somewhat in the shadow of Betts, one of the consensus top players in the game today, and Bradley, who is the best defensive outfielder in the game. But Benintendi does everything well, and something tells me that this series will be his coming out party.
Drew Rhoades, Phillies Nation Staff Writer
The Los Angeles Dodgers last World Series victory came in 1988, making it 30 straight years without another championship win. Make that 31 straight years. While it may not be a bold prediction, I see the Boston Red Sox winning the World Series over the Dodgers, four games to two. Although anything can happen in the postseason, rolling with the 108 win team is generally a smart idea. The combined firepower of both teams (Boston scored the most runs in the league, the Dodgers scored the fifth most) is incredible, particularly the Mookie Betts-J.D. Martinez duo, who have batting averages of .346 and .330 respectively. That will be a problem that L.A. will struggle to find an answer to.
The dark horse factor in the series could very well be the bullpens, which have been crucial factors in the postseason runs of both teams. Craig Kimbrel versus Kenley Jansen is a great closer matchup, and the Dodgers go-to’s in the bullpen (Jansen, Pedro Baez, Dylan Floro) all have yet to allow a run in the postseason. Boston’s bullpen has been equally impressive, with relievers like Ryan Braiser and Joe Kelly clicking on all cylinders. It wouldn’t be surprising if one of these bullpen’s hot streaks run out due to the impressive offenses they’ll be tasked with facing. Scoring late in a game could be a huge momentum changer, especially if the starting pitching outperforms the offenses in the series. An important note: The Red Sox average 2.26 runs in the last four innings of a game in 2018, which leads the league.
My point about the bullpens could very well go the other way: If either team’s starting pitching can give at least a quality start, they’ll be in a solid position due to their shutdown relievers. I believe it’s the team whose rotation is able to minimize the damage that will gain the upper-hand in the series. To me, the Chris Sale and David Price-lead pitching staff represent that potential. Sale has struggled a bit this postseason (he walked four batters in just four innings in his last start against the Astros), but to count out a pitcher who had a 2.11 ERA this past season would be foolish. If Sale and Price, who has a 3.38 ERA in October, can find their groove, the series will be the Sox’s to lose. Sorry, Chase. Another great World Series parade moment might not be in the cards.
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