Though the year was as rough and unpredictable as it possibly could be, the Dodgers once again find themselves four wins away from winning a World Series Championship.
The whole year was a struggle, including getting to and through the NLCS. Their opponent in the World Series, the Boston Red Sox, were such a complete juggernaut throughout the entire season. Boston has only lost two games in their postseason so far, while playing two teams that each won over 100 games in the regular season.
Some might not give the Dodgers much of a chance against such a powerhouse of a team. (I have one Red Sox fan friend in particular who is convinced that the Sox will sweep Los Angeles). Yesterday, Dennis took a look at how both teams matchup against each other at each position. When you break it down, the teams are pretty even. Let’s highlight two areas where the Dodgers could in fact excel over the Red Sox.
LATE INNINGS—Going into the NLCS, all of the chatter was about how the Milwaukee Brewers bullpen was the best there was, and once they had the lead, forget it. Game over. Then the games were played, and that’s not the scenario that played out. The Dodger bullpen bested Milwaukee’s in a huge way. Over the seven game span, Dodger relievers only allowed five runs. Milwaukee relievers allowed 17.
Boston starters Chris Sale and David Price, while both very good pitchers, have shown some inconsistency and that they can be gotten to. If L.A.’s bats can knock them early in games one and two and put some pressure and tax Boston’s bullpen early in the series, I think the Dodgers have a clear advantage in their bullpen.
Ryan Madson has seemingly turned his season around. Julio Urías has shined in his return from shoulder surgery. And most importantly, Kenley Jansen has found it. It was have taken all season, but his last two outing have shown Jansen at his best. Conversely, Boston’s closer Craig Kimbrel has not had a scoreless outing yet this postseason.
In three of the four games that the Dodgers lost throughout the postseason to this point, they had the game-tying run either on base or at the plate. They were victorious in a 13-inning battle. In all four games that the Dodgers won against the Brewers, Milwaukee scored first. Being up to 10 games out of first place early in the year, the Dodgers have spent the whole year coming from behind, and an early lead by their opponent doesn’t mean much to them.
EVERY GAME LEADING UP TO THE WORLD SERIES—There is no denying that the Red Sox have had an incredible year. They won 108 games in a tough division, and ran through the divisional and championship series against two teams that also won more than 100 games. As previously stated, the Dodgers struggled all year. Nothing came easy, even for a team as deeply talented as they are.
But yet, here they are. The Dodgers have been tested all year long. They started the season with a huge hangover of losing Game 7 of the World Series, then went on to lose both their All-Star shortstop and third baseman to injury. Every starting pitcher was on the disabled list at some point. Their All-Star closer dealt with life-threatening heart issues, and it was uncertain if he would be able to return. Fourth place in the division at one point, and third place to start September. And the platooning; oh, the platooning! But they won when it counted most—against teams in their division who were ahead of them, when they has one game to win the division, and against a really good Milwaukee Brewers team to return to the World Series.
Tim Kurkjian, one of my favorite baseball writers, highlights team chemistry as one of the three reasons the Red Sox will beat the Dodgers. What the Red Sox have sounds awesome. But the Dodgers have endured the loss of teammates, and accepting new ones, like Manny Machado who brings his own ego and star power to a team already filled with both. They have all dealt with reduced playing time, and have fully bought into team over individual. They have tasted the bitterness of defeat and know what it takes for that to not happen again. Dave Roberts has been a calm, steady force who never doubted the team would make it back to the World Series.
The Dodgers have won when it’s meant the most. The Red Sox remain largely untested, floating through the season with ease. If Los Angeles continues its patience, and late game pressure, they will finally throw the 30-year-old monkey off their back and get that long sought after ring.