By Matt Dolloff, 985TheSportsHub.com
After another long regular season, it's finally time for the Fall Classic - it's Red Sox vs Dodgers in the 2018 World Series. Major League Baseball execs are certainly thrilled to have two marquee franchises and major media markets competing in the final series of the season. It should be a great time for fans of the game of baseball, too.
The Dodgers are in the World Series for the second straight season. The Red Sox, meanwhile, made it back to the Fall Classic for the first time since 2013 after barely sniffing postseason success for four years in a row. The last time these two teams played was in Aug. of 2016 and both have made major changes on the roster.
So with that in mind, there's plenty to learn about the Dodgers before the teams take the field at Fenway Park on Tuesday night. Here's our official primer for the World Series to get you ready for Red Sox vs Dodgers.
Dodgers: By The Numbers
Regular season record: 92-71, 1st in NL West
Postseason record (so far): 7-4
Home record: 45-37
Road record: 47-34
Manager: Dave Roberts (3rd season, 287-200 overall record)
Game 7 starting lineup @ Brewers:
LF Joc Pederson
1B Max Muncy
3B Justin Turner
SS Manny Machado
CF Cody Bellinger
RF Yasiel Puig
2B Chris Taylor
C Austin Barnes
P Walker Buehler
Clayton Kershaw (2-1, 2.37 ERA)
Walker Buehler (0-1, 5.40 ERA)
Hyun-Jin Ryu (1-1, 4.40 ERA)
Rich Hill (0-0, 2.61 ERA)
Batting average: Chris Taylor, .360
Home runs: Manny Machado, 3
OPS: Chris Taylor, 1.067
Innings pitched: Clayton Kershaw, 19
Wins: Clayton Kershaw and Ryan Madson, 2 each
Strikeouts: Walker Buehler, 22
Team major-league ranks:
Runs scored: 5th (804)
Batting average: 14th (.250)
Home runs: 2nd (235)
OPS: 3rd (.774)
Starters ERA: 2nd (3.19)
Bullpen ERA: 8th (3.72)
Strikeouts: 3rd (1,565)
Opponents batting average: 4th (.230)
Offensively, the Red Sox top the Dodgers in three of the four categories above. Boston hit "only" 208 home runs to L.A.'s 235. The Dodgers have the Red Sox beat in pitching stats almost across the board, but the teams finished the regular season tied with a 3.72 relief ERA.
Number To Know: 1,436
That's the amount of times that Dodgers batters struck out in the regular season, making them the eighth-easiest team to strike out in baseball. Contrast that with the Red Sox, who were one of the hardest teams to punch out with just 1,253 on the season, fifth-best in the majors.
The Dodgers have also struck more than any other team in the postseason (117), while Boston has struck out just 67 times. The Red Sox are simply better at putting the ball in play, so it will be intriguing to see how much of a difference that makes on the field.
-- Will Manny Machado behave himself? The Dodgers third baseman has some obvious bad blood with the Red Sox going back to last season when he was with the Orioles. He also created some bad blood of his own with the Milwaukee Brewers, appearing to intentionally clip first baseman Jesus Aguilar in the leg while running to first base. Hard to believe we'd see any batters getting thrown at or clearing the benches, but Machado is a player to watch in this regard. He's also still an amazing ballplayer, which makes him the obvious villain in the series for anyone rooting against the Dodgers.
-- Which "postseason choker" kills the narrative? The Dodgers boast strong starting pitching, but their best starter has a David Price-like reputation in October. Clayton Kershaw will have to be on top of his game at Fenway Park to start the series, while Price will get a chance to keep it rolling after earning his first postseason win as a starter in the Red Sox' ALCS clincher. Starting pitching could turn out to be the difference in the series. And each team has a talented starter who could go wildly in one of two directions when they take the mound. But one of them is now going to get a ring, so something has to give here.
-- Can the Red Sox survive a bullpen battle? Hopefully, Craig Kimbrel has overcome his apparent issues with tipping his pitches. Also, hopefully other Sox relievers like Ryan Brasier can continue their October hot streak. Because the Dodgers' Kenley Jansen, Pedro Baez, Ryan Madson, and Dylan Floro have combined to allow precisely one earned run in 24.1 postseason innings (an outrageous 0.37 ERA). Their 1.30 bullpen ERA so far has been by far the best of any team that's played more than one postseason game. The Red Sox' middle-relief combo of Brasier, Matt Barnes, and Joe Kelly has been surprisingly good in October (combined 0.98 ERA), so it'll be important for them to keep it up if these games turn into battles of the bullpens in the late innings.
-- Are the Dodgers really going to lose two World Series in a row? L.A. has the edge in experience over this incarnation of the Red Sox. They played in the World Series last year and took the Houston Astros to seven games before coming up short. Their last three seasons have gone: loss in the NLDS, loss in the NLCS, loss in the World Series. A win in the Fall Classic is the next logical step. That's just an intangible thing, but the Dodgers do enter this series with a little extra motivation to finish the job. As well as the Red Sox are playing, you can't assume the Dodgers are going to just roll over.
Game 1: Tuesday, Oct. 23, 8:09 p.m. @ Fenway Park
Game 2: Wednesday, Oct. 24, 8:09 p.m. @ Fenway Park
Game 3: Friday, Oct. 26, 8:09 p.m. @ Dodger Stadium
Game 4: Saturday, Oct. 27, 8:09 p.m. @ Dodger Stadium
Game 5 (if necessary): Sunday, Oct. 28, 8:15 p.m. @ Dodger Stadium
Game 6 (if necessary): Tuesday, Oct. 30, 8:09 p.m. @ Fenway Park
Game 7 (if necessary): Wednesday, Oct. 31, 8:09 p.m. @ Fenway Park
All games will be broadcast on Fox.
Matt Dolloff is a digital producer for 985TheSportsHub.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Have a news tip, question, or comment for Matt? Follow him on Twitter @mattdolloff or email him at [email protected].