World Series preview: Los Angeles Dodgers vs. Boston Red Sox — Two storied franchises meet

The ALCS and NLCS didn’t go the way I expected and as a result, the World Series will be contested between two the most storied franchises in Major League Baseball, with the Dodgers and Red Sox meeting in the Fall Classic for the first time since 1916, when the Red Sox beat the then-Brooklyn Robins. The Dodgers went to the full seven games in the National League Championship Series, getting past the Brewers, while the Red Sox needed just five games to beat the defending champion Astros in the American League Championship Series. The Dodgers are in the World Series for the second straight season after losing to Houston in a seven-game classic a year ago, and the Red Sox are in it for the first time since 2013, when they beat the Cardinals. Los Angeles is looking for its first title since 1988.

The Dodgers won the NL West — after winning a tie-breaking Game 163 over the Rockies — and finished the regular season with a 92-71 record that was the third-best in the National League. The Red Sox, on the other hand, won a franchise-record 108 games en route to securing the best record in the majors over the course of the season. That MLB-best record gives the Red Sox home-field advantage, securing them Games 1 and 2 at Fenway Park, along with Games 6 and 7, if necessary.

Games 1 and 2 are at Fenway Park on Tuesday and Wednesday with first pitch scheduled for 8:09pm. After a travel day Thursday, the series moves to Dodger Stadium for Games 3-5 set for Friday through Sunday. First pitch for Games 3 and 4 is also at 8:09pm, with Game 5 (if necessary) set to begin at 8:15pm. If the series goes beyond five games, Games 6 and 7 are back in Boston on October 30 and 31, respectively. First pitch for both of those games is again at 8:09pm. All games are on Fox in the U.S., and all times are Eastern.

How did they get here?

After winning the NL West in the aforementioned tiebreaker, the Dodgers beat the Braves in a four-game NLDS and then eked past the Brewers in the NLCS that went the distance. The Red Sox finished eight games ahead of the Yankees in the AL East before beginning their postseason run by beating the Yankees, 3-1, in the ALDS and then the 4-1 ALCS victory over the Astros.

Pitching

Game 1 looks to feature a matchup of two top-tier pitchers, with the Dodgers expected to start SP Clayton Kershaw — who pitched the ninth inning of Game 7 of the NLCS — with the Red Sox likely going with SP Chris Sale, who didn’t make his scheduled Game 5 start in the ALCS after being hospitalized for a stomach infection. Both pitchers spent time on the DL during the regular season and threw around 160 innings, but they put up good numbers when they did start. Kershaw posted a 2.73 ERA with a 9-5 record, while Sale went 12-4 with an impressive 2.11 ERA. I think Sale is the better pitcher at this point in their careers, so I have the Red Sox the advantage in Game 1 starting pitching.

Beyond those starters, things get a little more murky. The Game 2 matchup looks to be Dodgers SP Rich Hill opposing Red Sox SP David Price, who has historically struggled in his postseason career but is 1-0 with a 3.38 ERA and 13 strikeouts in 10.2 innings in two starts this month. As the series moves to Dodger Stadium for Game 3, the anticipated pitching matchup pits Red Sox SP Nathan Eovaldi, who they acquired in a trade with the Rays during the summer, facing Dodgers SP Walker Buehler, who had an impressive rookie season. Fourth in line to take the mound are SP Rick Porcello for Boston and SP Hyun-Jin Ryu for Los Angeles. I think Buehler is the best of this group, and each of the Red Sox starters behind Sale have question marks, so I give the Dodgers the advantage in starting pitching from Nos. 2-4 in the teams’ rotations.

Both teams were top 10 in the majors during the regular season in bullpen ERA with an identical 3.72 ERA . The Dodgers’ bullpen has been impressive through the first two rounds of the playoffs, posting a 1.30 ERA in their 11 games. Boston’s bullpen ERA is closer to its regular-season numbers with a 3.62 ERA in nine games. Dodgers closer Kenley Jansen has yet to allow an earned run in 6.2 innings over his six appearances, with 10 strikeouts on his ledger. Red Sox closer Craig Kimbrel, on the other hand, has struggled to the tune of a 7.11 ERA and a 1.89 WHIP in 6.1 innings over five games; he has struck out eight batters. And Kimbrel’s ERA could be worse, but he has stranded a number of runners on base through the first two rounds. The Dodgers have the advantage in relief pitching.

Advantage: Red Sox 

Offense

The Red Sox finished the regular season at or near the top in many of the major hitting categories. Their .268 average, 829 RBI, 355 doubles, 876 runs and .792 OPS all led the majors, and they were in the top 10 with 208 home runs. The Dodgers were closer to the league average with a .250 average, but they were second in the majors with 235 home runs and third with a .774 OPS and were in the top 10 in many of the other categories on offense, and they had a MLB-best 647 walks.

The Dodgers have continued their power surge in the postseason, with their 13 home runs so far second only to the Astros, but their .268 average places them around the middle of the 10 playoff teams. The Red Sox are hitting .253 through the ALCS, second in the postseason, but their nine home runs are the fewest among the four teams that made the league championship series and played the most games so far in the playoffs.

Leading the offense for the Dodgers are OFs Yasiel Puig and Joc Pederson, 1B Cody Bellinger, IF Max Muncy and midseason acquisition SS Manny Machado. Leading the Red Sox lineup are offseason free-agent addition DH J.D. Martine, who hit 43 home runs during the regular season,  American League MVP candidate OF Mookie Betts, 3B Rafael Devers, SS Xander Bogaerts and OF Jackie Bradley Jr., who was named MVP of the ALCS.

Advantage: Red Sox 

Defense

The Red Sox were the better team defensively during the regular season, making 77 errors compared to 100 for the Dodgers.

Advantage: Red Sox 

Managers

The 2016 NL Manager of the Year Dave Roberts is in his third season as a major-league manager, and managing in the World Series for the second straight season. Red Sox skipper Alex Cora is in his first season as a manager in the majors.

Advantage: Dodgers

Prediction

Throughout the season, the American League has had the best teams at the top of the league, and many people expected whatever AL team made it to the Fall Classic to win it. I have been of that opinion, and I am sticking to it now that we know the World Series participants. I don’t think the Dodgers can match up with the Red Sox, and I expect Boston to win its ninth World Series title.

Red Sox in six.

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