World Series Set to Begin
After a lull of divisional series, the championship series saw a game seven and more excitement than the rest of the playoffs combined. Will it continue into the World Series?
I wrote last week, before the championships series started, that the divisional series were lame – and they were. There seemed to be some clear mismatches and it showed on paper and in real life. The series weren’t really close, and it was easy to tell who the better team was. The championship series changed all of that.
Brewers & Dodgers
The Dodgers and Brewers put on an absolute show. The Dodgers felt like the better team going into the series, and looked like clear winners after game 4. But the Brewers were ready and stormed back to force a game seven. Last week, I predicted the Dodgers would win if they could keep Christian Yelich at bay and get some production out of Yasiel Puig or Matt Kemp. They did keep Yelich at bay, he cooled off substantially after the Brewers finally lost a game to end their win-streak he led the charge on with his MVP-caliber close to the season. Pitching was incredible on both sides, and with the help of Puig, the Dodgers were able to overcome the back and forth of the series to make it through.
There were some odd moves in this series though, and it wasn’t without conflict or drama. First, there was the Manny Machado’s stride vs Jesus Aguilar’s ankle play. Aguilar’s foot was on the bag too much. Despite that, Machado could have avoided it, and rather seem to adjust his stride to be sure to give the first basemen a kick as he went by. I’ve ran down the first baseline a lot in my life.
Never, not once, has my natural stride been to skip a step and drag my inside foot over the inside edge of the bag. I can understand Machado’s motivation to pull the move, but it was bush league and the outrage that poured out of the situation was well-deserved.
Then there was the “chess-match” between managers. Dave Roberts, the manager for the Dodgers, played around with his lineup quite a bit. After Cody Bellinger put an end to his atrocious post-season drought with a walk-off single in game four, Roberts turned around and batted him in the leadoff spot for game five. This prompted Craig Counsell, Brewers’ manager, to pull some interesting moves of his own. Counsell started game five with a late-inning reliever on the mound, just to pull him after Bellinger’s at-bat one out later. We’ve seen this crazy, micro-managing become quite popular over the last few years, as sabermetrics have led to single outs being more important than ever before.
Red Sox & Astros
The Red Sox and Astros played a surprisingly short series that felt a lot closer than it really was. I’m not sure if it was just because the Astros are the Astros, but it didn’t feel like they were out of it after getting down 3-1 in the series. They had Justin Verlander coming up to the mound for game five and it seemed as though they were destined to, at the very least, force a game six. It was not to be though, as the Red Sox kept up their superb defense and surging offense to send the Astros packing.
And now it’s a west coast vs east coast series. The game times will be surprisingly uniform, as all seven potential games are set to start around 7:15 CT. These two teams have proven they are the ones who should be here, and they’re set to duke it out. Now for the scary part: my predictions.
Last year, I predicted the World Series perfectly before it started. There’s no way that happens again, but I might as well take a stab at it. These two teams match up well on paper with solid, well-filled lineups full of athleticism, power and swagger. Luckily, Dustin Pedroia won’t be there to watch out for an aggressively sliding Machado, but maybe Mookie Betts will be?
To me, it comes down to the outfields for each of these teams. The Red Sox have the best outfield in baseball, and it showed all 162 games this year. However, the Dodgers have some dudes in their outfield. Puig seems to be feeling like the 2012 version of himself right now, which bodes well for bat-flip fans (look up the video of him bat-flipping after an RBI single). They’ve also moved Cody Bellinger to the outfield, which seems to be going well. And with Matt Kemp, Christ Taylor and Joc Pederson all available as well, they may be able to match Boston’s big-three with a platoon of its own.
If Chris Sale is ready to go, and done dealing with belly-button-ring-related-health-issues, I think the Red Sox have an edge on paper. If Chris Sale doesn’t show up like he can, I think it will go to seven games. In the end, I think the Red Sox will end up winning the title in six games, closing out their fantastic season in front of an electrified Fenway crowd. The Dodgers are a very good team, but the Red Sox are playing better than any team I remember seeing in nearly my entire life (aside from the Yankee’s Jeter-based dynasty). I think their home-field advantage and incredible outfield defense will keep them rolling and leave the Dodgers as runners-up yet again.