If you would’ve predicted before the season started that the Dodgers and Red Sox would be the two teams playing for it all in the World Series, it wouldn't have been shocking to anybody. The Dodgers had just been there in 2017 with largely the same team and the Red Sox looked like a force when they added J.D. Martinez to their lineup in the winter.
Fast forward to the middle of the season and as Boston was bashing their way to 90 wins in mid-August, the Dodgers had fought through many obstacles just to be in the hunt for the postseason.
Justin Turner’s broken wrist at the end of spring training caused him to miss the first 40 games of the season. Corey Seager’s season-ending Tommy John surgery in the first week of May put a big hole in the Dodgers lineup that they had previously depended on. The starting rotation spent significant time on the shelf in May — including Clayton Kershaw who would miss 56 total games in two different trips to the disabled list in 2018.
After being swept in a three-game series at the hands of the Cardinals back on August 22, the Dodgers were 4 1⁄2 games out of first place in the NL West, behind the Diamondbacks and Rockies in third place. Two of those losses in the St. Louis series were due to a pair of two-run ninth innings against Kenley Jansen.
The big man’s heart condition caused a mini bullpen collapse in August that saw the Dodgers blow several leads. Even though he missed just nine games, Jansen had trouble all year finding himself in the ninth inning, giving up 13 homers on the season. Six was Jansen’s previous career high.
Back on May 16, the Dodgers lost their 26th game of the year to fall 8 1⁄2 games out of first with a 16-26 record. The Dodgers are just the sixth team ever to reach the World Series in a season in which they were 10 or more games under .500 at any point, and the first to do so since the 2005 Astros.
Heading into the final weekend of the season in San Francisco, there was still an outside possibility that the Dodgers could miss the playoffs altogether. Instead, they were able to take advantage of a Colorado loss to force a Game 163 to win the division. Had that not happened, the Dodger pitching for the postseason would’ve looked dramatically different in getting through a potential wild card game or other tiebreakers.
The Dodgers’ season resembles a prize fighter that takes one body blow after another, yet stands back up every time. The Red Sox have been the ones administering the beating as far as their season is concerned.
Scoring nearly 5 1⁄2 runs per game during the regular season, Boston’s 876 runs led all of baseball. The Red Sox had 2018’s best offense overall.
Even when they had injuries, it didn’t have much of an impact on their success as a club. When Chris Sale missed significant time, appearing in just one game between July 27 and September 11, Boston was 26-13 over that span.
The Red Sox lost only twice while dispatching of the Yankees and Astros this postseason. Both of those teams won at least 100 games.
Meanwhile, the Dodgers survived the Brewers vaunted bullpen, touching it up for 17 runs in the seven-game series. It ended up being the Dodger bullpen that shined, allowing just five runs.
That could be a big key to success for the Dodgers in this series, keeping it close or getting a lead early and then taking their chances with a Boston bullpen that has struggled at times. Los Angeles has the added advantage of the designated hitter for the games in Fenway Park, making it easier to navigate pitching strategy.
Weather will also be a factor in the first two games at Fenway, starting with the rain on Tuesday night. Both nights are going to be cold and it will dip below 40 on Wednesday.