Just after 8 p.m. Tuesday, the Red Sox will welcome the Los Angeles Dodgers to Fenway Park for the first game of the 144th edition of the World Series.
And history will be made, one way or the other, for either a Red Sox team that won 108 regular season games or a Dodgers team that fought its way into the playoffs after falling well short of expectations for much of 2018. The Red Sox are attempting to win the franchise’s fourth title in the last 14 years and continue to establish themselves as a portrait of sustained success in professional sports. The Dodgers, meanwhile, have not won a World Series title since 1988 and are looking to rebound from a loss in the championship series last October.
There will be a lot to watch for once the first pitch is thrown and each team starts to claw toward four wins. Here is the World Series schedule, and a few things that could prove pivotal:
- Game 1: Tuesday, Dodgers at Red Sox, air time 7:30, first pitch 8:09 (Fox)
- Game 2: Wednesday, Dodgers at Red Sox, air time 7:30, first pitch 8:09 (Fox)
- Game 3: Friday, Red Sox at Dodgers, air time 7:30, first pitch 8:09 (Fox)
- Game 4: Saturday, Red Sox at Dodgers, air time 7:30, first pitch 8:09 (Fox)
- Game 5 (if necessary): Sunday, Red Sox at Dodgers, air time 8:00, first pitch 8:15 (Fox)
- Game 6 (if necessary): Oct. 30, Red Sox at Dodgers, air time 7:30, first pitch 8:09 (Fox)
- Game 7 (if necessary): Oct. 31, Red Sox at Dodgers, air time 7:30, first pitch 8:09 (Fox)
A constructed rivalry
There was one clear winner once the Dodgers advanced past the Brewers on Saturday night, and that was the wallet of Major League Baseball. The matchup will attract television viewers from two of the country’s biggest sports markets and drum up coast-to-coast excitement for a sport that’s been ridiculed for its lack of appeal to younger audiences. Those on the Fox broadcast will be sure to mention this once or twice. And they may even try to tell you that Red Sox vs. Dodgers is some kind of long-standing, storied rivalry.
That part will not be true. There are some things that connect the Red Sox and Dodgers, like that their managers (Dave Roberts for the Dodgers, Alex Cora for the Red Sox) were once teammates, or that they met in the World Series 102 years ago, or that they both play baseball. There are also things that connect the two cities, like that the Boston Celtics and Los Angeles Lakers have been competing to be the NBA’s premier franchise for half a century, or that Los Angeles is on the West Coast, Boston is on the East Coast, and people from those places often waste time arguing about which part of the country is better to live in.
But there is nothing that makes this Red Sox-Dodgers matchup any more significant than it being for a championship (which, it should be said, is plenty significant on its own). Both teams represent major sports towns. Both have histories that are important to baseball. But those histories have rarely intersected, at least until they crash into each other this week.
Manny being Manny
In the last three weeks, Dodgers shortstop Manny Machado has turned himself into the villain of baseball’s postseason with one headline-making antic after the next.
In Game 7 of the National League Championship Series, he bunted for a base hit, turned to a booing Brewers crowd and grabbed his crotch to show his appreciation for their support. In Game 5 of the NLCS, he kicked the foot of Brewers first baseman Jesus Aguilar as he ran through first base, leading Aguilar to assume Machado did it intentionally, leading both benches to clear and Brewers fans to mercilessly boo Machado once the series swung back to Miller Park. Other than that, he admitted to the Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal that he is not the kind of player who hustles, had a questionable takeout slide into second base and was criticized by Hall of Fame pitcher Jim Palmer for jogging out a groundball.
Machado also has a past with the Red Sox – particularly with Game 1 starter Chris Sale and reliever Matt Barnes – as both threw very hard fastballs in his direction in 2017 after Machado slid hard into second base and injured Dustin Pedroia’s knee. The Red Sox felt Machado’s slide was unnecessary. Machado felt throwing at him was “coward stuff,” and said as much in a long, profanity-laced rant about the Red Sox pitching staff. And it seems that more of baseball is starting to side against Machado, with Brewers outfielder Christian Yelich calling the incident with Aguilar, “a dirty play by a dirty player.”
So what will Machado do next? Stay tuned.
The Price is right? What about Kershaw?
Both teams have a generational pitcher who has been labeled as a player who cannot succeed in October.
David Price will start for the Red Sox in Game 2 and has rarely seen his dominance as a starting pitcher translate to the postseason. That changed in the Red Sox’s American League Championship Series-clinching win over the Houston Astros, when Price threw six scoreless innings and regained the trust of a fan base that was ready to write him off as a playoff option, or maybe already had. Now he will get his chance to either continue his comeback surge or revert to his old playoff ways, getting the nod Wednesday for his first World Series start of his career.
Clayton Kershaw, the Dodgers’ ace and one of baseball’s best pitchers for close to a decade, has had a similar narrative follow him throughout his career. Kershaw has a 4.09 ERA in 28 career postseason appearances and has failed to live up to his reputation in a handful of high-pressure starts and situations. But he has, more than anything, become synonymous with the Dodgers’ inability to turn constant regular season success into a championship. That is shifting this fall. Kershaw has been lights-out in two starts and finished out the Dodgers’ Game 7 win over the Brewers in the NLCS. He will have an opportunity to build on that success right away against the Red Sox, taking the ball against Sale in Game 1.
Many mentions of ‘The Steal’
Roberts, the Dodgers’ manager, played just 45 of his 832 career games with the Red Sox. But that can never take away from the play that, in some ways, defined his career as a scrappy utility outfielder. Roberts and the Red Sox and the city of Boston will always have “The Steal.”
You may hear about “The Steal” a lot in the coming days, so here is what you should know: In 2004, the Red Sox trailed 3-0 to the New York Yankees in the ALCS and it looked like their 86-year World Series drought may spiral on for at least another season. That was until they rallied off four wins, staging the biggest comeback in sports history, and it all started with Roberts’ legs inside Fenway Park. With the Red Sox trailing 4-3 in the ninth inning of Game 4, and with Hall of Fame closer Mariano Rivera on the mound, Roberts stole second and later scored the game-tying run on a single.
Had he not stole the base, he would not have been in position to score, and the single would have moved him to second or third, and who knows what would have happened from there. Instead, his speed set the Red Sox on course to vanquish “The Curse of the Bambino.” Now he will be in the opposing dugout at Fenway Park, pressing the buttons for the Dodgers, hoping he can help another team end a decades long stretch of coming up short.