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And That Happened: Sunday’s Scores and Highlights

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Hi. Happy to back. Let’s recap, shall we?

Here are the scores. Here are the highlights:

Braves 7, Red Sox 1: The Braves salvage one against the Sox to avoid the sweep thanks to an outstanding performance from Mike Foltynewicz (7 IP, 3 H, 1 ER) and a three-run homer from Tyler Flowers, but got bad news in the form of a Ronald Acuña knee injury. That was quite a tumble. Here’s hoping the fact that his body is young will keep him from missing much time. Young people can bounce back from anything.

Yankees 3, Angels 1: The Yankees take two of three from the Angels thanks to a strong performance from Masahiro Tanaka, who allowed one run and struck out eight over six innings. Garret Richards pitched for the Angels. He threw 70 pitches in two and a third and walked five guys. That’s U-G-L-Y, he ain’t got no alibi, it’s ugly. His momma say he’s ugly, HEY.

Indians 10, Astros 9: That was a wild one. The Indians trailed 8-3 entering the bottom of the ninth, tied it up to force extras and then came from behind again in the 13th via a Yonder Alonso homer, holding on to win it in the 14th with a Greg Allen walkoff homer. Keying the ninth inning rally: a 17-pitch at bat from Jose Ramirez, who is having an absolutely fantastic year. All of that buried the fact that the Astros only had that lead because the Indians’ pen has been a garbage fire of late, letting Houston put themselves ahead in the first place. Let us dwell on that another day, however.

Tigers 3, White Sox 2: Blaine Hardy outdueled James Shields, allowing one run over seven to Shields’ three runs over seven. Hardy is really a reliever, by the way, but no one tell him that or else it’d be like when Wily E. Coyote looks down after running off a cliff. If he never knew, would he have fallen?

Nationals 5, Marlins 2: The Nats beat the fish for the 11th time in a row, completing the sweep in this series. Bryce Harper homered and hit a sac fly. He’s not been hitting great of late, but he’s hitting homers. He said after the game that he’d take a .230 average if he could hit 40 homers. He’s hitting .232 and is on pace for over 50, so I guess he’ll take that too.

Rays 8, Orioles 3: I missed the back and forth about Sergio Romo and his role when I was on vacation. I don’t have super strong opinions about that, but it didn’t work great yesterday as Romo gave up three runs in a third of an inning. Since his relief — Vidal Nuno and Austin Pruitt — combined to throw 8.2 scoreless innings after that, however, no one is going to dwell on it all too much. A six-run third inning also helped spackle over that mess. Brad Miller homered, doubled and drove in three. The Rays may be the world’s foremost test lab for the concept of getting cool with “bad ideas-good outcomes vs. good ideas-bad outcomes” this year.

Blue Jays 5, Phillies 3: The Jays took two of three from the Phillies, winning this series just like they won the 1993 World Series. Well, not just like that, because Joe Carter wasn’t playing, but you get that. Devon Travis and Dwight Smith Jr. each hit two-run doubles, Curtis Granderson — who was 12 during the 1993 Series, so at least he remembers it — homered and J.A. Happ, who turned 11 during the series — beat his old team.

Oh, and while I’m talking about the Phillies, I think you all need to know about the fact that, right around the corner from the place where I stayed in London was a Philadelphia Phillies theme bar. I am not making this up:

They later got on Twitter and asked if I was going to come by and watch the Phillies-Braves game with them. I declined, but only because the game didn’t start until midnight local time. And because I’m never going to a Phillies bar, ever, even if it’s in dang England.

Cardinals 6, Pirates 4: St. Louis was down 4-1 heading into the seventh but rallied with two that inning and three in the eighth to take two of three from the Pirates. Harrison Bader‘s RBI single tied it and the Cards then went ahead on a bases-loaded walk. That’s a pretty depressing way for a team to lose.

Brewers 8, Mets 7: New York had leads of 4-1 and 6-4 and still woofed it away. Domingo Santana‘s two-run double in the Brewers’ four-run seventh inning aided that woofing, as did Jesus Aguilar, who hit a three-run homer and drove in four. The Brewers take three of four from the Mets, who have lost five of six.

Royals 5, Rangers 3: It was Hammel vs. Hammels here, and Jason outpitched Cole, striking out ten and getting backed by homers from Drew Butera and Sal Perez. Texas went 0-for-11 with runners in scoring position. Oof.

Rockies 8, Reds 2: Carlos Gonzalez had four hits including an upper deck blast off of Matt Harvey, who gave up four over five and a third. David DahlNolan Arenado and Ian Desmond also homered for the Rockies, who took two of three from the Reds.

Athletics 2, Diamondbacks 1: Zack Greinke was pretty good until the sixth, when he issued a couple of walks and then gave up a tie-breaking RBI single to Matt Chapman. Coming into that inning Greinke had issued only seven walks all year. Frankie Montas pitched three-hit ball over six innings to snag his first win in his first start with the A’s.

Mariners 3, Twins 1: Mike Leake allowed one run over eight and Ryon Healy doubled home two runs in the eighth inning to break a 1-1 tie. Alex Colome made his first appearance as a Mariner and locked down the save. He won’t usually close for Seattle, but Edwin Diaz had a day off. The Mariners sweep the Twins and have won eight of nine.

Dodgers 6, Padres 1: Walker Buehler allowed one run over seven and struck out eight and Max Muncy and Cody Bellinger each homered. The Dodgers started out the season like total trash but have now won eight of ten and are only three and a half back in the West somehow.

Cubs 8, Giants 3: Cubs starter Tyler Chatwood didn’t have much, but neither did Giants starter Ty Blach, and the Cubs’ bullpen shut down the Giants for the final six and a third innings. Javier Baez‘s three-run shot in the fourth inning broke a 3-3 tie. This game lasted three and a half hours after which the Cubs got on an airplane to go play a day game today in Pittsburgh, which sounds like a load of fun. Not as fun as Pablo Sandoval playing second base, of course:

World Series Preview: Two power teams face off in a marquee matchup

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The suits at MLB headquarters and Fox Sports have to be happy to see the Dodgers and Red Sox facing off in the World Series. Both are marquee teams from major markets, giving the Fall Classic its biggest potential national exposure in many, many years. That’s money in the bank, folks.

But let’s not be cynical here: we should be happy about this matchup too because it really does pit the AL’s best and the NL’s best against each other.

The Red Sox, as we’ve already discussed, were the best team in baseball all year and, Vegas lines notwithstanding, are not anyone’s underdogs. Meanwhile in the National League, yes, I know the Brewers had home field advantage and a better overall record than the Dodgers, but after getting over their horrible start, it’s fair to say Los Angeles was the class of the Senior Circuit for most of the year. They certainly were as measured by run differential and, of course, dispatched the Brewers, primarily due to their depth.

Stars taking on stars. History facing history. A whole lot of celebrities in the stands in both parks and — if we’re truly lucky — Red Sox/Dodgers star Manny Ramirez will throw out the first pitch.

Wait, that’s NEVER going to happen. But some good baseball is over the next week or so. Here’s how it all breaks down:

 

THE ROTATIONS

In the regular season, based on ERA anyway, the Dodgers rotation of Clayton Kershaw, Rich Hill, Hyun-Jin Ryu and Walker Buehler were better than the Sox’ rotation of Chris SaleDavid PriceNathan Eovaldi and Rick Porcello. In the postseason, though, the Dodgers’ starters have all mixed in some clunkers with their fine performances while Boston’s quartet has been pretty consistent, leading to each team’s starters doing about as well as the other’s. Of course Boston has faced far tougher offensive competition than L.A. has — they had to go through the Yankees and the Astros — so adjust your analysis accordingly.

David Price will probably be the difference maker here. If his excellent ALCS Game 5 performance, the product of going heavy with his changeup, was harbinger as opposed to fluke, it’s a huge boost to Boston. Same goes for Chris Sale’s durability. He didn’t pitch much late in the season and we don’t know if his ALCS illness is going to play a factor. If there are any issues with Price or Sale, I give the Dodgers’ rotation an edge. If not, well, the Dodgers are still going to have a tall order in facing the Sox’ relentless offense, so it’s not like the edge is massive. At he moment I’ll lean in their direction, but it’s not a heavy lean. ADVANTAGE: DODGERS

 

THE LINEUPS

The Dodgers are no offensive slouches — they led the National League in runs and homers this year — but top to bottom I don’t think they’re anywhere near as scary as the Red Sox’ balanced lineup is. Indeed, Boston led all of baseball in runs, average, on-base percentage, slugging, total bases and OPS+. Oh, and they also scored 29 runs in five games after an excellent Astros pitching staff. There are no weak links here.

Once you take pitchers batting stats out of it, the Dodgers actually look pretty darn similar to the Red Sox, statistically speaking, and their superior bench — see below — is a big plus, but it’s very hard to make a case that they have a better offense than the Red Sox. Indeed, it’s hard to make a case that any team has a better offense than the Red Sox in all of 2018. ADVANTAGE: RED SOX

 

THE BULLPENS

The bullpen was the part of the team Red Sox fans worried about most heading into the postseason, but Matt Barnes, Ryan Brasier and Joe Kelly have allowed only two runs in 18 and two-thirds innings in October and Alex Cora’s use of starters Rick Porcello, Chris Sale and Nathan Eovaldi in relief has actually made it a strength. Indeed, Craig Kimbrel has been the shakiest part of the reliever corps so far, but perhaps that was because of tipping pitches? Hard to say as that is a go-to excuse for a lot of struggling pitchers, but it’s also hard to say that Red Sox bullpen is as serious a weakness as some feared a few weeks ago.

Heading into the NLCS all of the talk was about the Brewers’ bullpen, but Dodgers relievers were better, combining for a 1.45 ERA over 31 innings in those seven games. The signature game for them was, in hindsight, the series turning point: Game 4, with the Dodgers down two games to one and starter Rich Hill knocked out after five innings. Dave Roberts called on eight — eight! — relievers to shut Milwaukee out after that, and L.A. won it on a Cody Bellinger walkoff single. Can he do that every day? Nah, but it certainly was the case that Roberts has had confidence in every single member of his pitching staff this postseason and that confidence has been rewarded. That kind of depth will allow him to be aggressive in the World Series. ADVANTAGE: DODGERS

 

THE BENCHES

If each team follows form, they will utilize platoons, so expect to see Rafael Devers and Mitch Moreland to come off the bench later in games with lefty starters. Same for Joc Pederson and Max Muncy when the Sox go with their southpaws. The Red Sox lineup is superior, but the Dodgers have more depth and flexibility, utilizing every player on its roster during the postseason in ways no team has come close to matching. Indeed, they basically used 12 everyday players despite having only eight positions in which to put them and got the most out of everyone. It’s a nice luxury for Dave Roberts to have. ADVANTAGE: DODGERS

 

THE MANAGERS

The “Alex Cora played for Los Angeles and Dave Roberts played for Boston” thing is going to be the “Jerome Bettis is from Detroit” storyline of this World Series, I imagine. And I suppose that’s fine, as storylines like that have never killed anyone. Still, there are more fun ones:

  • How about “Dave Roberts: drought-ender?” As you may have heard, he was a hero for the Red Sox in 2004, helping to end an 86-year title drought for Boston. While the Dodgers’ drought has been nowhere near that long — 30 years — it has been long for that historically successful franchise.
  • How about “Terry Francona managerial tree” as both Roberts and Cora played for Tito in Boston, with Cora arriving the year Roberts left in 2005? If you go with that one, forgot momentarily that they both played much longer for Jim Tracy in Los Angeles, where they were teammates. The “Jim Tracy managerial tree” is nowhere near as fun a storyline.
  • How about “For the first in in baseball history, two minority managers will face off in the Fall Classic.” Take that, baseball’s hopefully-dead-and-buried history of not giving minorities a fair shot at such jobs due to the racist belief that they couldn’t handle it. Famously advanced, unfortunately, by a Dodgers figure once upon a time

In the end, though, storylines won’t matter. Both Cora and Roberts have proven themselves to be outstanding managers and neither of them has ever stood accused of screwing things up which, given the nature of managerial evaluation, is often the first thing anyone notices.

Each will have their challenges here, as the Red Sox’ superior lineup will make Roberts’ decisions about who to call on from the pen and when far more difficult than those he faced in Milwaukee. Cora, like most AL managers, has to decide what to do in the three games in the NL park when he does not have a DH. It’s a much bigger problem for Cora than a lot of teams, however, as his DH — J.D. Martinez — will have to displace the likely AL MVP in Mookie Betts on defense. As we’ve discussed, that will likely send Betts to second base, which takes away a big advantage the Sox have in terms of outfield defense. A tough call, the alternative for which is strategically using Martinez to pinch hit. Better that Cora have to make it than any of us.

A manager’s specific call could very well decide this World Series, but heading into it, there is little reason to doubt the ability of either skipper to make the right call when necessary. I suppose one could give Roberts a nod here simply because he’s more experienced, but that ignores the fact that Cora has already been to the Series as a bench coach and that managing one year in Boston is probably like managing four years anyplace else thanks to the scrutiny and stress. He’s not gonna be a deer in the headlights, folks.  ADVANTAGE: PUSH

 

PREDICTION

As my friend Joe Sheehan likes to say in his previews, the last three words of any preview — “[Team] in [Number of Games]” are the least important of them all. That’s thanks to randomness and the overall difficulty in predicting baseball outcomes of an insufficiently large sample size of games and all of that. Still, y’all expect a prediction and I, obviously, have never been afraid of looking wrong or dumb, so I’ll offer one in a second. First, I’ll talk my way through it.

The Dodgers have more areas of advantage as broken down above, but in most areas those advantages are slight. I think Boston’s offense, meanwhile, is significantly better and will prove to be far more exhausting for the Dodgers pitchers to face than anything they’ve seen so far.

This series is no mismatch, though, and one can easily imagine a scenario in which Clayton Kershaw reminds everyone why he was the best pitcher in baseball for several years running, L.A’s big playmakers Justin Turner and Yasiel Puig and come up big and the L.A. bullpen continues doing what it did in the N.L. playoffs and neutralizes the big Boston bats.

Ultimately, however, the Sox need less to go right than the Dodgers do. They simply need their lineup to continue doing what it has done, Chris Sale to be Chris Sale and David Price to simply not be a liability, which he was not the last time we saw him. Simply from an imagination standpoint, it’s easier to imagine the Sox running through the Dodgers than vice-versa. So I’ll call it this way:

BOSTON IN SEVEN