Dodgers attempt to come back, but odds are against them

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The Red Sox and the Dodgers resume World Series play in Los Angeles tonight, with Boston up 2-0. In light of that, how are the Dodgers’ chances?

Not great!

  • A team has taken a 2-0 lead in the World Series 54 times. Those teams have gone on to win the Series 43 of those times, including in each of the last 10 World Series in which that has occurred;
  • 31 of the past 38 teams that have won the first two games at home, as Boston has, have gone on to win it;
  • Overall, 21 of the 54 teams that went up 2-0 have gone on to sweep the Series. 

The last time a team came back from an 0-2 hole and won the World Series was 1996, when the Yankees did it to the Braves. The last time a team came back from the Dodgers’ specific situation —  down 0-2 heading home — was in 1981, when the Dodgers did it to the Yankees.

If it makes L.A. fans feel any better, the Dodgers themselves have come back from an 0-2 hole three times: 1981, 1965 and 1955. Maybe, for good luck, they should get Fernando Valenzuela, Sandy Koufax and, I dunno, Carl Erskine to throw out the first pitches tonight.

World Series Game 3

Red Sox vs. Dodgers
Ballpark: Dodger Stadium
Time: 8:09 PM Eastern
TV: FOX
Pitchers: Rick Porcello vs. Walker Buehler
Breakdown:

The Red Sox finally throw a righty at the Dodgers, which means that the Dodgers will finally start their top home run-hitters, Max Muncy, Joc Pederson and Cody Bellinger. Overall, L.A. batters have hit righty pitching better this year so between that, some home cooking and some warmer weather, maybe the Dodgers bats will break out of their funk.

Porcello has made four appearances in this postseason, two of which were starts. One was pretty good: he gave up one run in five innings to the Yankees in the ALDS. One was not so great, as he allowed four runs over four innings to the Astros in the ALCS. Boston won both of those games, however, because they’re pretty good at beating the tar out of opposing pitchers and their bullpen, despite worries about it heading into the postseason, has been great. The Dodgers know that pretty darn well, having gone hitless against Joe Kelly, Nathan Eovaldiand Craig Kimbrell in Game 2 and managing just one run on three hits over five innings against the Boston bullpen in Game 1.

Buehler allowed a combined nine runs in his first two playoff outings but pitched much better against the Brewers in Game 7 of the NLDS. They’ll certainly need that Buehler tonight. And then some, actually, as he left Game 7 in the fifth inning and so far this series the Dodgers have not done all that well going to the bullpen in the fifth inning. Perhaps not giving the ball to Ryan Madson tonight would be a good plan? Yes, that would be a good plan.

The only question about the Red Sox lineup tonight is whether or not J.D. Martinez will play and where. It’d be a major enough move as it is to put Martinez in right field, moving Mookie Betts . . . someplace. It’d be an even more major move now that Martinez’s ankle is a bit questionable following a base running mishap in Game 1. Could he DH? Sure. With no DH in the NL park, can he run around and chase down fly balls? Eh, I wouldn’t chance it.

We’ll see what Alex Cora does when the lineups come out this afternoon.

Whitewash: Rob Manfred says he doesn’t think sign stealing extends beyond the Astros

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Rob Manfred said today that he believes the sign-stealing scandal which has taken over the news in the past week does not extend beyond the Houston Astros. His exact words, via Jeff Passan of ESPN:

“Right now, we are focused on the information that we have with respect to the Astros. I’m not going to speculate on whether other people are going to be involved. We’ll deal with that if it happens, but I’m not going to speculate about that. I have no reason to believe it extends beyond the Astros at this point in time.”

This is simply incredible. As in literally not credible.

It’s not credible because, just last week, in the original story in The Athletic, it was reported that the Astros system was set up by two players, one of whom was “a hitter who was struggling at the plate and had benefited from sign stealing with a previous team, according to club sources . . . they were said to strongly believe that some opposing teams were already up to no good. They wanted to devise their own system in Houston. And they did.”

The very next day Passan reported that Major League Baseball would not limit its focus to the Astros. Rather, the league’s probe was also include members of the 2019 Astros and would extend to other teams as well. Passan specifically mentioned the 2018 Red Sox which, of course, were managed by Alex Cora one year after he left Houston, where he was A.J. Hinch’s bench coach.

Add into this the Red Sox’ pre-Cora sign-stealing with Apple Watches and widespread, informed speculation on the part of players and people around the game that many teams do this sort of thing, and one can’t reasonably suggest that only the Houston Astros are doing this.

Which, as I noted at the time, made perfect sense. These schemes cannot, logically, operate in isolation because players and coaches change teams constantly. In light of this, players have to know that their sign-stealing would be found out by other teams eventually. They continue to do it, however, because they know other teams do it too. As is the case with pitchers using pine tar or what have you, they don’t rat out the other team so they, themselves, will not be ratted out. It’s a mutually-assured destruction that only exists and only works if, in fact, other teams are also stealing signs.

So why is Major League Baseball content to only hang the Astros here? I can think of two reasons.

One is practical. They had the Astros fall in their lap via former Astro Mike Fiers — obviously not himself concerned with his current team being busted for whatever reason — going on the record with his accusation. That’s not likely to repeat itself across baseball and thus it’d be quite difficult for Major League Baseball to easily conduct a wide investigation. Who is going to talk? How can baseball make them talk? It’d be a pretty big undertaking.

But there’s also the optics. Major League Baseball has had a week to think about the report of the Astros sign-stealing and, I suspect, they’ve realized, like everyone else has realized, that this is a major scandal in the making. Do they really want to spend the entire offseason — and longer, I suspect, if they want a thorough investigation — digging up unflattering news about cheating in the sport? Do they really want to be in the bad news creation business? I doubt they do, so they decided to fence off the Astros, hit them hard with penalties, declare victory and move on.

Which is to say, it’s a whitewash.

It’s something the league has tried to do before. They did it with steroids and it didn’t work particularly well.

In 1998 Mark McGwire, that game’s biggest star at the time, was found to have the PED androstenedione in his locker. It was a big freakin’ deal. Except . . . nothing happened. Major League Baseball planned to “study” the drug but most of the fallout was visited upon the reporter who made it public. It was accompanied by some shameful conduct by both Major League Baseball and the baseball press corps who eagerly went after the messenger rather than cover the story properly.

Four years later Ken Caminiti and Jose Canseco went public with their PED use and said drug use was widespread. MLB’s response was slow and, again, sought to isolated the known offenders, singling out Caminiti as a troubled figure — which he was — and Canseco as a kook — which he kind of is — but doing them and the story a disservice all the same.

The league eventually created a rather toothless testing and penalty regime. Congress and outside investigative reporters filled the void created by the league’s inaction, calling hearings and publishing damning stories about how wide PED use was in the game. Eventually Bud Selig commissioned the Mitchell Report. Some ten years after the McGwire incident baseball had at least the beginnings of a sane approach to PEDs and a more effective testing plan, but it was pulled to it kicking and screaming, mostly because doing anything about it was too hard and not very appetizing from a business and P.R. perspective.

And so here we are again. Baseball has a major scandal on its hands. After some initially promising words about how serious it planned to take it, the league seems content to cordon off the known crime scene and refuses to canvass the neighborhood. Sure, if someone gratuitously hands them evidence they’ll look into it, but it sure sounds like Rob Manfred plans to react rather than act here.

That should work. At least until the next time evidence of cheating comes up and they have to start this all over again.