The Dodgers aren’t in a good spot right now, but they can get back into this World Series if they can make some adjustments at Dodger Stadium.
The 2018 World Series hasn’t exactly gotten off to a great start for the Los Angeles Dodgers.
To be fair, they definitely had their work cut out for them. They had to venture to the east coast for Games 1 and 2 against the Boston Red Sox, a team that won 108 games during the regular and was 7-2 in postseason play heading into the World Series. The Dodgers had to try and find a way to get things rolling at Fenway Park, one of the toughest venues in baseball to play as a visiting — because of both the peculiar dimensions and the toughness of the Boston crowd.
The Dodgers put up a good fight in both games, but were outdone both times by the dominant Red Sox hitters, as well as some clutch pitching performances. Now they will head back home to Los Angeles trailing 2-0 in the series, and will desperately try to get something going against the Red Sox to save their season.
But Boston is currently 5-0 on the road in this postseason, so the Dodgers will fix things rather quickly if they don’t want to watch the Red Sox celebrate on the field at Dodger Stadium.
Here are five things that need to happen if the Dodgers hope to make this a series again…
5. Pitching has to be better
The Dodgers pitching hasn’t exactly been bad, but it hasn’t been great either, and you need great pitching when playing this vicious Red Sox lineup.
Clayton Kershaw got the ball in Game 1, and while he wasn’t terrible, he still allowed five runs and got knocked out of the game in the fifth inning. Even great pitching might not be enough to stop these Boston hitters, but anything less than that isn’t even going to give you a chance.
Hyun-Jin Ryu kept the Red Sox fairly quiet, for the most part, in Game 2 — at least until they broke through in the fifth and J.D. Martinez put them in front 4-2 with a two-RBI single. That might be the most difficult part of facing this team: if you’re pitching well, you can maybe keep them quiet for a few innings. But eventually, they are going to find a way to break through.
The Dodgers have no other alternative. They need lights out, shutdown, Cy Young-type pitching from here on out. 24-year-old rookie Walker Buehler will get a chance to give it a try in Game 3 at Dodger Stadium.
4. Take advantage of three home games
As mentioned earlier, the Red Sox are 5-0 on the road in this postseason. They won two games at Yankee Stadium and closed out the ALDS there. In the ALCS, they shocked the world by winning three straight games at Minute Maid Park to close out the defending champion Astros on their home diamond. They have won more games on the road in these playoffs than they have at Fenway Park.
Given the success the Red Sox have had on the road thus far, home field advantage might not seem like much for the Dodgers. But nonetheless, they are lucky enough to play at Dodger Stadium, one of the most famous and well-known stadiums in Major League Baseball. They also have a tremendous fan base that will pack Dodger Stadium full for the next three nights.
And lastly, they get to return home to that wonderful, warm southern California weather. After back-to-back games in Boston with sub-50 temperatures, something the Dodgers definitely aren’t accustomed to as they never played in a game that was colder than 58 degrees all season, they can’t get back home to sunny Los Angeles quick enough.
The Red Sox might be tough to beat on the road, but the Dodgers have to try and squeeze every ounce of home field advantage they can out of these next three games. They have no choice but to win at least two of three at Dodger Stadium if they want to avoid letting the Red Sox celebrate a championship on their own field.
3. Expose the Red Sox bullpen
For someone that has only watched the Red Sox in the postseason, they might look like they have a pretty solid bullpen. But for those that have watched the Red Sox all year long, we know better.
Make no mistake about it, this Boston bullpen isn’t stacked with shutdown relief pitchers or anything of that nature. It is simply a group of average relievers that have amazingly started to click at the perfect time.
This bullpen was pretty unreliable for much of the regular season, and they were an utter disaster in August and September. You won’t meet a single Red Sox fan anywhere that will say, “Oh, I can’t wait to see Ryan Brasier back next season!” or “Oh, I can’t wait to see Matt Barnes back next season!”
The same can be said for other relievers like Joe Kelly, Heath Hembree, and Brandon Workman too. This isn’t a dominant group. It’s a group of guys that chose the best possible time to get hot.
The Boston bullpen has been outstanding this postseason. They are a big reason why reason why the Red Sox are two wins away from a championship. But in mid-September, nobody could’ve guessed that this bullpen would’ve suddenly become so clutch in the playoffs.
If the Dodgers want to make this a series again, they need to expose this Red Sox bullpen for what it really is. They need to make this group of relief pitchers look like they did in August and September. If they can do that, they won’t have any trouble climbing back into this series.
2. Get the non-Machado bats going
Manny Machado isn’t overly loved in Boston, and there is no doubt Red Sox fans were greatly looking forward to taking it to him in this World Series. But despite the wishes of Red Sox fans, Machado has been hitting the ball a little better than most of his teammates through two games.
Machado had hits in each of the first two games of this series, and in Game 1 — which was essentially a shootout until Eduardo Nunez blew it wide open with a three-run homer in the seventh — Machado collected three RBIs.
The Dodgers failed to get much going at the plate in Game 2, but Machado did have one of their three total hits in the game. He might be a little more comfortable at Fenway Park than his teammates as he spent years with the Baltimore Orioles and made multiple trips to Boston every season. But nonetheless, if Los Angeles hopes to turn this series around at Dodger Stadium, the other non-Machado bats in the lineup will have to step up as well.
Justin Turner, one of the power bats in the Dodger lineup, came up with three hits in Game 1. But in Game 2, their three-hole hitter was just a measly 0-for-4, or an “o-fer” as we baseball nerds like to call it. Turner has been a postseason hero for the Dodgers in recent years, and now is the time for him to step up and do it again.
Dodger Stadium isn’t exactly known as a hitter’s park, but you never know what could happen in a World Series. Maybe once the Dodgers get back to that familiar warm weather, and maybe get a read on these Red Sox pitchers, they might start getting the bat on the ball and driving it out of the park.
1. Dave Roberts needs to let his players play
Managers might want to make it look they are trying their best to do their job. But a lot of times, baseball teams have the most success when their managers just let them go out and play baseball, not trying to overthink every little aspect of the game.
I made a whole big case about Dave Roberts “over-managing” after Game 1 the other day. He’s been doing it throughout this entire postseason, but in Game 1, his over-management absolutely burned this Dodgers team.
With Los Angeles trailing 5-4 in the seventh inning — still very much in the game, obviously — with two outs and a runner on second base, Roberts brought in the hard-throwing right-hander Pedro Baez from the bullpen. Baez was throwing fire immediately out of the gate, striking out Mitch Moreland before understandably handing J.D. Martinez an intentional walk, and then striking out Xander Bogaerts as well.
There was no chance anybody was going to hit Baez with the way he was throwing, but Roberts still elected to bring in lefty Alex Wood to pitch to lefty hitter Rafael Devers. With a lefty on the mound, the Red Sox then decided to pinch-hit righty hitter Eduardo Nunez and he took Wood deep over the Green Monster for a three-run homer to deliver the final blow of the game.
Had Roberts kept Baez in the game, he would’ve easily retired Devers, the inning would’ve been over, and the Dodgers would’ve still only been down by one with two more innings to go. But Roberts overthought the situation, made an awful decision, and his team paid the price for it.
If Los Angeles is going to make a comeback in this series, Roberts can’t make any more of those decisions. He has to take a step back and let his players do their thing.