Dodgers head home to dig out of a two-game hole against Red Sox
The World Series shifts from freezing Fenway Park to sunny Chavez Ravine with the Boston Red Sox holding a 2-0 lead over the Los Angeles Dodgers. In Game 2, David Price delivered his second quality start in a row, giving up just two runs through six innings with five strikeouts, perfectly setting up the Sox bullpen to secure a 4-2 victory. Joe Kelly, Nathan Eovaldi and Craig Kimbrel were perfect over the final three frames as the Sox are just two wins away from their fourth World Series title since 2004.
Rick Porcello takes the hill for Boston on Friday night, making the first World Series start of his career. Porcello has been something of a swingman for manager Alex Cora so far this postseason, making four appearances, two as a starter and two as a reliever. He’ll face a left-handed-centric Dodgers lineup that will be swinging for the fences. Porcello was tied for fourth in the majors with 15 home runs surrendered to left-handed batters during the regular season.
For the second game in a row, a former Vanderbilt pitcher will start on the mound in this series. Game 2 saw Price get the start for the Red Sox and on Friday night the rookie Walker Buehler will take the bump for the Dodgers. Obviously the World Series is the biggest stage that Buehler will have ever played on, but he has shown his mettle in big game situations already this postseason, starting Game 163 against the Rockies and Game 7 of the NLCS against the Brewers where he was fantastic, striking out seven and allowing one run through 4.2 innings. Buehler will face the toughest test in his budding career taking on the vaunted Red Sox offense with his team already down two games.
World Series Game 3: Boston Red Sox at Los Angeles Dodgers
Time: Friday, Oct. 25 at 8:09 p.m. ET
Pitching Matchup: Rick Porcello vs. Walker Buehler
Three Things to Watch
1. Dave Roberts' bullpen management
You can call it unlucky. You can call it bad bullpen management. You can just admit that the Red Sox are just that good. You could say all of those things and you would be right. The Dodgers’ bullpen woes in this series have been due to all three factors.
Maybe Ryan Madson was unlucky in Game 1. He inherited two of Clayton Kershaw’s runners in the fifth inning of a 3-3 game. A wild pitch, a walk, a bang-bang double play that wasn’t, and an RBI single later and the Dodgers were trailing the Red Sox 5-3. That’s baseball. It happens.
But later in Game 1, with the Dodgers trailing 5-4 in the seventh, Roberts pulled lights-out reliever Pedro Baez in favor of the left-handed Alex Wood. Baez had just struck out the only two batters he faced, while intentionally walking J.D. Martinez in between. With the left-handed and dangerous Rafael Devers on deck, Roberts went with Wood with two on and two out. Cora immediately called for Eduardo Nunez to pinch hit. Nunez hit the game-sealing, three-run home run two pitches later and the Red Sox took Game 1, 8-4.
Call it a mix of unlucky (Nunez: 10 HRs, .677 OPS) and bad bullpen management as Wood had already given up two home runs this postseason and Baez (assuming he would still face Devers and not Nunez) had been dominating lefties (and everyone, really) as of late.
Game 2 is on Roberts. As soon as Madson walked Steve Pearce on five pitches in the bottom of the fifth inning with the bases loaded on Wednesday night, he should have been pulled. But Roberts stuck with Madson even after he walked home the tying run and showed no signs of being able to locate the strike zone for the second straight night. Instead of calling upon another reliever (Baez, maybe?) and having a better chance of going to the sixth in a 3-3 tie, Roberts let Madson pitch to Martinez. Martinez lined the second pitch he saw to right field, two runs scored, and the Red Sox took a two-run lead they wouldn’t relinquish. It was the second night in a row that the Dodgers had either given up a lead or allowed the Red Sox to break a tie with Madson on the mound.
Anytime a bullpen is shaky in the postseason, the manager is always the one who takes the fall first — fair or foul. And in the case of Madson in Game 1, you could honestly call it unlucky, or that the Red Sox really are just that good, but the decision to stick with him in Game 2 was unquestionably poor on Roberts’ part.
The World Series isn’t a day game in July. Relief pitchers can’t be left on the mound in high-leverage spots to figure it out. You either have it that night, in that moment, against that hitter — or you don’t. And it’s the manager’s job to know when a guy doesn’t have it. Madson hasn’t had the juice for the last two nights, yet Roberts stuck with him during the most important at bat of the year and — surprise! — it didn’t work out against the best lineup in baseball.
Look for Roberts to go back to Baez as his first reliever in Game 3. Also, it's about time to see Kenley Jansen.
2. J.D. Martinez’s weary ankle
Cora has yet to commit to having his All-Star designated hitter in the Boston lineup on Friday night. Martinez rolled his ankle after slipping on second base on his go-ahead RBI double in Game 1. He was noticeably hobbling running the bases in Game 2, yet was still able to drive in the game-winning run with his two-out, two-RBI single in the bottom of the fifth.
Martinez has downplayed the injury, saying, “It feels good, obviously it's a little bit sore, but I think it will be alright.”
Cora had mentioned prior to the injury that Martinez would likely move to right field as the series shifts to Dodger Stadium and NL rules eliminate the DH. A corresponding move would force either Jackie Bradley Jr. or Andrew Benintendi to the Boston bench, while it was assumed that Mookie Betts would shift to second base. However, on Thursday, Cora said that Betts would not start Game 3 playing at second.
My hunch is that Martinez will start in right field, and Betts will play second. Betts was actually drafted as a shortstop before moving to second base in the minors, and as pointed out by Joe Buck and John Smoltz during Wednesday night’s broadcast, Betts actually takes infield practice before every game to keep his reflexes sharp. If Betts doesn’t start at second, that means Brock Holt or Ian Kinsler will, which really means... Betts is going to start at second base, unless both Benintendi and Bradley
are benched, which is extremely unlikely.
But the biggest conundrum isn’t where Betts plays or whether it should be Benintendi or Bradley that sit, it should be how Martinez will fare playing right field on a bum ankle against a left-handed-heavy Dodgers lineup on Friday night.
3. Dodgers’ lefty lineup
Los Angeles' struggles against left-handed pitching were well known coming into this series. The Dodgers led the National League in home runs but posted a .733 OPS against lefties this season, eighth best in the Senior Circuit. Facing back-to-back left-handed starters in Chris Sale and David Price played out perfectly for the Red Sox, not having to face lefty sluggers Joc Pederson, Max Muncy,and Cody Bellinger for more than two at-bats per game.
With the right-handed Rick Porcello on the mound tonight, Muncy will be at first for David Freese, Pederson will be in left for Chris Taylor (who could play second), and Bellinger will be in center field for Enrique Hernandez. With the injection of Pederson, Muncy and Bellinger, the Dodgers are adding their top three home run hitters to a lineup that has one extra-base hit in the first two games of the series.
Which begs the question, if you’re playing in the World Series and facing the best offense in baseball, wouldn’t you think it would be a good idea to have at least one of your three best power hitters in the starting lineup? I understand trying to avoid lefty-lefty matchups, but Roberts left the NLCS MVP (Bellinger) and a guy who hit 35 home runs (Muncy) on his bench to start the first two games of this series.
I want to pick the Dodgers again for Game 3. Not because I think they are really going to win, and I want to be right more than I want to breathe, but because I love baseball and I want a great, entertaining World Series. I do think the Dodgers having their big lefty bats in the lineup will play well with Rick Porcello on the mound. But the Red Sox are hitting .421 with an absurd 1.349 OPS with two outs and runners in scoring position during the playoffs — not sure how you bet against that.
Prediction: Red Sox 6, Dodgers 5
— Written by Jake Rose, who is a part of the Athlon Sports Contributor Network. Follow him on Twitter @JakeRose24.