The 2018 World Series is finally set, with the Los Angeles Dodgers advancing from the National League Championship Series to take on the Boston Red Sox.
After winning a franchise-record 108 games during the regular season, the Red Sox have carried that success over to the postseason. They have gone 7-2 in their two series victories over the New York Yankees and Houston Astros, putting them in prime position to win a fourth World Series title since 2004.
The Dodgers are the first National League team to play in back-to-back World Series since the 2008-09 Philadelphia Phillies. After coming up short in last year's Fall Classic against the Astros, they will look to end the franchise's 30-year championship drought.
2018 World Series Schedule
Game 1 (Tuesday, Oct. 23 at 8:09 p.m. ET): Dodgers at Red Sox
Game 2 (Wednesday, Oct. 24 at 8:09 p.m. ET): Dodgers at Red Sox
Game 3 (Friday, Oct. 26 at 8:09 p.m. ET): Red Sox at Dodgers
Game 4 (Saturday, Oct. 27 at 8:09 p.m. ET): Red Sox at Dodgers
Game 5* (Sunday, Oct. 28 at 8:15 p.m. ET): Red Sox at Dodgers
Game 6* (Tuesday, Oct. 30 at 8:09 p.m. ET): Dodgers at Red Sox
Game 7* (Wednesday, Oct. 31 at 8:09 p.m. ET): Dodgers at Red Sox
Early betting odds for the World Series favor the Red Sox to raise their ninth championship flag in franchise history.
Per OddsShark, Boston is currently receiving -130 odds (bet $130 to win $100).
Despite leading MLB with 108 wins during the regular season, the Red Sox started the playoffs with significant questions about their pitching staff. Their relievers' ERA of 3.72 ranked seventh out of 10 playoff teams.
After Boston closed out Houston in the ALCS, the middle relievers out of the bullpen turned into a huge asset. Ryan Brasier and Matt Barnes have combined to allow five hits and one run with 11 strikeouts in 13.1 innings.
Brasier, in particular, has been an unsung hero for manager Alex Cora. The 31-year-old had a 1.60 ERA in 34 games this season, his first full year in the big leagues.
"He's been amazing for us," Cora told reporters after Game 4 against the Astros. "He's a great story. Everybody knows about it. "Attacks the zone, gets swings and misses in the zone. Expands it and that was another guy that we knew in October he could give us multiple innings, more than three outs. And tonight he was outstanding."
Boston's starting rotation looks more dangerous now. Chris Sale is healthy and set to start Game 1 after missing Game 5 against Houston through illness, while David Price should play Game 2 after securing his first playoff win as a starter with six shutout innings on Thursday against Houston.
Offense hasn't been a problem for the Red Sox all year. Their 56 runs scored are 14 more than any other team in the playoffs. They led MLB in runs scored (876), hits (1,509), doubles (355), batting average (.268), on-base percentage (.339) and slugging percentage (.453) during the regular season.
Because the Red Sox are able to score in bunches, their pitching staff doesn't have to be great for them to win. Getting both sides playing at their peak at this stage of the postseason is why they are favored to win a World Series.
Unlike the Red Sox, the Dodgers have been unable to carry their offensive success from the regular season over the playoffs. Their 235 homers during the season led the NL, but they were complemented by a lineup that ranked third in MLB with a .774 OPS.
During the playoffs, Los Angeles' .667 OPS is the worst among the four teams that made it to the league championship series.
The Dodgers will also have to correct their hitting against left-handed pitching if they want to win their first World Series title since 1988. Their OPS was 63 points lower against southpaws (.733) than it was against right-handed pitching (.796) in the regular season.
The upside for Los Angeles is Boston only had one left-handed reliever on the ALCS roster—Eduardo Rodriguez—so if the NL champs can get Price and Sale out of the game early, their lineup will have a decided advantage.
This World Series will also be the latest in a series of litmus tests for Clayton Kershaw, though his playoff struggles have always been overblown:
Kershaw can erase every playoff narrative that's ever been written about him if he's able to shut down this Boston lineup to get the Dodgers back to the top of the MLB mountain.
The Red Sox have been the best team in MLB all season. They have already defeated two teams in the playoffs that won at least 100 games during the regular season.
Nothing about Boston's playoff run to this point suggests a letdown is coming in the World Series. After waiting 86 years between championships before 2004, the Red Sox are embarking on a modern-day dynasty if they can win a fourth title in 14 years.