Dodgers at Red Sox – World Series Game 1 Prediction

by Taylor Smith
on October 23, 2018
4

Minute Read

Major League Baseball couldn’t have scripted this any better. For the first time in a number of years, the World Series is going to feature a couple of “blue blood” franchises when the Los Angeles Dodgers meet the Boston Red Sox. Both teams have illustrious histories, though they have rarely crossed paths. The teams have met just 15 times ever during the regular season, and this will be the first time Boston and L.A. have ever gone toe-to-toe in the World Series. The franchises have technically met in the Fall Classic before, but that was way back in 1916 when the Dodgers were based in Brooklyn and they were known as the Robins. The Red Sox won that series in 5 games.

It’s almost hard to believe these teams have hardly ever squared off against one another, but it is what it is. Clayton Kershaw will be making his first ever start at Fenway Park in Game 1 opposite fellow left-hander Chris Sale.

Sale pitched just once during the ALCS. He lost in Game 1 against the Houston Astros shortly before being taken to the hospital with a stomach illness. Sale was originally slated to pitch in Game 5, but the Red Sox decided to push him back to Game 6 due to his sickness. Fortunately for Boston, there was no Game 6, they did away with the Astros in 5 games.

Sale was downright shaky in that aforementioned outing. He did only concede 2 runs and a hit, but he also walked 5 and racked up 86 pitches through just 4 innings. Sale was also somewhat mediocre in his lone start of the ALDS against the Yankees. When he’s right, he’s arguably the best pitcher in baseball. The lefty, who has somehow never won a Cy Young award, posted an incredible strikeout rate over 38 percent during the regular season. His 2.27 SIERA is remarkable, especially when you consider the kind of context he deals with. Sale pitches his home games at Fenway, which is arguably the second-best hitter’s environment in all of baseball behind Coors Field. The AL East is littered with hitter-friendly parks, as well.

Unfortunately for the Red Sox, Sale’s availability was sketchy late in the season as he dealt with shoulder troubles. Sale racked up just 12 innings in all of September, with his longest outing being a 4 1/3-inning showing on September 26 against the Orioles. If Sale isn’t capable of pitching super deep at this stage of the season, the Red Sox are going to have to go to the bullpen earlier than they’d like.

The Sox’ pen looked largely great in the series against Houston, but before that the group of relievers was a massive question mark. Craig Kimbrel has looked incredibly shaky during the postseason, and the group of Ryan Brasier, Matt Barnes and Joe Kelly don’t exactly inspire a ton of confidence. They were great against the Astros, but the Dodgers’ offense is arguably deeper and more talented.

Sale is great, but he’s a lefty with a fairly wide split and Fenway is a great park for right-handed power with the short Green Monster out in left field. Sale will have to deal with a number of quality right-handed hitters including Manny Machado, Justin Turner, Chris Taylor, Matt Kemp, David Freese, Enrique Hernandez, Yasiel Puig and possibly Brian Dozier. The list of capable Dodger hitters is seemingly endless. Sale allowed 11 homers during the regular season, all of which came off the bats of right-handed hitters.

As for Kershaw, he’s been quite up and down to this point. He was dominant in 2 starts against the Braves and Brewers, but Milwaukee also tagged him for 5 runs on 6 hits in Game 1 of the NLCS. Kershaw has been wildly inconsistent during the playoffs over the course of his entire career, so his occasional wobbly outing isn’t all that surprising. Obviously, the Red Sox offense he’ll be facing tonight will be his stiffest test yet during the Dodgers’ current playoff run.

The former Cy Young winner went 9-5 during the regular season with a 2.73 ERA across 26 starts. The southpaw has seen his velocity steadily decline over the last number of years, which has resulted in fewer strikeouts. Kershaw posted a strikeout rate of 23.9 percent during the regular season. While that’s still above average, it’s well below Kershaw’s own career average K-rate of 27.6 percent. Rather than being able to blow hitters away, Kershaw is now having to rely on more movement and deception.

When his slider is dipping, Kershaw is still incredibly difficult to hit. The breaking stuff wasn’t where it needed to be in Game 1 of the NLCS, and if that’s the case again tonight then he could be in for a short outing. The Red Sox’ lineup is also heavy with right-handed hitters like J.D. Martinez, Mookie Betts and Xander Bogaerts. Boston doesn’t have the depth that the Dodgers’ lineup does, but it was still one of the best offenses in the league during the regular season. Ask the Astros’ pitching staff about how good the Boston lineup can be.

Amazingly, this game marks the first time since the 2014 season that Kershaw will be taking the mound as an underdog. As of this writing, the Red Sox are listed as fairly heavy -155 favorites over at MyBookie, while you can get the Dodgers at +130 to win outright on the moneyline. The over/under here is also set at 7 1/2 runs.

Given Sale’s shakiness and the uncertainty surrounding Boston’s bullpen, it’s hard to ignore the Dodgers at +130 here. That’s some pretty great profit potential on what may be the most talented overall roster in baseball. If Kershaw shows up under the bright lights, which I think he will, the Dodgers are an amazing value here. We saw the Astros storm into Fenway and beat Sale in Game 1 of the ALCS, and I think the Dodgers will be able to follow a similar path to success tonight.

Give me the Dodgers to take a 1-0 series lead here tonight over Sale and the Red Sox at +130.

Pick: Dodgers
+130

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