Manny Machado was the talk at the Diner last week, and I think he’s going to continue to be a hot topic. Machado’s Los Angeles Dodgers are facing the Boston Red Sox in the World Series that begins tonight.
When the postseason began three weeks ago, I thought the World Series would be a rematch of the Dodgers and Houston Astros. After the Astros won the first game of the American League Championship Series, I was even more convinced.
Then Boston won four in a row. It wasn’t that the Astros played poorly, the Red Sox were just better. And they’ll enter the Series as a favorite.
But let’s give the Dodgers a closer look. Many of you are familiar with the Red Sox because they’re a division opponent of the Orioles, and you watched the Dodgers-Brewers in the NLCS because of the Machado dynamic.
There wasn’t much of Jonathan Schoop on display for Milwaukee, but there was plenty of Machado, who became a villain after a play at first on which he appeared to intentionally drag his left leg to collide with Brewers first baseman Jesus Aguilar.
He’ll return to Fenway Park, where he’ll be booed again after a couple of controversial slides into second, including one on which he caught Dustin Pedroia on the leg with his cleats. Red Sox pitchers seemed to throw at Machado on just about every at-bat for the rest of that series.
Fenway hasn’t been one of Machado’s favorite places to hit, although he handled the heat well in 2017. His .278 average in 49 games is slightly below his career average.
Machado and another former Oriole, Justin Turner are the only Dodgers who can be counted on to play every day at the same position.
Perhaps the most impressive thing about L.A. is their depth. Matt Kemp, a National League All-Star in July, played in 146 regular-season games but has just 15 postseason plate appearances.
Brian Dozier, who hit 76 home runs for Minnesota the past two seasons, was acquired at the July trading deadline and has come to bat only 14 times in the postseason.
Chase Utley, a possible Hall-of-Famer who is ending his career, has a brilliant postseason resume with 68 games and 10 home runs, but he hasn’t been on the roster for any of the three series this month.
Seven Dodgers played at least 130 games, and Cody Bellinger, who always plays, sometimes starts at first base and other times plays center.
Manager Dave Roberts is brilliant in moving his players around, and he’s able to deal with some complex personalities. He’ll be helped by being able to use a designated hitter for up to four games in the Series while the Red Sox will have to decide what to do with J.D. Martinez when the games are played at Dodger Stadium.
Alex Cora has had a masterful first year in Boston, a most difficult place to manage.
Mookie Betts, who could win the American League Most Valuable Player award, may play at second base in Los Angeles to make room in the outfield for Martinez, who is also an MVP contender.
Cora hopes Chris Sale is healthy again, but he got a big boost when David Price delivered his best postseason start in Game 5 against the Astros.
Clayton Kershaw will try to win the World Series for the first time, and he’ll be followed by Hin-Jin Ryu for Game 2 and Walker Buehler for Game 3.
Craig Kimbrel has had a shaky postseason, but Cora won’t be afraid to use starters Nathan Eovaldi and Rick Porcello in the first two games to help get to Kimbrel.
Kenley Jansen, Ryan Madson and Julio Urias are keys to the L.A. bullpen, but the unheralded Dylan Florio threw 4 1/3 scoreless innings during the NLCS.
This is a hard series to pick. Had Milwaukee won the seventh game, I would have picked the Red Sox to win handily. After watching Boston dismantle Houston, which I thought was the most complete team in the game, I thought I was convinced.
But L.A.’s depth has convinced me. Betts and Jackie Bradley Jr. are big-time players for Boston, but the Dodgers have so many of them. I think it will be a wonderful World Series, and my only hope is that all the games don’t last past midnight.
My pick: Dodgers in 7
This Week’s Diner Question: Who’s your pick to win the World Series?