After the mayhem the 18-inning marathon of Game 3 wrought on both teams’ pitching staffs and the seeming ease with which Boston’s bats turned small opportunities into big innings against the Dodgers bullpen in Game 4, the starting assignments for Game 5 might seem like a relief for both teams, pitting veteran lefty against veteran lefty. But David Price and Clayton Kershaw face each other with very different goals at stake.
For Kershaw, there’s no tomorrows for himself or for his teammates if he doesn’t help earn them a big Game 5 win. A Boston win would be the end, and reduce the Dodgers to repeat World Series losers for the first time since 1977-78. For Price, Game 5 is a chance to expand on his new rep as a man who can deliver in October, having already broken his career-long losing streak as a postseason starter with back-to-back wins in his ALCS Game 5 and World Series Game 2 turns in the rotation.
The most important thing of the day: Will this be Kershaw’s last start in Dodger Stadium before he decides what to do about his option to become a free agent? With a 1-1 record in the World Series and a 5.49 ERA, this might be a defining moment for Kershaw’s legacy as the Dodgers’ ace.
World Series Game 5: Boston Red Sox at Los Angeles Dodgers
David Price (16-7, 3.58 ERA) vs. Clayton Kershaw (9-5, 2.73), 8:15 p.m. ET, Fox and ESPN Radio
The stakes: Either a new Red Sox title will be won — their first since 2013 and fourth since breaking the “Curse of the Bambino” in 2004, or the resilient Dodgers will earn a chance to climb out of the latest hole they’ve dug for themselves. And perhaps also earn a chance to redeem their bullpen’s frustrations in this series.
If the Red Sox win: The series is over in only five games but more than enough innings to add up to at least six full ballgames. We can move on to debating where this team ranks among the Red Sox champs of 2004, 2007 and 2013, and whether they deserve the title of greatest Red Sox team ever after winning 108 games as well as a title.
If the Dodgers win: As if their 18-inning win in Game 3 wasn’t a big enough bounce-back to breathe new life into their chances, this might be an even bigger victory, since they would earn a trip back to Boston — and a shot at evening the series.
One key stat to know: Price has a 2.25 ERA in his two career starts when his team has a chance to clinch. His team is 1-1 in those games — and one was ALCS Game 5 this year, which the Red Sox won while ending his winless streak in the postseason.
The matchups that matter most: Kershaw vs. J.D. Martinez. The Red Sox scored five runs against Kershaw in four-plus innings in Game 1, and while Andrew Benintendi was one of the catalysts with his four-hit game, Martinez plated men on base with hits in both of his at-bats against Kershaw. On his career, Martinez now has seven hits in 15 plate appearances against the Dodgers’ ace, including two doubles and two homers. With Mookie Betts and Benintendi likely to grind out long at-bats to get on base any way they can, it’s going to be up to Kershaw to find a way to control the damage by finding a way to get Martinez out with his pitch.
The story on social media: With just one more win to go, the anticipation that the Red Sox could make good on their big year by winning a crown is already on more than a few folks’ minds.
The prediction: You know all about the mixed bag that is Kershaw’s postseason résumé. But this pick isn’t about which Kershaw we’ll get with the season on the line. It’s about a Dodgers team that let a chance to even this World Series slip through its fingers. It’s about a bullpen that hasn’t been able to make late leads hold up. And it’s about a Red Sox group that has had an answer for everything thrown at it all postseason long. Enjoy Game 5, baseball fans, because it could be our last until spring training. Red Sox 4, Dodgers 2. — Dan Mullen, ESPN.com
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