SB Nation Blog
The Opponent in one sentence
The Dodgers are off to a good start in their quest to win a third consecutive National League Pennant as they own baseball’s best record as well as the best run differential.
Red Sox 0, Dodgers 0
Down. It’s kind of hard to know how much to read into trends coming out of the All-Star break, though it’s fair to wonder how much to read into trends at any points of the year. Regardless, the Dodgers were scuffling a bit heading into the break. They had lost their previous three games to the Padres and won just one of their last four series.
7/12: Eduardo Rodriguez vs. Kenta Maeda, 7:10 PM ET
The story of the season for Rodriguez has been the same story it’s been for his entire career: Inconsistency. It seems that every time fans start feeling good about the southpaw, things take a turn in the wrong direction. On the other hand, when people start to get down on Rodriguez, he goes on an eye-opening hot streak. Heading into the break, he had a couple of solid starts in which he allowed three runs combined over 10 1⁄3 innings. His start against the Yankee in London was good in terms of runs scored, though he did battle through control issues with four walks in just 5 1⁄3 innings. His last time out against Detroit was much better, but he only made it through five innings thanks to a long rain delay. Rodriguez faced the Dodgers three times in the World Series last year, pitching out of the bullpen for two perfect one-batter appearances and then allowing four runs over 5 2⁄3 innings in his only start of the postseason.
Maeda has been an extremely solid pitcher for the Dodgers since coming to the States in 2016, and he’s continuing on that path this year. The righty has made 17 starts this year while pitching to a 3.76 ERA, a 4.21 FIP and a 3.69 DRA. His strikeout rate is down a bit at just under a strikeout per inning while his walk rate is right around three per nine. Maeda is allowing a few more fly balls than usual, though he shouldn’t see more of an effect from that at Fenway than he would at home. Over his last ten starts before the break, he had allowed more than three runs in just one. The Red Sox did see Maeda three times in the World Series, all out of the bullpen, and they scored one run over three innings with six strikeouts and two walks. He will offer a fastball in the low-to-mid-90s along with a slider and a changeup.
7/13: Chris Sale vs. Ross Stripling, 7:15 PM ET
A lot of things went wrong for the Red Sox in the first half of the year, but among the biggest and easiest to identify was the team’s struggles in Chris Sale’s starts. For part of the year, a lot of that had to do with his offense giving him no run support and/or the bullpen spoiling good outings. Lately, however, it’s been on the staff ace. Sale scuffled mightily heading into the break, allowing 14 runs over his last three outings, all of which were against teams that are not going to make the postseason. His last start against the Blue Jays was particularly bad, as he allowed five runs over 5 2⁄3 innings while striking out only five batters and giving up three homers. He’s going to need much better command in this game as the Dodgers will certainly punish a large percentage of mistakes. In last year’s World Series Sale allowed three runs over four innings in his lone start and also, of course, pitched the final inning and got the strikeout to win Boston its championship.
Stripling is not your typical starter, and he spent a significant portion of this season in the bullpen. He’s just recently transitioned back into the rotation, though he hasn’t been pitching deep into games. He’s yet to get through five full innings in that span. On the year, between the two roles, Stripling has pitched to a 3.79 ERA, a 3.90 FIP and a 3.64 DRA. He’s striking out a batter per inning (though a lot of that was in short outings out of the bullpen) while walking a little under three per nine. The key will be getting the ball in the air against the righty, as he has a relatively high home run rate despite carrying a ground ball rate over 50 percent. Stripling will offer a fastball in the low-90s as well as a curveball, a slider and a changeup.
7/14: David Price vs. Hyun-Jin Ryu, 7:00 PM ET
Through the first half, Price was far and away the best and most consistent pitcher on the Red Sox pitching staff. He wasn’t really an All-Star snub as there was no clear pitcher on the roster who he should have replaced, but for most of the first half he looked like a borderline All-Star candidate. The veteran southpaw was on a hell of a run to end the first half, too, going on a ten-start stretch in which he had one outing in which he allowed more than two earned runs. We all, of course, remember what Price did in the World Series last year and he arguably should have been the MVP.
Ryu has been absolutely lights out this year and was rewarded as the starter for the National League All-Star team. In fact, the lefty has been phenomenal whenever healthy over the last two years. After finishing last year with a 1.97 ERA and both a FIP and DRA under 3.00, Ryu has a 1.73 ERA, a 2.88 FIP and a 2.45 DRA this year. His strikeout stuff isn’t bad, but it’s not quite overpowering either. Instead, he excels thanks to solid stuff and spectacular command. He gets a ton of ground balls and has allowed only ten homers in 109 innings (0.8 per nine ) and also has the same number of walks. The Red Sox did score four runs off the southpaw over 4 2⁄3 innings in Game Two of the World Series. Ryu features a pair of low-90s fastballs, a changeup, a cutter and a curveball.
Dave Roberts is, of course, one of the most legendary Red Sox players of all time thanks to the key role he played in 2004. He is now the Dodgers manager and has been for four years. He’s been spectacular in the role with a .599 winning percentage and two straight World Series appearances.
Joe Kelly was a folk hero from last year’s team thanks to his role in the brawl with the Yankees as well as his lights out performance in the playoffs. His performance for the bulk of his Red Sox career wasn’t up to that level, though the way Boston’s ‘pen is looking now he’d probably be an upgrade.
Rich Hill re-emergence as a quality starting pitcher over the last four years has been one of the most incredible stories in baseball. That all started at the end of 2015 with the Red Sox when he pitched amazingly for the non-contending team.
Notable Position Players
Cody Bellinger is the clear MVP favorite in the National League at this point in the year and by fWAR has been the second best player in baseball behind Mike Trout. The Dodgers outfielder is walking about as often as he strikes out while hitting for absurd power. He already has 30 home runs under his belt.
Max Muncy was an out-of-nowhere breakout last year and he hasn’t slowed down in 2019. He strikes out a bit more than you’d like but he more than makes up for it with a ton of walks and a whole lot of power. He’ll shift between second and first base depending on the handedness of the starting pitcher.
Justin Turner is one of the most underrated hitters in the game. Since getting to L.A. the third baseman has been consistently outstanding. Even this year with his power down by quite a bit he’s still been well above-average at the plate thanks to great plate discipline and good contact.
Alex Verdugo has been very impressive in his first full season in the majors. His power has been good but not great and his walk rate is below average, but he almost never strikes out — he has the third-lowest strikeout rate among qualified batters — and his contact is consistently hard.
Corey Seager is kind of forgotten among the league’s top young shortstops thanks to injuries, but when he plays he is one of the best hitters at his position.
Joc Pederson was part of the absurd triple-OT Home Run Derby round with Vladimir Guerrero Jr., and he also hits atop the Dodgers lineup. He may not start at all in this series, though, because he generally only starts against righties and the Red Sox are starting three lefties.
Enrique Hernandez is usually the one to take Pederson’s place in the lineup against lefties. He is struggling this year, though, with slightly below average plate discipline and rough BABIP luck.
Chris Taylor strikes out a lot which hinders his value a bit, but he walks a decent amount and makes strong enough contact to cover his shortcomings.
Austin Barnes has struggled as the Dodgers catcher this year, with a lack of power and a low BABIP.
Kenley Jansen isn’t the best reliever in baseball anymore, but he’s still outstanding with a bunch of strikeouts and very few walks. He’s recovered nicely from a tough start to the year.
Pedro Baez doesn’t get enough credit for how consistent he’s been as L.A.’s setup man over the last few years. Even in 2019 with his strikeout rate falling he’s put up good numbers.
Dylan Floro broke out last year and while he’s come back to Earth a bit in 2019 he still gets a bunch of ground balls and has been great at limiting walks.
Zac Rosscup is the top lefty in the Dodgers bullpen right now. He gets a ton of strikeouts but is also walking a batter per inning.
Hill went down in June with a forearm issue and was transferred to the 60-day IL about a week ago. He won’t be able to return to the Dodgers rotation until mid-August at the earliest.
Tony Cingrani underwent season-ending shoulder surgery in June.
Scott Alexander has ailments in both his forearm and his thumb. He may not be out for too long, but as of this writing there is no indication he’ll be back this weekend, though it’s not impossible.
Andrew Toles has been out all year with an undisclosed personal issue.
It should be a good weekend in Boston, though nothing is certain. Friday will be the biggest issue if there is one as there will be thunderstorms in the area during the day. Hopefully it will be cleared up by first pitch, but you never know.