Last Updated: 2018-10-28
It’s funny how baseball works sometimes. The Dodgers have turned two leads over to all-world closer Kenley Jansen in this series and he has two blown saves. Only one led to a loss, but the other one led to the Dodgers and Red Sox playing 18 innings and that game definitely took a toll on LA, even with the win. Jansen should have been first out of the pen after Rich Hill left, but instead Ryan Madson continued to be bad, son, and allowed more inherited runners to score to close the gap.
But, in the biggest twist of fate for the 2018 World Series, David Price and Clayton Kershaw face off in Game 5 in the most important game of the series so far. So much has been made about the postseason struggles of these two cats. Kershaw has the chance to extend his team’s season at least two more days and Price has the chance to be the starting pitcher for Boston’s fourth World Series win this century.
Overall, these playoffs have had a lot of drama and a lot of intrigue, but, sadly, they’ve devolved into a new school vs. old school feud once again. Between John Smoltz acting like analytics and millennials are the devil to Twitter beefs about bullpen usage and old baseball adages, it has been kind of a disappointing month of October for me. Part of that, of course, has to do with the early exit of my Indians, but a lot of it has to do with how polarized the baseball community is these days.
I’ve talked about this throughout the season, but I have a hard time enjoying sports as a fan anymore. I see numbers. I see stats. I root for teams I bet on vs. teams I didn’t bet on. My once unyielding love for the Indians is starting to yield because of front office and managerial decisions. On one hand, it’s an excellent thing for readers because those biases that other people have aren’t really in my repertoire anymore. On another hand, the passion I grew up with for the game(s) has taken on a different context and sometimes that’s a tough feeling to grasp.
My apologies for opening up today’s picks and tips piece with a soul-searching monologue, but this may be the last day of the 2018 baseball season and it sure feels that way with how this series has played out through four games. I still love baseball, but in a much different context than I once did and it is a context that does wear me down. I am excited for the end of the season, so I can hone in even more on other markets (probably NHL) and recharge the baseball batteries for another round of season win total previews in less than four months.
Anyway, now that I’ve waxed poetic, here are my thoughts on Game 5:
We don’t have lines out in the market for Game 5 just yet. The expectation was that the Red Sox would roll with Chris Sale, but they will instead use David Price and save a more rested Sale for Game 6 if his services are needed. Price was actually warming up last night in the ninth inning, which was a little bit strange, but because he wasn’t needed, he gets the start.
Price was strong in Game 2, as he allowed just two runs on three hits over six innings with three walks and five strikeouts. It wasn’t as dominant as his Game 5 performance against Houston, but wound up being enough for the Red Sox to take down the win. Price still has a 4.26 ERA this postseason because of a bad start in the ALDS against New York and a lackluster Game 2 start against the Astros. He allowed a walk and a hit in two-thirds of a relief inning in the marathon that was Game 3.
One thing that does concern me about Price here is that he has walked 10 batters in his 19 playoff innings. The Dodgers are really pressing right now, but walks are an easy way for pitchers to let them get some confidence. Then it becomes about the Dodgers actually getting those big hits with RISP, which they haven’t done all postseason.
Again, all of the pressure is on the Dodgers. Say what you will about the Price playoff narratives and the like, but the Dodgers were built solely to win a World Series and a lot of money was thrown at that goal. The Red Sox were also built to win a World Series, but there is no elephant in the room. No dark cloud hanging over them. They are playing free and easy. There was no panic after the Yasiel Puig dinger and 80-grade bat flip. Mitch Moreland whacked a pinch-hit three-run shot and hopefully you live bet at 4-3 because that made the Dodgers pucker up even more.
Baseball has honestly become a simple game in the postseason this year. The Red Sox went 5-for-7 with RISP in Game 4, as their torrid pace in that department continued. The Dodgers were just 1-for-4. It was a big 1, as it was the Puig dong, but that was it. The Red Sox have just been clutch throughout the playoffs. There is no correlation and it isn’t a statistically significant thing. There really isn’t any rhyme or reason why. You can call it a confidence thing and maybe hitters are going up to the plate expecting success more than dreading failure (which is what the Dodgers are doing), but in a purely statistical sense, it just is what it is.
So, that’s the task at hand for Clayton Kershaw. Kershaw was not great in Game 1. At all. He allowed five runs on seven hits with three walks and five strikeouts. As I mentioned coming into Game 1, the Red Sox had really struggled on sliders and curveballs from lefties. Kershaw got that scouting report. He threw 39 sliders and 13 curveballs out of his 79 pitches. The problem is that he only got six swinging strikes and gave up a ton of hard contact on the slider. Only one curveball was put in play. To me, the play for Kershaw tonight is to go as curveball-heavy as he can.
Kershaw’s highest percentage of curveball usage during the regular season was 22.8 percent and he had two additional games over 20 percent. He was only at 16.5 percent in Game 1. I think that’s the play here for him, especially because he’ll need to change some things up in order to keep the Red Sox off-balance after seeing him in Game 1. The Red Sox had five hits off of sliders in that game and had six batted balls of over 100 mph on the pitch.
We saw Kershaw struggle in his first start against the Brewers and then figure it out later in the series, but you have to wonder if he can do the same here against a much better lineup.
There isn’t a whole lot of confidence down in the Dodger pen, which is going to likely lead Dave Roberts to leave Kershaw out there too long. Every reliever gave up a run last night after Rich Hill’s stellar effort. I don’t think that Roberts has done a very good job in this series, but his pitchers, except for Game 3, haven’t really responded all that well to the increased pressure and leverage.
I can’t tell you what to do with this game without a line, but I can tell you that it wouldn’t surprise me to see the series end right here. This series would be over already if Ian Kinsler had made that throw to first in Game 3 and it just feels like the Red Sox are free and loose and the Dodgers are as tightly wound as a team can be. To lose after that special Yasiel Puig moment and to do it in the way that the Dodgers did, I feel like that’s the writing on the wall.
So, we’ll likely be looking to live bet tonight. I also want to see how Price handles the moment given his playoff history. I’m guessing Kershaw starts out strong, but I could see him fizzling out in the middle innings, so I’ll probably be looking to live bet Boston around the fourth or fifth inning if I get the chance.
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