The 2018 Major League Baseball season contained a few surprises but, truthfully, not many.
Sure, the A’s and Braves made unexpected runs to the postseason, and to some, the Brewers and Rockies were better than expected.
Still, the season was supposed to be about a handful of powerhouse teams chasing the title, and when everything shook out, the 114th World Series is a matchup of two of the heaviest of the heavyweights:
The Red Sox against the Dodgers — fabled franchise against fabled franchise; monstrous payroll against monstrous payroll; star-studded roster against star-studded roster; even iconic ballpark against iconic ballpark.
In other words, a matchup not one person with Fox Sports or MLB is the least bit upset about.
Game 1 is set for Tuesday night at Fenway Park.
The current iteration of these teams have never met in the World Series, though the franchises once did. It was in 1916, when the Red Sox beat the Brooklyn Robins in five games.
That series, like this one, didn’t lack for star power.
Future Hall of Famer Rube Marquard led the Brooklyn pitching staff and the Robins also featured a 25-year-old outfielder who would make a much bigger name for himself years down the road as a manager for two New York franchises — Casey Stengel.
Boston won Game 2 of the series, 2-1. The Red Sox threw their ace lefthander, who still was a few years away from deciding he’d rather hit than pitch, a 21-year-old named Babe Ruth.
Stars galore dot both current rosters. The Dodgers are led by Clayton Kershaw, Kenley Jansen and Manny Machado and the Red Sox counter with Mookie Betts, J.D. Martinez and Chris Sale.
Although the presence of these teams in the Series is not a surprise, the clubs took vastly different journeys.
The Dodgers, who lost to the Astros in the seventh game of last year’s World Series, were strong favorites to win the NL West title but wobbled through much of the regular season and had to survive a one-game playoff against the Rockies to claim the division crown at 92-71. They took out the Braves in four games in the Division Series, then prevailed in a seven-game series against the Brewers in the NLCS.
“We haven’t had ‘easy’ in the playbook all year,” Dodgers president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman told the Los Angeles Times late Saturday night after a 5-1 victory over the Brewers in NLCS Game 7 in Milwaukee. “So for it to come down this way shouldn’t be surprising. Ultimately, at the end of the day, the talent in this room won out.”
The Red Sox, meanwhile, experienced little resistance. They ran away from the Yankees to win the AL East title, going a franchise-best 108-54, then took out their long-time rival in four games in the Division Series. Considered underdogs by many against the defending champion Astros, the Red Sox won the ALCS, 4-1, taking four straight after losing Game 1 at Fenway.
“We know who we have in this clubhouse. We know we’re going to have an opportunity for someone different to step up every night,” closer Craig Kimbrel said after the Red Sox clinched the ALCS in Game 5 in Houston, their fifth victory in as many road games during this postseason. “You saw that in this series.”
David Price, who threw six scoreless innings in Game 5 to finally earn his first career postseason win as a starter after nine losses, was asked what the Astros series taught the Red Sox about themselves.
“We have a very good team,” Price said after a brief pause. “I don’t think we learned that, we already knew that, but I think we proved that against another very good team.”
Another one awaits.