HOW THEY GOT HERE
The Red Sox, after winning their first title in 86 years in 2004, are now trying for their fourth World Series crown in 15 seasons. Boston won a franchise-record 108 games to claim their third straight AL East title, then beat two 100-win teams this October, the wild-card Yankees in the Division Series (3-1) and the defending world champion Astros in the ALCS (4-1). The Dodgers earned their sixth consecutive NL West title during the regular season, then knocked off the East champ Braves in the NLDS (3-1) and Central champ Brewers in the NLCS (4-3). Los Angeles is making its second straight trip to the World Series for the fifth time in franchise history and 20th appearance overall.
The Red Sox and Dodgers did not play each other this year, but Boston owns an 8-7 all-time edge in the regular season, dating to 2002. The two teams have met just once before in the World Series -- sort of. In 1916, Boston beat the Dodgers’ franchise, then known as the Brooklyn Robins, in five games.
DON’T I KNOW YOU?
Despite never crossing paths in October, the Red Sox and Dodgers do share a memorable playoff moment. L.A. manager Dave Roberts will forever be a Boston favorite for sparking the ’04 comeback against the Yankees, with his ninth-inning steal of second base in Game 4 of the ALCS.
THREE KEYS TO THE WORLD SERIES
IS PRICE STILL RIGHT? David Price changed his Boston narrative, albeit briefly, by stifling the Astros for six innings in the Game 5 clincher at Minute Maid Park. Can he come up with a similar performance at Fenway Park in Game 2 (and possibly later) to fix his rep for good?
MANNY BEING MANNY. If Manny Machado thought he had it bad at Miller Park, wait until he returns to Fenway, where the Red Sox once used him for target practice. It’s important to remember, however, that this is Machado’s last chance to pump up his free-agent value, so expect him to do some damage to his former AL pals.
WHICH PEN IS MIGHTIER? In this new era of rotation cameos, the pivotal outs will be in the bullpen’s hands, and the success of the two relief corps is likely to determine the champion. Alex Cora isn’t shy about using starters like Nathan Eovaldi and Rick Porcello in those roles, so the Dodgers will have to be prepared for anything.
ABOUT THE RED SOX
BIG PICTURE: After playing with the pressure of those 108 wins on their back, the Red Sox are a much looser bunch now that they’ve arrived in the World Series. Alex Cora has been pressing all the right buttons, and there is a confidence throughout the roster.
STRENGTHS: How about that outfield defense? Jackie Bradley Jr. gets most of the attention in center, but it was Mookie Betts’ wall-climbing ability and Andrew Benintendi’s clutch dives that rescued the Sox this October. Betts, the likely AL MVP, is due to break out offensively, and when paired with J.D. Martinez, that’s a tough duo to stop.
WEAKNESSES: Craig Kimbrel used to be one of the most feared closers in the game, but he had a shaky October before finishing Game 5 of the LCS. Was tipping pitches really the root of his trouble? Red Sox ace Chris Sale says he’s fine, but his recent health issue and sketchy performance suggest otherwise.
INTANGIBLES: When Jackie Bradley Jr. -- a .234 hitter during the regular season -- earns MVP honors for the LCS with two homers and nine RBIs, that’s some serious mojo. The Red Sox are 5-0 on the road in these playoffs, with a 40-13 scoring edge away from Fenway.
ABOUT THE DODGERS
BIG PICTURE: It was easy to underestimate the Dodgers during their regular-season struggles (nine games out on May 8) but this month reminded everyone they are a supremely talented, deep and versatile bunch. Manager Dave Roberts has a wealth of platoon options and matchup flexibility for any situation.
STRENGTHS: Clayton Kershaw is the best pitcher of his generation, and appears to have shed his October demons. Only the Yankees (267) hit more homers than the Dodgers (235) this season, so they’re dangerous from every spot in the lineup. Closer Kenley Jansen seems to have righted himself just in time.
WEAKNESSES: After Kershaw, and the hard-throwing rookie Walker Buehler, there isn’t much to fear from this Dodgers’ rotation. And with all this power, the Dodgers tend to get a little homer-happy, which leads to less plate discipline and diminished production.
INTANGIBLES: The Dodgers are an emotional bunch, and thrive on momentum. Once Yasiel Puig gets his arms flapping on the basepaths -- as he did after his homer in the clinching Game 7 -- those things tend to trigger the rest of the lineup, and games turn in their favor. They’re trying to avoid being the first team to lose back-to-back World Series since the Rangers in 2010-11.