World Series Game 5 :The Boston Red Sox can clinch their fourth World Series title since 2004 Sunday night at Dodger Stadium. Boston holds a 3-1 series lead over the Los Angeles Dodgers after its come-from-behind victory in Game 4.
Given the way the series has played out, Game 5 should produce a new set of unexpected twists, with the first being David Price earning the start instead of Chris Sale for the Red Sox.
Clayton Kershaw will oppose Price and is looking to deliver the third straight quality start by a Los Angeles starter and send the series back to Boston.
The final three innings of Game 4 were littered with bad decisions by Dodgers manager Dave Roberts.
The downward spiral began when Roberts removed starter Rich Hill after he struck out Eduardo Nunez for the first out of the seventh.
Hill, who allowed one hit and one earned run while striking out seven batters, was at 91 pitches and could have continued, but Roberts opted to go to his bullpen.
Scott Alexander, who replaced Hill, walked Xander Bogaerts, and Ryan Madson gave up the three-run home run to Mitch Moreland that ignited the Boston comeback.
Roberts’ decision to pull Hill looked even worse in the eighth and ninth innings, as Kenley Jansen gave up the game-winning home run and the combination of Dylan Floro, Alex Wood and Kenta Maeda struggled.
Because of Roberts’ poor decision-making, the Dodgers lost all of the momentum they gained from the 18-inning win in Game 3 and face a must-win game Sunday.
The good news for Los Angeles entering Game 5 is Kershaw has given up one earned run in his two victorious home starts during the 2018 postseason.
If Kershaw produces similar numbers as Walker Buehler in Game 3 and Hill in Game 4, the Dodgers will have an opportunity to win the game.
However, Roberts could be the difference between winning and losing once again as he attempts to put together the best lineup possible against Boston’s left-handed starter David Price.
In Game 2 against Price, Roberts started all of his right-handed batters, but the Dodgers manager called on his left-handed bats once the Boston starter departed the mound.
If Roberts employs the same strategy in Game 5, he’ll rely on Max Muncy, Joc Pederson, Cody Bellinger and Yasmani Grandal to come up with clutch hits in one or two at-bats.
The one player Roberts shouldn’t worry about is Yasiel Puig, who rocked a three-run home run off left-handed pitcher Eduardo Rodriguez in Game 4.
If Puig, who has a .250 batting average against left-handed pitching compared to a .290 clip versus right-handed pitchers, finds success against Price, the Dodgers should get out to an early lead.
Up until Saturday night, Sale was expected to be the Game 5 starter for the Red Sox, but Cora unveiled Price as the man for the job after the Game 4 victory.
As much as the Red Sox would love to close out the series at Dodger Stadium with Sale on the hill, Cora is making the right decision by going with Price.
By opting for Price in Game 5, Cora will be able to call on a fresh Sale to start Game 6 at home if the series gets to that point or go to his ace in the eighth or ninth inning to close out the series Sunday.
In his past two playoff starts, Price gave up two earned runs on six hits while striking out 14 batters in a pair of six-inning outings.
If Price turns in a similar outing in Game 5, the Red Sox should be in position to go to their bullpen to close out the championship.
However, Price isn’t completely fresh. He tossed 0.2 innings in relief in Game 3 and warmed up in the bullpen at the end of Game 4.
With only two true days of rest under his belt, Price could struggle early and force Cora to use his already-extended bullpen as early as the third or fourth inning to limit the runs produced by the home side.