Red Sox vs Dodgers: Five key factors to watch in this World Series
Redemption tours continue
The starting rotations for both teams include former Cy Young winners who have flipped the script on their postseason narratives this October.
David Price vanquished his playoff demons with his first postseason win as a starting pitcher in the decisive Game 5 of the ALCS against the Houston Astros. His postseason struggles are well documented. Price was tagged with the loss in nine of his first 11 postseason starts with an unsightly ERA north of 5.00 over that span. Six shutout innings with nine strikeouts and zero walks to lead his team into the World Series will silence the critics.
Clayton Kershaw’s postseason woes haven’t received as much attention as Price has but the three-time Cy Young winner and former MVP hasn’t been quite as sharp under the bright lights of the October stage. He’s 9-8 over 28 career playoff games, including 22 starts, with a 4.09 ERA that stands well above his regular season career 2.39 ERA.
It hasn’t been all smooth sailing for Kershaw this year, with a loss in Game 1 of the NLCS (four earned runs over three innings) standing out as a blemish on his resume. However, he was brilliant in eight shutout innings in Game 2 of the NLDS against the Atlanta Braves. He bounced back from his rocky start against the Milwaukee Brewers to win Game 5 behind seven innings of one-run ball. Kershaw also slammed the series shut with a scoreless ninth inning in the decisive Game 7 of the NLCS.
Both of these pitchers have reinvented themselves after winding up on the wrong side of 30. They have both lost a tick on their fastballs, living in the 90-92 mph range instead of mid-90’s heat. Price still gets his fair share of punchouts but he’s not blowing batters away anymore. He has to be craftier, painting the corners to rack up called strikes. Kershaw also locates well and still has a filthy slider but his 8.6 K/9 is his lowest since he was a rookie in 2008. It’s still an above-average rate but this is from a guy who led the league in that category at his peak.
Price and Kershaw may not be as dominant as they once were but perhaps their altered approach makes them better suited for the postseason. They are forced to pitch rather than simply rely on raw talent. It seems to be working for each of them this postseason. Will that continue in the World Series?