It’s absolutely possible. The Dodgers and Red Sox, three games, two of them on national TV. Baseball fans are rubbing their hands in anticipation.
It’s been a long time for the Dodgers, and although this is undoubtedly premature – there’s still more than a month left in the season – it’s OK to dream a bit. The Dodgers haven’t been to the playoffs since 2009; they haven’t been the World Series since 1988.
But now, for the first time in years, there’s reason to believe this could be one of those special seasons. The Dodgers returned home Thursday after winning four of six games on a road trip though Philadelphia and Miami, and extending their lead in the National League West to an imposing 9½ games over the second-place Diamondbacks.
They’re for real.
It was difficult to believe two months ago. On June 21, the Dodgers were 30-42 and dead last in the NL West, 9½ games behind Arizona. Their seismic turnaround to 75-52 marks only the third time a team has improved from 12 games or more below .500 to at least 22 games over .500 in the same season, joining the 2009 Rockies and the 1914 Boston Braves.
If there were concerns about back-to-back losses to the Phillies and Marlins this week, the Dodgers put them to rest with three consecutive wins in Miami. Clayton Kershaw won the series finale with eight shutout innings, lowering his ERA to a ridiculous 1.72, and Brian Wilson pitched a scoreless ninth in his Dodgers debut, a 6-0 win.
Now the Dodgers are coming home for what is surely going to be a critical series. They can measure themselves against one of the best teams in the American League, and it will be an opportunity for three of the players they acquired from the Red Sox last summer – Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford and Nick Punto – to face their former club on the one-year anniversary of the trade.
Boston was only too happy to dump salaries during its miserable 2012 season, but those three have played important roles since arriving in L.A.: Gonzalez has been the team’s MVP, according to manager Don Mattingly, Crawford is hitting .289 in the leadoff role, and Punto has been a solid and productive backup.
Only pitcher Josh Beckett, who had surgery last month to correct a nerve problem, has not had a part in this season’s success.
The Red Sox will not see the Dodgers’ top two starters – Kershaw pitched Thursday and Zack Greinke started Wednesday in Miami – but Hyun-Jin Ryu, who would be the team’s third starter in the postseason, will pitch Saturday. John Lackey has become Boston’s de facto No. 1 with Clay Buchholz still out because of neck and shoulder inflammation. He’s not expected back until September.
Here are the scheduled starters for the series:
Friday: Lackey (8-10, 3.22 ERA) vs. Ricky Nolasco (4-1, 2.98 since joining the Dodgers from Miami on July 6).
Saturday on FOX: Jon Lester (11-7, 4.09) vs. Ryu (12-4, 2.95).
Sunday: Jake Peavy (1-1, 4.18) vs. Chris Capuano (4-6, 4.70).
A Dodgers-Red Sox series is rare, even since in interleague play. They have played each other just nine times, the last in 2010 when Boston swept three games at Fenway Park.
There was also a World Series meeting, but that was in 1916 when the Red Sox beat the then-Brooklyn Robins, who later became the Dodgers, in five games.
That was 97 years ago. This seems like a good time for a rematch, don’t you think?