— When the 2018 World Series begins Tuesday night, many Dodgersplayers will get their first taste of playing in historic Fenway Park. Fenway Park has been home to the Red Sox over a century now, but many Dodgers players are quite young, and they don’t visit often during interleague play.
Ninety-eight total games. Machado is of course the leader thanks to all his time with the AL East rival Orioles. Dozier played parts of seven seasons with the Twins made an annual visit to Boston. Otherwise it’s a few games here and a few games there. Austin Barnes, Cody Bellinger, Enrique Hernandez, Joc Pederson, and Yasiel Puighave never played in Fenway Park.
Playing in Fenway can be intimidating because of the crowd and the coziness (and the cold), but, more than anything, it can be a difficult place to play because the outfield is so unique. There’s the Green Monster in left field, the triangle in center, and the Pesky Pole and rounded corner in right. There will be plenty of opportunities for misplays, and misplays mean extra bases.
Players on the Dodgers’ roster have three games worth of outfield experience at Fenway Park, all by Kemp back in 2010, when he roamed center field an interleague series. Manager Dave Roberts said Kemp will be the DH in Games 1 and 2, so none of the team’s actual outfielders have experience playing the outfield a Fenway. (Taylor played short in his three games at Fenway with the 2014 Mariners.)
With left-handers Chris Sale and David Price on the mound in World Series Games 1 and 2, respectively, Roberts is likely to use Taylor in left, Bellinger in center, and Puig in right with Freese at first base. Once the bullpen comes into play the lefty hitting Pederson will pinch-hit for the righty hitting Taylor. That has been the Dodgers’ strategy against lefty starters this postseason. Hernandez could also see outfield time as well.
Left field is probably the toughest outfield spot to play at Fenway Park because it can be real difficult to read whether the ball will reach the Green Monster, and play the carom. Andrew McCutchen, who has limited left field time to begin with, misplayed a ball off the wall in the ALDS, and the shortstop Didi Gregorius had to retrieve it in left. Check it out:
That’s the risk at Fenway Park if you don’t know how to play the wall. The ball gets an away and extra bases are taken. In right field, a hard-hit grounder can hook around the corner and sneak by the right fielder, and just keep rolling. Several would-be singles have turned into doubles and triples thanks to that hard-to-play corner.
For all intents and purposes, the Dodgers are going in blind here. Bellinger, Pederson, Puig, and Taylor have never played the outfield at Fenway Park. They familiarized themselves with the outfield and worked on all those tricky caroms during Monday’s workout day, but that’s only one day of work, and there is no substitute for game action.
There are going to be balls hit off the wall at Fenway Park during the World Series. That’s just the way it is. That’s baseball. The Dodgers’ ability to play the ball cleanly in the outfield and limit those extra bases could very well be the difference in the series.