A History of the LA Dodgers Head to Head With the Boston Red Sox

After a blistering first half of 2019, the Dodgers’ second half starts with a sturdy test in a World Series rematch with the Boston Red Sox. While Boston isn’t quite the juggernaut they were in 2018, it will nonetheless be an intense series as they will throw a lineup of lefty aces at an offense that tends to struggle against southpaws. 

With this rematch on our minds, let’s take a quick look at the regular season, trade and World Series history between the Bums and the BoSox. 

Regular Season Head to Head

As they’ve always played in separate leagues, the Dodgers and Red Sox head to head record is limited to interleague play (as well as two World Series, detailed below). Not counting the October meetings, they’ve only played each other 15 times in five series going into this weekend’s series. Boston currently holds the slight edge 8-7 in those 15 games. The first series was in 2002 at Dodger Stadium, a sweep by the Dodgers. 

It’s worth noting that the Dodgers have a winning record against Boston at home, but are just 1-5 in interleague games at Fenway Park. As such, regular (and postseason) history is working against them as they try to flip the script this weekend. 

Timeless Stadiums 

While they rarely play each other, Boston and Los Angeles do share a longstanding link in that they can lay claim to two of the three oldest stadiums in MLB. Fenway Park is the oldest, opening in 1912, making Wrigley Field in Chicago the second oldest as it opened in 1914. Dodger Stadium came much later in 1962. Especially during a time when it seems like clubs are clamoring for new stadiums more frequently, the loyalty of these teams and their fans to these hallowed houses is worthy of admiration. 

The Nick Punto Trade, Manny Ramirez, and Dave Roberts

The real heart of the Dodgers and Red Sox’ history with each other is through trades. The teams have agreed to many swaps that ended up shaping periods of great success for both sides. 

The first came in 1939, when the Brooklyn Dodgers sent an enormous package to get shortstop Pee Wee Reese. Reese would amass a Hall of Fame career in both Brooklyn and Los Angeles, helping them win the first championship of both cities in 1955 and 1959. Of course, he also provided emotional support to Jackie Robinson in the historic 1947 season. 

The other marquee swap was 2008. The relationship between the defending champion Red Sox and their star slugger Manny Ramirez had grown acrimonious, and Ramirez wanted out. In July, a blockbuster three-team swap sent Ramirez to Los Angeles, thus kicking off “Mannywood.” In the same year where he hit his 500th career home run, Manny led the Dodgers to the NL West title and their first postseason series victory in two whole decades. 

On the other side, the Dodgers have agreed to two deals that paved the way for two Red Sox championships. The first was in 2004, when Dave Roberts was dealt at the deadline to Boston. It ended up being the move that changed baseball history. Down to their final three outs in game four of the ALCS against the Yankees, Kevin Millar drew a leadoff walk and was removed for pinch-runner Roberts. 

After a few throws to first (including an especially close one), Roberts finally bolted for a perfect steal. Bill Mueller responded by driving him home to tie the game, setting up an extra-innings affair that ended with a David Ortiz walk-off homer. The Red Sox would go on to become the first team in MLB history to overcome an 0-3 series deficit, then storm their way to their first championship in 86 years. 

The next came in August 2012, a unique convergence of circumstances. It was the first season of the Guggenheim ownership group in Los Angeles, who were pouring a record amount of money into the team and making big trades to boost the roster, such as acquiring Hanley Ramirez from the Marlins. 

The opposite was the case for Boston. Still reeling from a humiliating late-season collapse in 2011, the team was doing even worse in 2012 as they tumbled into the AL East cellar. Their fortunes dwindling, they desperately needed to shed payroll and get rid of a slew of bloated contracts. The Dodgers were just the partner they needed. 2011 collapse pariahs, Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford and Josh Beckett were thus shipped off to Hollywood, accompanied by veteran utility player Nick Punto. 

While the trade did contribute to plenty of Dodger playoff teams, its greatest impact was shedding the payroll and roster space necessary for the Red Sox to put together their worst-to-first championship team the very next year in 2013. 

The 1916 and 2018 World Series 

Given the Dodgers and Red Sox are two of the most storied franchises in baseball history, it would be reasonable to surmise they’ve met in the World Series multiple times. Yet somehow, they’ve only met twice: 1916 and 2018. The key reason for this is the paucity of Boston World Series appearances during the 86-year span known as “the Curse of the Bambino.” While the Dodgers frequently appeared in the Fall Classic in Brooklyn and Los Angeles, Boston was present just four times: 1946, 1967, 1975 and 1986.

The first match-up was in 1916. Boston were the defending champions, and seeking their third title of the decade. They possessed the finest outfield of the era in Harry Hooper, Tris Speaker and Duffy Lewis. Just as intimidating was a starting rotation full of shutdown arms, most notably Babe Ruth. The Brooklyn Robins, meanwhile, had won the first pennant in franchise history. Their offense was led by Hall of Famer Zack Wheat and 1913 NL MVP Jake Daubert

Unfortunately, Brooklyn’s stellar bats were rendered inert by Boston’s aces. The Red Sox won the series easily in five games, their third of four titles that decade. 

Given Boston’s many lean years following 1918, it wouldn’t be until 2018 when the two clubs battled for the championship once again. Much like in the 1910s, the Red Sox were a championship juggernaut, with three titles in the past 14 years. Like in 1916, outfield defense was a strength thanks to Andrew Benintendi, Jackie Bradley Jr. and Mookie Betts. Also similar was an ace-laden rotation of Chris Sale, David Price, Rick Porcello and Nathan Eovaldi. The Sox won an MLB-best 108 games, and made relatively quick work of the superteam Yankees and Astros for the pennant. 

The Dodgers, while winning 16 fewer games, still had the intangible of avenging 2017’s heartbreaking World Series defeat. All the same, the series started predictably, as the Dodgers’ already inconsistent bats were frozen by Boston pitching and the frigid New England weather in the first two games. The only real moment of heartbreak was Dave Roberts’ baffling decision to take out Pedro Baez in favor of Alex Wood in game two, who then surrendered a game-sealing pinch-hit HR to Eduardo Nunez. 

When the series shifted back to Chavez Ravine, it was up to rookie stud Walker Buehler to keep a 2-0 deficit from becoming a 3-0 one. Buehler did just that with a dominating performance that earned an ovation from Sandy Koufax himself. When you retire 14 straight and limit the best team in baseball to just two hits, it’s definitely warranted. 

However, he wouldn’t get the win, as Jackie Bradley Jr. continued his two-out home run prowess against Kenley Jansen in the eighth inning. With the game tied at 1-1, things got weird. Very weird. Inning by inning, the game suddenly seemed like it would go on forever. Close calls, blown leads, and heroics too numerous to mention here transpired until the 18th inning. That’s when Max Muncy decided to put an end to the longest game in World Series history. 

With momentum seemingly on their side, Rich Hill pitched brilliantly in game four, keeping the game tight at 1-0. Then, in the sixth inning, Yasiel Puig crushed a three-run homer to make it 4-0. A 2-2 series tie, and increased odds of winning the World Series, seemed inevitable. 

As we all know, that’s not how it worked out. Roberts and Hill miscommunicated in the seventh, leaving Boston’s offense to rally off L.A.’s weak and beleaguered bullpen. After turning a surefire victory into defeat, Los Angeles was easily bulldozed in game five as the Sox won their fourth title in 14 years. 

As Boston struggles to stay in the AL Wild Card hunt, it’s not too likely the two clubs will meet again this October. Still, it would be satisfying to see Los Angeles play well in Fenway Park for once to commence the second half of a monstrous season.

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