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7 things we've learned heading into Game 3

October 25, 2018

The Red Sox lead the World Series, two games to zero, over the Los Angeles Dodgers, and, at the end of the day, that's the only fact that matters: 2-0.:: World Series schedule and results ::But those two games gave us several takeaways and taught us several lessons about this

The Red Sox lead the World Series, two games to zero, over the Los Angeles Dodgers, and, at the end of the day, that's the only fact that matters: 2-0.
:: World Series schedule and results ::
But those two games gave us several takeaways and taught us several lessons about this series that will affect all we watch moving forward. This series is far from over, and those lessons can illustrate what might be coming when we head west for Game 3 tonight.
Here are seven things we've learned heading into three games at Dodger Stadium:
1. Joe Kelly suddenly looks like Boston's version of Josh Hader
The Joe Kelly Experience has been a wild and wooly one for Red Sox fans since he came over in a trade from St. Louis in 2014. They tried to make him a starter, with middling success, and then they transitioned him into a reliever, with similar results. He took a step forward in 2017 (2.79 ERA), but then another step back this year (4.39 ERA).
But the skills have always been there -- the turbo-charged fastball, the knee-buckling curve, the unconventional and deceiving delivery. And he has put it all together this postseason, giving up just one run in 7 1/3 innings. (For what it's worth, he's always been nails in the postseason for Boston: His career playoffs ERA for the Red Sox is 0.66.) He was particularly dominant in Game 2, making Dodgers hitters look downright silly.
Humans aren't supposed to be able to do this:

Kelly has gone from question mark to terrifying late-inning weapon. At this point, it wouldn't be surprising to see him every game in Los Angeles. And not as a reporter either:

2. The Dodgers' best hitter right now might be … David Freese?
The Dodgers have been in the postseason for six consecutive seasons, but you sure couldn't tell it from watching their hitters. Their slash line looks like one of an American League pitcher: .175/.239/.222. Their final 16 batters went down in Game 2. They have only two guys with more than two hits: Justin Turner and Freese, who keeps getting pinch-hit for late in games. Here's a way to look at it: Dodgers hitters have reached base only 17 times this series, and Freese has four of them … in only six plate appearances.
The Red Sox will be starting right-hander Rick Porcello in Game 3, which means Freese will likely be on the bench for Player Page for Max Muncy. It might behoove Dodgers manager Dave Roberts to get Freese into the game as quickly as possible: He's one of the few Dodgers who doesn't seem awed by the moment.

3. Uh-oh, Mookie Betts has woken up
Before Game 2, Betts, the 2018 MLB regular-season WAR leader and likely AL MVP Award winner, had been struggling mightily, with just six hits in his previous 31 at-bats. And only two of those were extra-base hits -- both doubles in Game 2 of the ALCS against Houston. Most teams would wobble with their best player going into a slump at the wrong time; the Red Sox just kept on trucking. But now Betts appears to have his stroke back, going 3-for-4 in Game 2 and unquestionably getting some of his swag back. The world is a better place when Mookie Betts is dancing on the basepaths.

And he's getting everybody free tacos. If Mookie is back to being Mookie again, this series might be over by Saturday.
4. The Red Sox should probably consider trying to get away with not putting J.D. Martinez in the field for Game 3.
J.D. Martinez has been his typical self this series, knocking in four runs and hitting .429 … but you can make a strong argument that the real reason the Red Sox are up 2-0 is their defense, particularly their outfield defense. (Andrew Benintendi might be the first player to win a World Series MVP Award in the field alone).
It is obviously tempting to try to sneak Martinez into the right field and move Betts to second base to keep Martinez's bat in the lineup. But the Boston defense, right now, is a greater factor in this series than Martinez' bat. The Red Sox have something special going on right now with their outfield defense, and messing with that just to get Martinez two more at-bats is messing with a winning formula. Besides: Martinez will be right there on the bench, ready to be deployed precisely when you need him.

5. Either the Red Sox have the elusive "Clutch Gene," or some regression is coming
Yeah, this stat is nuts:

On one hand, that's amazing! On the other … that's not particularly sustainable, is it? It is impressive that the Red Sox have had so much success with two outs, but generally speaking, it's not best to score all your runs with two outs. Maybe Boston can keep that going for two more games; if they do, they'll sweep the Dodgers. But it's more likely that some of those hits stop falling.
6.Walker Buehler might need to turn into Madison Bumgarner
For all the talk of bullpens this postseason, what the Dodgers need more than anything is a pitcher to pull a Bumgarner: To take charge and just start dominating people. They hoped Clayton Kershaw would be that person in Game 1; he wasn't. But Buehler can still be that guy. After all, he's been the best Dodgers starter this postseason, even if he hasn't had the results to show for it. L.A. still has the pitching depth to get back in this series, but it would require Buehler combining his two National League Championship Series starts: The seven innings he put up in Game 3 and the one run he gave up in Game 7.
Buehler can get the Dodgers back on track and be slated for another start later this series, maybe even another Game 7. The Dodgers' pitching staff hasn't been terrible, but, thanks to the infamously long at-bats Red Sox hitters take, it hasn't had much length. Buehler needs to get them some length, and fast.

7. Baseball games don't have to go on forever. And you can actually just enjoy them, you know
After the nearly four-hour Game 1, every national baseball writer in town for the Fall Classic groused on and on about how long the games were, how many pitching changes there were, how the game has been slowed down. What about the children?
But Game 2 was a relatively brisk three hours, 12 minutes, and now the series shifts back to gorgeous Dodger Stadium, where the games will begin in daytime and none of us have school the next day. This is a potentially terrific series between two historic franchises in two of the most beautiful places to watch grown men run around with sticks and baseballs and gloves that have ever been built. This strikes one as more valuable and noteworthy than crankiness about everybody's bedtimes. It's the weekend. Let's try to have some fun out there, yes?

Will Leitch is a columnist for