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Game 3 Preview: Dodgers Must Warm To Task Of Catching Red Sox

Let’s begin with a little karaoke from one of our favorite holiday season ditties: “Oh, the weather outside was frightful. …”

The musical interlude seems appropriate considering how influential the Los Angeles Dodgers felt the chill at Fenway Park on Tuesday and Wednesday was in freezing their bats.

World Series

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It’s not like Fenway was Lambeau Field in December. There were no snow flurries or punishing wind gusts. It’s October in Boston. What did they expect? Frozen margaritas?

Still, the Dodgers managed only three hits in their 4-2 loss in Game 2, none after the fourth inning.

“It minimizes my mind, man,” said the aptly-named Dodgers first baseman David Freese. “My mind goes everywhere every now and then. When it’s really cold, there’s not much to think about.”

Well, that won’t be the case come Friday when the World Series moves to Dodger Stadium for Game 3. The temperature is expected to be 85, warm enough for Larry King, now 85 years old, to sit comfortably in his customary seat behind home plate where he can chit-chat with Mary Hart.

It’s an understatement to say this is a crucial weekend for the Dodgers,  down 2-0 in the best-of-seven. Teams that lose the first two games of the World Series end up winning only 20 percent of the time.

Oh, but it’s happened to the Red Sox before, you know. In 1986, the Sox won the first two games of the Series against the New York Mets at Shea Stadium. Then came Game 6. Bill Buckner. Mookie Wilson. What a shame that was.

Meanwhile, the Dodgers have overcome 0-2 deficits three times to win World Series titles.

In 1955, the Dodgers lost the first two to the Yankees at Yankee Stadium before rebounding to win its only World Series title in Brooklyn. In 1965, after losing the first two games in Minnesota, they won the Series in Game 7 when Sandy Koufax shutout out the Twins on three hits. In 1981, they lost the first two games at Yankee Stadium before sweeping the last four.

Of course, the Red Sox have laughed in the face of danger, too. Remember the 2004 ALCS against the Yankees? We thought you might.

And the reality is, the Dodgers have already fought back this season. They were 16-26 and here they are back in Hollywood with a chance to win their first Series in 30 years.

“In seven-game sets, you never want to lose back-to-back games,” said Dodgers second baseman Brian Dozier said. “It’s a big thing. … We did lose back-to-back games, but I feel like this team has been resilient in the playoffs, especially with the past two. You can wallow in self-pity, or you can do something about it.”

World Series

Elsa / Getty

Trying To Right The Wrong

With righthander Rick Porcello set to start Game 3, Dodgers manager Dave Roberts will get to use his powerful left-handed hitters from the start for the first time this series.

A slave to platooning, Roberts became the first manager in World Series history to use an all-righthanded hitting lineup – and he did it twice against lefties Chris Sale and David Price.

But now Max Muncy, Joc Pederson and Cody Bellinger will be back where they belong. By benching them – and catcher Yasmani Grandal – in the first two games, the Dodgers also became the first team in World Series history to bolt their top four homerun hitters to the bench.

In the first two games, the Dodgers right-handed bats have been very quiet, aside from Freese who is 3-for-5. Matt Kemp has homered, but is hitting .143. Neither Brian Dozier, Austin Barnes or Kiki Hernandez have a hit. Barnes has caught instead of Grandal for strictly defensive reasons.

The Dodgers will start rookie Walker Buehler, one of the top rookie pitchers in MLB this season.

His job is to quiet a lineup that is hitting .415 with two outs and runners in scoring position during the postseason – the best all-time for teams with at least 25 opportunities.

World Series

Elsa / Getty

Playing The Role Of Mike Andrews – Mookie Betts

The Red Sox have known all along they would have to make a tough decision when the Series moved to the NL because of the lack of a designated hitter.

Like Big Papi playing first base, the Sox need to find a place for J.D. Martinez, who hit .330 with 43 homers and 130 RBIs this season.

And it seems the best place for Martinez is the outfield, most likely right field, which means Mookie Betts, MLB’s batting average champion, would be asked to play second base in place of Ian Kinsler.

Betts was drafted as a shortstop, played second base in the minor leagues and logged six innings there this season against the Yankees in August.

Obviously, with Dustin Pedroia around, Betts wasn’t going to play second in the Majors. But Betts regularly takes grounders at second base during batting practice because he likes to do it.

Will this happen?

“Very slim,” said Red Sox manager Alex Cora. “But he is prepared. He’s the best defensive right fielder in the big leagues. He’s not going to be the best defensive second baseman in the big leagues. We start moving a lot of parts. …obviously offensive we can keep everybody together.”

Well, Cora said before the Series began that Martinez would play every game. And you think Betts will play every game. So who sits? Kinsler, Andrew Benintendi or Jackie Bradley, Jr., the ALCS MVP?

“AC [Cora] hasn’t steered us wrong,” said Betts. “There’s no reason for me to not trust him. If he believes in me, then I have to believe in myself. That’s what it takes to win.”

One thing to keep in mind: Martinez rolled his ankle going around the second-base bag in Tuesday’s Game 1. We’ll finally know just how bad that really was if he’s somehow not in the outfield tonight.

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