Series to Watch: Boston Red Sox at Los Angeles Dodgers

Aug 16, 2013; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Los Angeles Dodgers shortstop Hanley Ramirez (13) celebrates hitting a home run with first baseman Adrian Gonzalez (23) during the fourth inning against the Philadelphia Phillies at Citizens Bank Park. Mandatory Credit: Howard Smith-USA TODAY Sports

A year after coming together on one of the biggest trades in baseball history, both the Los Angeles Dodgers and Boston Red Sox are much better off than they were at the time of the deal.

That mega blockbuster was orchestrated a year ago this Sunday, and while not everything has worked out perfectly on either side of the trade, both teams enter this weekend’s series leading their respective divisions. Here’s a quick update on what the players involved in that deal have been up to this season starting with the Dodgers.

  • Adrian Gonzalez: Has been a steady force, posting a slash of .296/.345/.455 to go with 16 home runs and 77 RBI.
  • Carl Crawford: Missed a month earlier in the year, but is hitting a respectable .291/.342/.413 while playing plus defense.
  • Nick Punto: Has been a versatile bench piece, playing 30 games each at shortstop, third base and second base.
  • Josh Beckett: Was 0-5 with a 5.19 ERA over eight starts before suffering a season-ending injury.
All in all, I suppose this quartet would have to be considered a disappointment, but there’s no questioning the Dodgers are a better team thanks to that trade. Gonzalez and Crawford are probably never going to be superstars again, but they’ve been productive. Most of the players Boston acquired aren’t even in the organization anymore.
  • Allen Webster: Has a 9.57 ERA over six starts with Boston, but has overpowered hitters in Triple-A, averaging 10.4 K/9.
  • Rubby De La Rosa: Was called up this month and has a 4.76 ERA over five appearances out of Boston’s bullpen.
  • James Loney: Left as a free agent, and is having a career year with Tampa Bay.
  • Ivan De Jesus & Jerry Sands: Were traded to Pittsburgh in the Joel Hanrahan deal and have both spent the entire season in Triple-A.

Obviously, the real reason the Red Sox made this trade was to free up their payroll. That flexibility allowed the front office to reshape the roster this winter, and the makeover has paid dividends.

And while these teams aren’t battling each other in the playoff hunt, they both still have a lot to fight for. The Red Sox are trying to fend off the Rays, who are trailing by just one game, but are also being chased by the Orioles (-5.5) and Yankees (-6). The Dodgers have built a comfortable 9.5-game lead in the NL West, but they still have home-field advantage to fight for.

Both organizations have made impressive comebacks, Boston from a dismal 2012 and Los Angeles from a disappointing start to this season.

Last year, Boston finished in last place for the first time since 1932, but the Sox already have six more wins than in 2012 and there’s over a month of games left to play. On June 21, the Dodgers were 30-42, 9.5 games back in the NL West. Since, they’ve gone 44-10 and have built an 8.5 game lead in the division. To put that streak into perspective, if LA could played that well for a full season, their record would be 132-30. Wow.

Completely overshadowed by Yasiel Puig, Hanley Ramirez has been an absolute terror for the Dodgers since getting healthy. Another former member of the Red Sox, Ramirez has posted an eye-popping .348/.396/.620 slash line over 62 games.

The Red Sox called up their latest top prospect shortstop, Xander Bogaerts, this week. The 20-year-old will also see some time at third base. Once again, it’s ageless wonder David Ortiz who’s leading Boston’s offense. His .978 OPS trails only Miguel Cabrera, Chris Davis and Mike Trout.

The head-to-head pitching matchups of the series are John Lackey vs. Ricky Nolasco Friday, Jon Lester vs. Hyun-jin Ryu Saturday and Jake Peavey vs. Chris Capuano Sunday. Boston has to feel like they’re catching a break, as neither Clayton Kershaw nor Zack Greinke will pitch in the series.

THIS WEEKEND

  • Red Sox at Dodgers
  • Yankees at Rays
  • Athletics at Orioles
  • Braves at Cardinals*
  • Tigers at Mets
  • Pirates at Giants*
  • Rangers at White Sox
  • Twins at Indians
  • Brewers at Reds
  • Nationals at Royals
  • Diamondbacks at Phillies
  • Rockies at Marlins
  • Angels at Mariners
  • Blue Jays at Astros
  • Cubs at Padres

*four-game series that started Thursday

MARQUEE MATCHUPS

Fri: Hiroki Kuroda (11-8, 2.41 ERA) vs. Chris Archer (6-5, 2.95)
This great pitching duel opens a vital series. The Rays are just a game back of Boston in the East and the Yankees, who are 3.5 back in the Wild Card race, are trying to keep their playoff hopes alive. In three career starts against Tampa Bay, Kuroda has a 6.11 ERA.

Sat: Max Scherzer (18-1, 2.82) vs. Matt Harvey (9-4, 2.25)
All-Star rematch? On the mound, at least. If you’re going to watch any baseball this weekend, here’s the game you want to tune in to. The top Cy Young candidates in their respective leagues, you can bet Scherzer and Harvey are going to both bring their A game in this clash of aces. They’ve both pitched even better since the All-Star Game.

Sun: Dan Haren (8-11, 4.64) vs. Ervin Santana (8-7, 3.13)
Two former teammates and pending free agents, Haren and Santana both could benefit greatly from finishing strong this season. Their teams are both fighting to stay in the hunt for October but are running out of time. After a rocky start, Haren is 4-1 with a 2.31 ERA since the break.

Topics: Boston Red Sox, Los Angeles Dodgers

Want more from Call to the Pen?  
Subscribe to FanSided Daily for your morning fix. Enter your email and stay in the know.