For all the pedigree Clayton Kershaw and Chris Sale have, Game 1 of the 2018 World Series came down to a battle of the bullpens, which swung in favor of the Boston Red Sox when Los Angeles Dodgers manager curiously removed Pedro Baez in the seventh inning of what wound up an 8-4 loss.
In similar fashion to his Game 1 start in the National League Championship Series, Clayton Kershaw was not overly sharp in his first pitching pitching at Fenway Park. He also was let down by his defense, beginning with David Freese failing to make a play on a pop up foul territory.
Mookie Betts made the Dodgers pay by reaching on a single and immediately stealing second base. Andrew Benintendi cashed it in with an RBI single, and because of Yasiel Puig’s ill-advised throw to home plate, moved into scoring position.
That proved costly when Benintendi later scored on J.D. Martinez’s base hit. Kershaw picked off Martinez to aid his effort in limiting Boston to just the two early runs.
He benefited from a shift in the second inning as Jackie Bradley Jr.’s scorcher up the middle with runners at the corners and one out resulted in a double play. However, Kershaw couldn’t wiggle his way out of trouble in the third Martinez tagged him for a go-ahead double to the wall in center field.
Kershaw’s night came to an end in the fifth as he walked Betts and allowed a single to Benintendi, which was his third hit of the game. He ultimately wound up being charged for five runs, which left his career postseason ERA at 4.28.
For all the criticism the Dodgers have taken for their reliance on the home-run ball, they chipped away on Chris Sale with a blend of power and singles. In his first career World Series at-bat, Matt Kemp clubbed a solo home run over the Green Monster to cut the Dodgers’ deficit in half.
Then in the third inning, back-to-back base hits by Justin Turner and Freese put Sale in a bit of trouble with one out. Manny Machado made it a third in a row and tied the game with an RBI single to left field.
Sale also wound up lasting just four-plus innings, throwing 91 pitches and coming after walking Brian Dozier to lead off the fifth. Matt Barnes was unable to strand the inherited runner, giving up a single and then throwing a wild pitch that loomed large because it allowed Machado to tie the game with an RBI groundout.
The back-and-forth affair continued in the bottom of the fifth when Ryan Madson walked Steve Pearce on four pitches to load the bases upon taking over for Kershaw. He recovered to strike out Martinez with his next three pitches and nearly induced an inning-ending double play.
Xander Bogaerts legging out the chopper to shortstop was key in that it not only led to a go-ahead run scoring on the play, but Rafael Devers drove in another with a base hit.
The Dodgers got a run back on Machado’s sacrifice fly with the bases loaded in the seventh inning, giving him a game-high-tying three RBI. It wound up being all for naught as the Red Sox broke the game open in the bottom half of the inning.
Benintendi led off with a bloop double to join Wally Moses (1946) and Jacoby Ellsbury (2007) as the only Red Sox players with a four-hit game in the World Series. That marked the end of the road for Julio Urias who impressed in on one-plus inning.
Baez picked up a big strikeout and another after intentionally walking Martinez. But rather than be allowed to face Devers, needing just one out to get out of the inning, Baez was removed in favor of Alex Wood.
That prompted Red Sox manager to pinch-hit with Eduardo Núñez. The decision paid off in spades when Núñez’s line drive had enough carry on it to reach the first row of the Green Monster for a three-run homer.
Red Sox went into the game an MLB-best 74-15 (.831 winning percentage) when scoring first in the regular season, and are now 8-0 in such postseason games.