World Series: Chris Sale vs. Clayton Kershaw pitching duel falls flat
BOSTON — The marquee pitching matchup hyped as one of the greatest in World Series history was a complete flop. No matter. The Boston Red Sox showed how they can overwhelm you in so many other ways.
They utilized their high-powered offense to blast the Los Angeles Dodgers, 8-4, in Game 1 in front of 38,454 fans, who weathered temperatures that dipped to the mid-40s.
The Red Sox continue to thrive this time of year, winning 13 of their last 15 World Series games, joining the New York Yankees as the only teams to accomplish the feat.
It was pinch-hitter Eduardo Nunez who broke the game open in the seventh inning with a three-run homer off Alex Wood, but it was a contest that featured a little bit of everything.
The Dodgers became the first team to start an all right-handed lineup in a World Series game, only to run out of position players by the seventh inning. Left fielder Andrew Benintendi became the first Red Sox player to get four hits in a World Series game. Matt Kemp hit his first postseason home run since Oct. 4, 2014, a span of 1,481 days. And Red Sox catcher Sandy Leon, who entered the game in a 3-for-64 skid, got two hits.
Yet, that star-studded pitching matchup between three-time Cy Young winner Clayton Kershaw and strikeout artist Chris Sale flamed out. The duo gave up 12 hits and eight earned runs, with neither recording a single out in the fifth inning before turning the game over to the bullpen.
It was only the fourth time in history that neither Game 1 starter lasted past the fourth inning, and the first time since 2004 when the Red Sox won their first World Series since 1918.
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Who knows, maybe it’s an omen for the Red Sox, who are vying for their fourth title since the turn of this century – the most in baseball.
The Red Sox relied on the same offense that scored the most runs this season, rescuing Sale.
Sale, pitching on nine day’s rest after being hospitalized with a stomach illness, labored through his four innings, throwing 91 pitches, but just 59 for strikes. Sale, who also has been bothered by shoulder inflammation, still hasn’t pitched as many as six innings in a game since July 27, and only 27 1/3 innings since.
“If I’m standing on the mound,’’ Sale said, “I’m 100%.’’
The fact is he is not even close, but it didn’t matter this night, as the Red Sox won a battle of the bullpens.
The Red Sox took full advantage of Kershaw’s departure in the fifth when he opened by walking Mookie Betts and surrendering a single to Benintendi. Kershaw summoned catcher Austin Barnes to the mound to talk about facing Steve Pearce, only to look and see Dodgers manager Dave Roberts coming out of the dugout.
Kershaw, who had never pitched at Fenway Park, or even faced the Red Sox, angrily turned his back, and when Roberts reached the mound, Kershaw handed him the ball without looking at him.
Kershaw could only helplessly watch when Ryan Madson walked Pearce, loading the bases for slugger J.D. Martinez. Yet, Madson struck him out on three pitches, and nearly induced a double-play grounder from Xander Bogaerts, who barely beat out the throw to force in a run. It soon became a two-run game when Rafael Devers followed with a single to right, giving the Red Sox a 5-3 lead that they never relented.
The Red Sox have now driven in 36 runs in just 37 at-bats with runners in scoring position.
Meanwhile, the Red Sox bullpen, which yielded 24 hits, 25 walks and 16 runs in the first nine postseason games, stepped up and shut down the Dodgers’ attack.
The Dodgers now will turn to Hyun-Jin Ryu, shelled in his last postseason start, on Wednesday in Game 2, in hopes he can even the series before they return to Los Angeles.
If not, that 30-year World Series drought in Los Angeles may be extended at least one more year.
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