BOSTON — We’ve spent a week talking about Manny Machado. Whether he hustles enough. Whether he’s good enough. Whether he’s a dirty player. Whether he’s a $300 million dollar player. Whether the Boston Red Sox should hate him. Whether he’s the villain postseason baseball needs.
It was all eyes on Manny in Game 1 of the World Series on Tuesday night, from the boos when he was introduced to the throng of reporters falling over themselves to ask him questions after the game.
Turns out, Game 1 revealed a big gap in our collective Dodgers focus: Machado alone — whether he has a great game or whether he offends 40,000 fans in one single play — isn’t going to decide who leaves this baseball season with championship rings.
Machado delivered three RBIs and some nice defense and looked every bit like a guy you’d love to acquire at the trade deadline as you angle for a championship. And the Dodgers still lost 8-4 to the Boston Red Sox to fall into a 1-0 hole in the series.
If people in L.A. didn’t know it before, they know it now: It’s going to take a lot to beat the Red Sox. The 108-win Red Sox. The we-beat-the-Astros-and-Yankees-handily Red Sox.
Meanwhile, the Dodgers, a team that’s lived on the edge all season — fighting away failure but not fully grabbing onto success — have to play again with their backs against the wall. And it’s going to take a whole lot more than Manny Machado to save them.
“They won 108 games, so they’re a very, very good ballclub,” Machado said after the game. “We knew what we were getting ourselves into, but tomorrow we just got to come out, keep our head up. We played a great game, fell short, but tomorrow we’re going to come back.”
To come back, the Dodgers will need more from their starting pitcher — Clayton Kershaw, lasting just 12 outs, allowed five runs on seven hits.
“Slider was not very good,” Kershaw said. “Did not have the depth in the zone. They made me pay for it.”
They’ll need to make better decisions — pulling an on-point Pedro Báez for Alex Wood, then watching Wood give up a three-run, pinch-hit homer to Eduardo Núñez on his second pitch. It effectively buried the Dodgers.
“I really liked Alex in that spot,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said. “I did.”
They’ll need most consistent production from their lineup — they had seven hits from the No. 1-4 hitters, and one hit from their No. 5-9 hitters. The one being a Matt Kemp homer.
“We always got guys who are getting big hits,” Kemp said. “You never know who’s gonna be that guy.”
Now it’s back to that familiar but uncomfortable place for the Dodgers — playing from behind, bottling their resiliency, hoping the long game works. They did it all season. They did it in the NLCS, too. But for that long game to work against the Red Sox, the Dodgers will need to stretch this series like they did against the Milwaukee Brewers.
“Our guys, like you’ve seen all year, are going to fight,” Roberts said. “And we don’t expect these guys to give us anything. So we expect it to be a hard-fought series. But the way we competed — even at the end, to get [Boston closer Craig] Kimbrel in the game, to see him, to get a look at him, to see [Nathan] Eovaldi, I thought offensively we did a really good job. And that’s what we’ve done all year long.”
“We never doubt ourselves,” Machado said. “We’re always positive. We know how good we are. Sometimes you lose, sometimes you win. Just get used to it, come back tomorrow, get a W.”
Game 2 brings Hyun-jin Ryu on the mound for the Dodgers, a pitcher who had one postseason start where he didn’t allow a run in seven innings and two postseason starts where he allowed seven runs in a combined 7 1/3 innings.
It’s definitely not the ideal situation for the Dodgers, but they know Ryu has been very good at times this season. But if he’s not in Game 2, they could be going home in the worst possible scenario.
“If we can split here, which is we said coming in,” said second baseman Brian Dozier, “that’d be really good.”
Of course you can say that after a Game 1 loss. It’s the appropriate silver lining for the situation.
And if you don’t like that spin, Kershaw had another.
“We won Game 1 last year and lost the series,” he said. “We’ll try it out this way.”
It’s either that or hoping that Manny Machado has nine RBIs waiting for Game 2.
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