BOSTON – Game 1 of the World Series lasted 3 hours, 52 minutes, featured 12 pitchers and 24 position players, totaled 308 pitches and included more strikeouts (24) than hits (19). It was a perfectly Instagrammable snapshot of Major League Baseball in 2018.
The fact that the Boston Red Sox won it happened to dovetail nicely with that theme, too, because nobody has won more than the Red Sox in 2018. The Los Angeles Dodgers were the latest to stare down Boston and blink first, dropping an 8-4 game at Fenway Park in which the Red Sox authored the 116th victory of their remarkable season in convincing fashion.
While the first five innings went back and forth, the Dodgers chipping away, the Red Sox poking back ahead, everything changed in the bottom of the seventh inning. Andrew Benintendi led off with his fourth hit of the night, an excuse-me ground-rule double that dropped just inside the left-field line. On came Pedro Baez, the fourth Dodgers pitcher of the night, and he sandwiched a pair of strikeouts around an intentional walk to J.D. Martinez. Dodgers manager Dave Roberts removed him, hoping to get a lefty-on-lefty matchup with new pitcher Alex Wood against Rafael Devers. Red Sox manager Alex Cora went to his bench, called upon Eduardo Nuñez and watched him swat a line-drive home run just over the Green Monster.
It extended Boston’s lead to 8-4, which it would hold with Game 4 starter Nathan Eovaldi cruising through the eighth inning and closer Craig Kimbrel pitching a clean ninth – and avoiding Dodgers star Manny Machado, who, amid a torrent of boos from the 38,454 at Fenway, drove in three of the Dodgers’ four runs with a single, a groundout and a sacrifice fly.
Boston put together its runs in bunches, dropping a two-spot in the first inning and adding a pair in the fifth that were charged to Dodgers starter Clayton Kershaw, who allowed five runs in four innings. The biggest crooked number of the night was the three that Nuñez’s home run provided, allowing the Red Sox the breathing room they needed against a dangerous Dodgers team that is so deep Roberts dipped into his entire bench by the seventh inning.
The game was rather emblematic of Boston’s season. The Red Sox stood against the home run-swatting, 100-win New York Yankees and dispatched them in quick order. They faced a Houston Astros team for the American League pennant that was just as talented and finished them off with three straight wins on the road. The Red Sox’s 108-win regular season was no accident. And now they’re three more away from their fourth championship in 15 years.
In Game 1, they did it without a particularly inspired performance from their starting pitcher, either. The Dodgers didn’t get it likewise, the matchup of two of the finest pitchers of their generation never materializing into a duel. Red Sox starter Chris Sale walked the first batter of the fifth and was removed. Kershaw allowed a walk and a hit to start the bottom of the fifth before Roberts lifted him for Ryan Madson, who allowed both runs to score. The game’s final 30 outs went to the bullpens after neither starter could muster more than a dozen outs.
Boston’s, as it has been all postseason, was superior, and a game that looked as though it might go down to the late innings wound up as so many this season have: long, grinding and with the Red Sox on top.
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