A few thoughts on the first Sox-Dodgers World Series matchup since 1916 coming up, right after I miraculously recover from a belly-button ring infection…
Game 1 of the World Series always feels the most special. There’s the pregame ceremonies and introductions giving added pomp to the proceedings, and a certain buzz that only exists when any and all outcomes are possible. As the series progresses, that “special” vibe is replaced by crushing existential dread hanging on every pitch, which only grows stronger with each passing game. But prior to the first game fans are still comfortable enough to do things like (rightfully) cheer on the opposing manager.
— Sports Illustrated (@SInow) October 24, 2018
Good news for Red Sox fans: There was plenty more to cheer about over the course of Tuesday night’s 8-4 win.
It’s no secret that the Sox strength lies in the top of their lineup, which contains a Murderers’ Quartet of Mookie Betts, Andrew Benintendi, JD Martinez, and Xander Bogaerts. Here’s how they attacked Clayton Kershaw to kick things off in the bottom of the 1st:
- Betts singled to center, stole second base, and won free tacos for America.
- Benintendi slipped a hit through the hole into left field (scoring Betts), and took second on the throw home.
- Steve Pearce popped out.
- Martinez singled to center, scoring Benintendi.
2-0 Red Sox, before the Dodgers even had a chance to breathe. Los Angeles would continue to battle back throughout the early and middle innings, but Boston never trailed in this one. The Sox have had their fair share of fast starts this postseason, and continuing to do so in this series will go a long way towards winning the whole thing. Kershaw only lasted 4+ innings and was charged 5 earned runs, thanks to Boston’s relentless attack (and Martinez and Rafael Devers continually clutch postseason).
It’s a good thing, too, because the Red Sox ace didn’t have his best stuff either. Granted, Chris Sale may have still been recovering from a mysterious stomach injury that held him out of Game 5 of the ALCS. However, it was clear he didn’t have his best stuff. The Dodgers have been excellent all year at laying off pitches out of the zone, and Tuesday was no different. Sale threw 91 pitches, but only 54 (59%) for strikes. He positively labored through the first three innings especially, and wasn’t allowed to run through the LA lineup a third time. The velocity was sort of there, and his breaking stuff looked good, but he struggled to find the plate and was punished for mistakes:
— Los Angeles Dodgers (@Dodgers) October 24, 2018
Fortunately for Sale (and the Red Sox), the bullpen continues to be the surprise of the playoffs. It was another strong showing from the Boston relievers: 5 innings, 1 run, and importantly only 1 walk. When Joe Kelly is throwing changeups like this, you know things are going your way. Seriously, look at this thing:
Joe Kelly, Filthy 87mph Changeup (release/spin axis). pic.twitter.com/f3JjvR1wPj
— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) October 24, 2018
Is that a damn Wiffle ball?
On a similar point, Alex Cora is on absolute fire. This guy can’t miss, and you can doubt his moves at your own peril. He let Sandy León hit. León responded with a pair of singles in the same game for the first time since 1892. He brought in Nathan Eovaldi in the 8th to bridge the gap to Craig Kimbrel. Eovaldi was lights out. He even pinch hit Eduardo Nunez for Rafael Devers in the bottom of the 7th, despite pleas from Red Sox Nation to “please god don’t even think about it” (roughly paraphrasing there).
Nuñez…well…I’ll just leave this here.
Boston leads 8-4
— Bleacher Report MLB (@BR_MLB) October 24, 2018
When you’re hot, you’re hot. And right now, Cora is pushing all of the right buttons.
Even Kimbrel came on in the 9th and looked like the guy he’s been for nearly all of his career. Straight gas, straight dominance. There’s still plenty of baseball to play, but it’s tough to ask for a better start for the Sox in this series.
Key to World Series Game 2
One last thing, that I’ll be watching for tonight: How will Roberts deploy his lineup and bench against David Price? In Game 1 the Dodgers manager went all righties against Sale, will he do the same in Game 2 or roll with his best guys? Either way, it’s interesting how Cora looked like the guy who has managed in a World Series before, while Roberts’ micro-managing screamed “first year on the job”. We’ll see if that script flips.