The excellent pitching duel we expected in Game 1 of the World Series didn’t fully materialize on Tuesday night at Fenway Park, with neither Clayton Kershaw nor Chris Sale able to record an out in the fifth inning. The contest became a battle of the bullpens, won by the Red Sox in a landslide 8-4 over the Dodgers.
The Dodgers bullpen allowed just six runs in 41⅔ innings in the first two rounds of the playoffs for a 1.30 ERA, but allowed three runs in four innings on Tuesday, and allowed two inherited runs to score after Kershaw was pulled.
That’s been the story for Kershaw, who in his postseason starts has seen a whopping 13 of his 16 bequeathed runners score. Make no mistake, this was a bad outing for Kershaw, one where he was charged with five runs in four-plus innings. After getting eight swinging strikes from his curveball in his Game 5 start in the NLCS, Kershaw got only two swings and misses on that pitch on Tuesday.
Boston led 5-4 in the middle innings, and were able to mostly keep the Dodgers at bay. Matt Barnes, Ryan Kelly, Ryan Brasier, Eduardo Rodriguez, and Nathan Eovaldi provided the bridge to Craig Kimbrel, and the Red Sox bullpen allowed only a run on three singles in five innings, with five strikeouts and a walk.
Red Sox relievers this postseason have a 3.40 ERA in 42⅓ innings, and Boston is now 8-2 in October, just three wins from another title.
The game was close throughout, until the seventh when believe it or not the game turned when the Dodgers removed Pedro Baez.
Baez didn’t pitch last postseason for the Dodgers, after getting booed at home in 2017 as he entered a game, a true low point for the right-hander. He had a rebound season in 2018. He had a 2.88 ERA and 3.16 FIP in 55 games during the regular season, and was unscored upon in his first six postseason games.
With a runner on second, Baez struck out two, issuing an intentional walk to J.D. Martinez in between. Baez was pulled with the left-handed Rafael Devers due up. On a day they added ground ball specialist Scott Alexander back to the roster, the Dodgers instead opted for a different left-hander, Alex Wood.
Right-handed batter Eduardo Nuñez pinch hit for Devers, and on lined his second pitch from Wood over the Green Moster for a monster three-run home run, essentially putting Game 1 to bed.
“I really like Alex in that spot. I did,” manager Dave Roberts told reporters after Game 1. “Whether they were going to hit Devers with the lead or go to the bench and go with Nunez, I still like Alex in that spot.”
After allowing two home runs in his final 46 innings of the regular season, Wood has allowed three home runs in 5⅔ innings this October.
Game 2 is Wednesday night at Fenway Park. Let’s see how deep David Price and Hyun-jin Ryu will pitch in that one.