EditorsNote: write-thru, with quotes and details added
BOSTON — In the days leading up to his World Series Game 1 start, Los Angeles Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw took extra steps to prepare for his first time pitching at Fenway Park.
The left-hander caught a ride from the airport to the park after he and his teammates landed Sunday, taking to the bullpen while wearing shorts to adjust to the cold weather and straightening out his delivery after pitching the ninth inning in Game 7 of the National League Championship Series on Saturday.
Kershaw worked out Monday in a no-sleeve shirt, again familiarizing himself with the elements in this new environment.
However, when it came time face the Boston Red Sox on Tuesday night, all Kershaw’s preparation went for naught. Armed with a fastball once again averaging just over 90 mph, the three-time Cy Young Award winner was roughed up for five runs in four-plus innings as the Red Sox pulled away late for an 8-4 win and 1-0 lead in the best-of-seven series.
“I felt fine,” Kershaw said. “Once I got loose, everything felt good. I didn’t pitch very well, but I don’t think the weather had anything to do with it.”
Game 2 is Wednesday night in Boston. The Red Sox are playing in their fourth World Series in 15 years, having won in 2004, 2007 and 2013. The Dodgers are playing in their second straight Fall Classic, though they haven’t won the title since 1988.
Back injuries in each of the past three seasons have taken their toll on Kershaw, whose average fastball velocity dropped from 93.1 mph last year to 91.4 this year. He allowed seven hits Tuesday night, walking three and striking out five.
Andrew Benintendi led Boston’s offense, becoming the third Red Sox player with four hits in a World Series game. Eduardo Nunez opened the contest up in the seventh inning with a pinch-hit, three-run home run.
“It seemed like it was a tight ballgame the whole entire time,” Benintendi said. “Getting that extra cushion is kind of like a deep breath and an exhale.”
Kershaw (0-1) got little help from his defense in the first inning.
Mookie Betts, the Red Sox’s leadoff man, reached on a single after first baseman David Freese failed to catch a popout in foul territory. Betts then stole second on the first pitch to Benintendi and scored on a single that saw right fielder Yasiel Puig airmail his throw to home plate instead of hitting the cutoff man, allowing Benintendi to advance to second. Benintendi came home on a J.D. Martinez single for a 2-0 Red Sox lead.
“We didn’t play the defense that we typically do,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said. “I thought we left some outs out there. And it didn’t make Clayton’s job any easier.”
Boston’s Chris Sale, also not his best in his first outing since Game 1 of the American League Championship Series, gave a run back in the top of the second, serving up a moonshot to Matt Kemp into the Green Monster seats in left. The home run was the first of the postseason for Kemp and the first Sale has allowed at Fenway since May 27.
After the Dodgers tied the score on three consecutive one-out singles in the third, Boston reclaimed the lead in the bottom of the frame with the help of replay. What was initially ruled an inning-ending double play was overturned when a challenge showed Steve Pearce beat the throw at first. Martinez then stepped in and hit an 89 mph slider to deep center for a double, forging a 3-2 lead.
“Slider wasn’t very good tonight,” Kershaw said. “Didn’t have the depth. Kind of flat in the zone, and, yeah, they made me pay for it.”
Martinez wiped out after rounding second base trying for a triple and was tended to by trainers before remaining in the game.
Sale was pulled after walking Brian Dozier to lead off the fifth, having thrown 91 pitches. Matt Barnes (1-0) took over, and after allowing a single and wild pitch to advance the runners to second and third, gave up a game-tying RBI groundout to Manny Machado.
Sale allowed three runs on five hits, striking out seven and walking two in his first outing since being hospitalized last week for a stomach illness.
“That was good stuff today,” Red Sox manager Alex Cora said of Sale, who came out hitting 94 mph on his fastball after dealing with diminished velocity in several recent starts. “Stuff-wise, probably the best in the postseason.”
The Red Sox took the lead for good in the bottom of the fifth on a bases-loaded, RBI fielder’s choice from Xander Bogaerts, who hustled to avoid a double play, and a run-scoring single by Rafael Devers, with both runs charged to Kershaw.
Los Angeles made it 5-4 with a bases-loaded sacrifice fly by Machado in the seventh, but Nunez’s blast gave Boston a safe margin.
“I don’t care about being a hero,” Nunez said. “As long as we have the win, that’s all that matters.”
Nathan Eovaldi pitched a scoreless eighth inning and Craig Kimbrel did the same in the ninth to close out the win.
Machado drove in three runs for the Dodgers, who got three hits from Justin Turner and two from Freese.
—Kyle Brasseur, Field Level Media