Dodgers cannot recover from mistakes and fall to the Red Sox
For 163 games during the regular season and 11 more in October, the Dodgers could comfort themselves by knowing they possessed more talent than the other club on the field. No team holstered more firepower. No opposing roster stockpiled more depth. No clubhouse boasted a more effective blend of superstars and role players. When the standings suggested the Dodgers were bound for an early winter, the team steeled itself with self-confidence.
As the Dodgers sputtered through the summer, a budding juggernaut developed on the East Coast. The Boston Red Sox won 108 games this season, more than any team in 17 years, and picked up steam in the playoffs. Boston brushed aside a 100-win Yankees team and blitzed the defending champions from Houston to set up a date with the Dodgers in the World Series.
In the days leading up to Game 1, some Dodgers joked about how they would enjoy being treated like an undergo. That was before they absorbed the clout of their opponent in an 8-4 loss on Tuesday at Fenway Park. Boston met every Dodgers’ action with a more forceful reaction.
When the Dodgers bruised the ace of the Red Sox, Boston answered by taxing Clayton Kershaw for five runs. Boston pounced on every opening, burst through every sliver of space. When manager Dave Roberts inserted Alex Wood as a reliever in the seventh inning, Red Sox manager Alex Cora countered with pinch-hitter Eduardo Nunez. The subsequent three-run homer from Nunez robbed the final two innings of any drama.
Little unfolded in the Dodgers’ favor on Tuesday. The pitcher’s duel between Kershaw and Red Sox ace Chris Sale never materialized. Neither man could record an out in the fifth inning. Sale departed with one runner aboard. Kershaw permitted two before Roberts intervened. Sale allowed three runs.
Two of the runs charged to Kershaw were scored with reliever Ryan Madson on the mound. The Dodgers had designated Madson as the fireman of their bullpen, a veteran reliever with an elite fastball. Madson only fanned the flames on Tuesday, throwing a wild pitch, walking a batter and giving up an RBI single as the Red Sox pulled ahead in the fifth.
The men surrounding Kershaw did him few favors. A missed play in the first inning led to a two-run rally. Madson stumbled in the fifth. But the responsibility for the loss still hung on his shoulders, even before Wood served up the game-deciding homer to Nunez.
Rain doused the diamond in the afternoon. The storm muddied the warning track and cancelled batting practice. The clouds parted by the evening, so the game could start on time. As the fans filtered into their seats, Kershaw and Sale warmed up about 20 yards away from each other in right field.
Sale had not pitched since Game 1 of the American League Championship Series, 10 days earlier. His fastball sat at 92.2 mph against the Astros, down from the 94.7 mph he averaged during the season. He was hospitalized for a stomach ailment in the aftermath, which he joked was caused by an infection from a belly-button ring.
Sale dealt with shoulder issues earlier in the season, but Roberts insisted the Dodgers could not hope to face a diminished ace. Roberts planned for the version of Sale, a whippet-thin fastball with an electric fastball and devastating slider, who has decimated American League lineups since debuting in 2010.
“That’s our expectation,” Roberts said. “But if we can get him out of the game early, that’s a good thing for us.”
Sale wiped out the first two batters he faced in a scoreless first inning. In the bottom of the frame, Kershaw learned how painful it can be to give the Red Sox an extra out. Boston outfielder Mookie Betts popped up Kershaw’s second pitch of the game. The baseball soared into foul territory past first base. David Freese twisted his way to find it, but misjudged the ball and let it drop.
Freese was not charged an error. Kershaw would soon be charged a run. In Game 5 of the last series, Kershaw stymied the Brewers by wielding his curveball. He tried an 0-2 curve to Betts, and saw it hit the dirt. He did not throw it again during the inning. The Red Sox aimed to avoid swinging at the pitch, forcing Kershaw to locate it for strikes.
On a 2-2 slider, Betts singled up the middle and stole second base. Red Sox outfielder Andrew Benintendi stroked an 89-mph slider through the right side of the infield. Betts scored, and Benintendi took second when Yasiel Puig decided to throw home.
The extra 90 feet contributed to a second run. J.D. Martinez, the slugger who terrorized the Dodgers with Arizona last season, lined a slider up the middle. The ball nearly brained Benintendi, who avoided contact and sprinted home. The inning took 20 pitches.
Matt Kemp halved the deficit in the second. He fouled off a pair of 95-mph fastballs and held his swing on a slider which dipped just beneath the zone. On the eighth pitch of the at-bat, Kemp hammered a 94-mph fastball over The Green Monster. The Dodgers drove Sale’s pitch count up to 51 when the inning was over.
The hitters pecked at Sale with singles in the third. Justin Turner snuck a one-out hit through the right side. Freese whacked a 3-2 slider into left. Manny Machado tied the game with a grounder between the shortstop and third baseman for the first of his three RBI.
The Red Sox reclaimed the lead in the bottom of the inning. After a one-out single by Benintendi, first baseman Steve Pearce kept the inning alive by beating out a double-play ball. He set the table for Martinez, who smashed a knee-high slider into the center-field triangle. Enrique Hernandez chose to play the ball on a carom. The RBI double bounced off the base of the wall and Pearce scored to put Boston back in front.
Sale started the fifth inning with 86 pitches on his ledger. He would only throw five more, walking Brian Dozier to begin the inning. Boston manager Alex Cora would not let Sale face Turner for a third time. From the bullpen emerged right-handed reliever Matt Barnes.
Turner greeted Barnes with a single. After Barnes spiked a curveball for a wild pitch, Dozier scored on a groundout by Machado to tie the game once more. The deadlock did not last beyond the bottom of the inning.
Kershaw walked Betts to start the frame. Benitendi collected his third single of the game. The hit prompted Roberts to leave his dugout. Kershaw was preparing for a conference with catcher Austin Barnes when he caught sight of his manager. He handed the baseball to Roberts and retired to his dugout.
Madson slicked gasoline over the blaze. He bounced a changeup for a wild pitch and loaded the bases with a walk. Red Sox shortstop Xander Bogaerts brought a run home with a grounder. A single by third baseman Rafael Dever extended Boston’s lead to two.
The Dodgers squeezed a run from reliever Ryan Brasier in the seventh. Boston sneered in response. Benintendi blooped a double off Julio Urias. Pedro Baez sandwiched a pair of strikeouts around an intentional walk of Martinez. Roberts elected to remove Baez to send Wood, a left-handed pitcher, against Devers, a left-handed hitter.
Nunez swings from the right side. Cora called upon him. A curveball from Wood snapped over the plate. Nunez lifted it over The Monster. It was the third homer allowed by Wood this postseason. The Dodgers could not recover.