BOSTON — A team many around these parts called “the worst 108-win team in history” — and only half-jokingly — is three wins from a title.
With Alex Cora again pressing the right buttons and getting contributions from up and down the roster, the Red Sox beat the Dodgers, 8-4, in Game 1 of the 114th World Series on Tuesday night in front of a chilled but thrilled crowd of 38,454 at Fenway Park.
“One through nine, it was just kind of a relentless attack,” said Brock Holt, who was the embodiment of Boston’s roster depth in the Division Series against the Yankees when he hit for the cycle in Game 3 and was on the bench in Game 4. “I think we scored in the majority of the innings [actually four of eight]. If you’re on defense and the other team keeps scoring, it’s tough to keep yourself in it.”
The latest example, both of the roster depth and of Cora making the right moves, came with two outs in the seventh inning Tuesday when the manager pinch hit Eduardo Nunez for Rafael Devers, who had a walk and an RBI single, with lefty Alex Wood coming on.
Nuñez broke open a close game with a three-run homer over the Monster to make it 8-4.
“Three more times, I want him to do it right and we end up winning the game,” Xander Bogaerts said of Cora with a smile. “Then we can all go home happy.”
The anticipated matchup of lefty aces never materialized, not a surprise to anyone, given how the postseason has mostly played out this season. Chris Sale of the Red Sox allowed three runs and five hits over four-plus innings and the Dodgers’ Clayton Kershaw saw his up-and-down October career continue. Kershaw was 9-8 with a 4.09 ERA in postseason, though 2-1 with a 2.37 this year coming in. He allowed five runs and seven hits in four-plus innings.
Kershaw did not get much help from his bullpen, which allowed two inherited runners to score. Still, no one would argue that Kershaw, or Sale for that matter, pitched especially well.
Meanwhile, a Boston bullpen that was supposed to be a weak spot, and was the primary reason there were so many doubters about the Red Sox, again was solid. Though Matt Barnes allowed an inherited runner belonging to Sale to score, he teamed with Joe Kelly, Ryan Brasier (one run), Eduardo Rodriguez and 2018 postseason phenom Nathan Eovaldi, another former Yankee, to get the ball to Craig Kimbrel.
Rodriguez, a lefty, retired the lefty-swinging Cody Bellinger on a flyout with two on and two outs in the seventh, keeping it a 5-4 game, leading to Nunez’s moment.
“It kind of speaks to the depth we have as a team,” Barnes said. “You got guys coming off the bench pinch-hitting home runs, it’s time and time again guys stepping up in huge situations.”
Handed the 8-4 lead, Kimbrel, mostly erratic these playoffs, retired the side in order, a second straight good outing following his closeout ninth in Game 5 of the ALCS.
The Red Sox had 11 hits, which included a 4-for-5 night by Andrew Benintendi, who had three hits against Kershaw. Benintendi became the third Red Sox player to have four hits in a World Series game, joining Wally Moses (Game 4, 1946) and Jacoby Ellsbury (Game 3, 2007) J.D. Martinez went 2-for-3 with two RBIs, both hits and RBIs coming against Kershaw, whom he’s owned in his career.
“Just get him in the zone and try not to chase,” Benintendi said of his club’s success against Kershaw. “We swung at strikes for the most part.”
It took Boston, 7-0 this postseason entering the night when scoring first, eight pitches to give Sale the lead.
Leadoff man Mookie Betts greeted Kershaw, making his first start at Fenway, with a single and he stole second. Benintendi hit a single to right (he took second on the throw home) to make it 1-0. After Steve Pearce popped out, Martinez, along with Betts among the favorites to win the AL MVP, ripped a single to center to make it 2-0. Martinez’s RBI double in the third gave Boston a 3-2 lead, and made him 7-for-13 with six RBIs in his career versus Kershaw.
The Dodgers would tie it but Xander Bogaerts’ RBI groundout in the fifth made it 4-3, and Devers’ RBI single later in the inning made it 5-3.
“From the first at-bat, we put pressure on them,” Cora said. “That’s what we do.”