BOSTON -- It took the Dodgers nine innings to lose Game 1 of the World Series on Tuesday night, but only one inning to realize they have no margin for error if they want to beat the 108-win Red Sox.
A missed popup and an overthrown cutoff man led to a two-run first inning off Clayton Kershaw in what turned into an 8-4 loss at Fenway Park. The inability to turn grounders into double plays in the third and fifth innings resulted in three more runs for the Red Sox, who blew open a one-run game with pinch-hitter Eduardo Nunez's three-run shot off Alex Wood in the seventh inning.
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A Kershaw loss only adds to the pressure already facing Hyun-Jin Ryu, the Game 2 starter who had an 8.59 ERA in two road starts in Milwaukee during the National League Championship Series. Now Ryu must make his career debut at Fenway Park against a loaded lineup just so his club can get an early split.
Ryu has the reputation of a big-game pitcher, and he'll really get the chance to prove it on tonight, when the Dodgers will be pulling out all the stops to make sure they don't go 0-2. Of the 54 teams that have trailed 0-2, only 11 have recovered to win the World Series.
"If we can split, go home tied, we're in pretty good shape," said James Dozier. "Can't lose two games here, I don't think."
Former World Series hero David Freese -- who missed the popup to extend an at-bat that Mookie Betts turned into a leadoff single in the two-run first inning -- has won a World Series as the MVP in 2011 and lost one in '13. He knows firsthand what it takes for both results.
"You've got to show up, Game 1, World Series, at Fenway," said Freese. "Double-play balls, popups drop. Just can't let that happen. You've just got to get it done. You've got to play really good baseball in the World Series. Plays that we could have stepped up and gotten guys in or defensively make the plays -- the popup, I just got turned around. The ball's got to be caught, bottom line."
Freese started at first base against Boston lefty Chris Sale. After Betts' foul pop fell untouched behind Freese, Betts singled up the middle and stole second base on a swing-and-miss hit-and run.
Andrew Benintendi's first of four hits went to right field, from where Yasiel Puig tried to throw out the speedy Betts at the plate, but he missed the cutoff man as he often does. Betts was safe, and Benintendi alertly advanced to second, in position to score without a throw on the first of two RBI hits by J.D. Martinez.
Granted, Kershaw had now allowed three sharp singles after facing only four batters. He was trying to win a World Series game as a breaking-ball pitcher without a reliable breaking ball. Kershaw was struggling with plate umpire Tim Timmons' tight strike zone. And after throwing the last 15 pitches in Saturday night's NLCS Game 7 clincher in Milwaukee, he was allowed to face the first two batters in the fifth inning. Both reached base, and Kershaw was removed, ultimately charged with five runs on seven hits in four-plus innings.
"Slider wasn't very good tonight," said Kershaw. "Didn't have the depth, kind of flat in the zone, and they made me pay for it. All the way around, wasn't a great night."
Manager Dave Roberts said he hoped Kershaw could get through the first three batters in the fifth, but when Betts and Benintendi reached on a walk and single, a strikeout of Steve Pearce was needed, and he went with Ryan Madson, who issued a four-pitch walk, then struck out Martinez on three pitches. But Xander Bogaerts beat out what would have been an inning-ending double play.
Kershaw was asked about trying to beat a team as potent as the Red Sox while giving away extra outs.
"It's a hard team to beat, no matter what," he said. "They can hit homers, they can put the ball in play getting singles, working the count, getting walks, stolen bases, all sorts of things. Can't do that either [the extra outs], for sure."
In the history of best-of-seven series with the 2-3-2 format, teams that win Game 1 at home have gone on to take the series 61 of 93 times (66 percent). In the NLCS, however, the Brewers beat the Dodgers in Game 1 in Milwaukee before L.A. ultimately advanced. Of their previous 13 World Series in which the Dodgers have lost Game 1, they won the series four times (1955, '59, '65 and '81).
"We won Game 1 last year [against Houston] and lost the series," Kershaw pointed out. "Maybe we'll try it out this way and see if we can win one."
Offensively, the Dodgers got one home run from Matt Kemp in his first career World Series at-bat and struck out 12 times trying for more. Los Angeles chased Sale after four-plus innings, erased a pair of deficits and saw six Boston relievers, but it went 1-for-7 with runners in scoring position.
• Kemp hit Dodgers' first World Series homer in Boston since Myers off Ruth in 1916
"I thought we did a great job offensively, we really did," said Roberts. "It was just, for me, the defense, uncharacteristic tonight from our club. To beat a club like that, you've got to play a cleaner game defensively."
With two on and two out in the seventh and Rafael Devers due up, Roberts removed Pedro Baez after two strikeouts and brought in the left-handed Wood. Red Sox manager Alex Cora countered with Nunez, who drilled a liner over the Green Monster.
"We talked about [leaving Baez in] with Petey throwing the ball well right there," said Roberts. "But Devers is really good against the right-hander, and to get a guy off the bench and Nunez, I really liked Alex in that spot, I did. Whether they were going to hit Devers with a lead or go to the bench and go with Nunez, I still liked Alex in that spot."
Wood has allowed seven homers in 18 innings over the past two postseasons.
"It's a long series," said Justin Turner. "We lost Game 1 in Milwaukee, too, I believe. So we'll shake this one off and come back tomorrow."