9 moments that made Game 1 a thriller
BOSTON -- The 2018 World Series opened on Tuesday night at Fenway Park with a game so wild that we might just spend the hours leading up to Game 2 checking out the highlights and rolling various moments around in our hearts and minds.
:: World Series schedule and results ::
If this is how it's going to be -- and it probably is -- the Red Sox and Dodgers are going to take us on a fun ride. And if you had trouble keeping up with all the moves and countermoves the two managers -- Alex Cora of the Red Sox and Dave Roberts of the Dodgers -- made, remember: That's also part of the fun of it.
After the Red Sox won, 8-4, Cora said that he doesn't like to manage the other guy's team. Only in this case, that's what he has to do. He knows Roberts is going to run waves of position players and relievers at him -- Cora calls them "line changes" -- and so each skipper must manage both teams at once.
Most of all, this game was a reminder that this is the best time of the year for a baseball fan. Here are nine takeaways from Game 1:
1. Boston's lineup is relentless.
The Dodgers simply could get no breathing room against a team that won its 116th game on Tuesday. The Red Sox are 8-2 against the Yankees, Astros and Dodgers this postseason and have outscored them, 64-39. When Los Angeles scored in the third, fifth and seventh innings on Tuesday, Boston answered immediately in the bottom of each frame. When a potential inning-ending double play was overturned in the third inning, J.D. Martinez promptly took advantage by driving another run home. Still, the Dodgers were right in the game, trailing, 5-4, in the bottom of the seventh inning until ...
2. ... Eduardo Nunez broke it open.
Nunez began the day hitting .188 this postseason. He ended it by etching his name into the rich Red Sox folklore by breaking open Game 1 with a three-run pinch-hit homer in the bottom of the seventh inning. That's a sweet turn of events for a player Boston didn't re-sign until mid-February. That Cora would send up Nunez in place of Rafael Devers, who'd driven in a run in eight straight games, was the kind of move only a manager on a hot streak sees pay off.
• Nunez comes up clutch with 1st pinch-hit HR
3. And then there's Red Sox left fielder Andrew Benintendi.
Benintendi is turning this postseason into his personal stage. He sealed Game 4 of the American League Championship Series with a victory-saving catch to rob Houston's Alex Bregman. On Tuesday, in his first World Series game, Benintendi became the fourth player since 1969 to collect four hits in a Fall Classic before turning 25. Three of those came off Clayton Kershaw, making him only the second left-handed hitter (Brewers outfielder and likely National League MVP Award winner Christian Yelich is the other) to do so against him.
4. Bullpenning is here to stay.
Neither starting pitcher got an out in the fifth inning, and it doesn't even feel like a big thing. This is the continued evolution of a sport in which starters are relievers and relievers are starters. "Out-getters" is what the Brewers call them. The Dodgers used four relievers, the Red Sox six. Cora declined to name a Game 3 or 4 starter until he got through Games 1 and 2. He knew he'd use as many of his "starting pitchers" -- whatever that means now -- out of the bullpen as needed. And so in came right-hander Nathan Eovaldi to pitch a scoreless eighth inning. Eovaldi will presumably start Game 3 or 4 at Dodger Stadium, unless he's used again in relief.
5. Craig Kimbrel is fixed, and so is Joe Kelly.
Kimbrel pitched a scoreless ninth, and if his earlier troubles were a result of him tipping his pitches, he's clearly not doing that anymore. With their closer again dominant, the Red Sox are even more scary than they already were. As for Kelly, one of the relievers who struggled at times down the stretch, he showed off an 87-mph changeup and a 100-mph fastball during a scoreless seventh. At this point, Boston's bullpen couldn't look any better.
6. Martinez's excellent adventure
Martinez singled home a run in the first inning and clobbered a 412-foot double in the third. Per Statcast™, that ball was a home run 62 of 67 times, but it found the deepest part of Fenway Park. To add insult to injury, he stumbled and fell after rounding second base, twisting his right ankle, and had to dive back into the bag. Martinez said after the game that his ankle is fine and that he is good to go in Game 2.
7. The Dodgers used all their line changes.
Roberts left himself open to a second guess when he allowed first baseman David Freese, a right-handed hitter, to face right-hander Matt Barnes in the fifth inning. Roberts was not uncomfortable with that matchup, and he didn't want to run through all his left-handed hitters that early. He ended up doing so anyway, using the last of his position players in the top of the seventh. When the game ended, only three Dodgers position players were playing the spots where they began the game.
8. Manny Machado answers the bell.
As expected, Machado was roundly booed during pregame introductions and each time he stepped into the batter's box. He said he welcomed the pressure, and he played like it, driving in three runs and making a nice play on a Steve Pearce grounder in the third.
9. They still love you, Dave.
Never mind that Roberts is the manager of the Dodgers. To Red Sox Nation, he'll always be the guy who stole the most important base in baseball history, the one that turned around the 2004 ALCS and helped the Red Sox win their first World Series in 86 years. So when Roberts was introduced before the game, he got the kind of ovation that David Ortiz or Dustin Pedroia would expect.