The teams sharing the spotlight in the 2018 World Series are two of baseball’s most storied franchises. Each are original members of their league. The Dodgers have a part in almost every historical development of the game — catcher’s gear, night baseball, radio broadcasts, television broadcasts, integration of black, Japanese, and Korean players into the league, and westward expansion. Many of these accomplishments have been previously relayed by the Inquisitr.
The Red Sox have a bit more of a complicated legacy, but no American League team save the hated Yankees — and possibly the Oakland A’s — has a greater record of success on the field. Even better, the two teams were arguably the best in their respective leagues during the regular season, and both survived the playoff gauntlet to meet here — on baseball’s biggest stage.
The opening game of the World Series, last night’s 8-4 Boston victory, showed flashes of the promise that this World Series holds for lifelong fans of the sport.
A moment showing some of the shared history between the two franchises could be seen before the game, as managers Dave Roberts and Alex Cora were introduced. Dodgers manager Dave Roberts has perhaps the most famous stolen base in baseball history, when he stole second as a pinch-runner with two outs in the ninth of the 2004 ALCS. Roberts was playing as a member of the Boston Red Sox at the time. Roberts would later come around to score — igniting the greatest comeback in playoff history as the Red Sox came back from a 3 games-to-none deficit to defeat the rival Yankees. That team would go on to end “The Curse of the Bambino” that fall, winning Boston’s first championship in nearly 100 years.
Cora, for his part, was a Dodgers prospect who played several years for the team before going to Boston as a utility infielder. He has led Boston to the cusp of a championship in his first season at the helm. In addition to their ties as former Dodgers teammates and as Red Sox alumni, both managers once played for Alex’s older brother, Joey Cora.
The starting pitchers, Boston’s Chris Sale and Los Angeles’ Clayton Kershaw, are among the best pitchers in the game. Kershaw, though appearing to enter the twilight of his storied career, is considered by many to be one of the greatest pitchers of all-time. Sale battled arm problems in the second half of the season, but still logged an incredible 6.9 WAR, according to Baseball-Reference. Despite only logging 158 innings in 2018, Sale boasted a 207 ERA+, and a 1.98 FIP, while striking out 13.5 hitters per nine innings — holding hitters to a minuscule.181 average. Kershaw also struggled with injuries in 2018 — missing seven starts — but still went 9-5 with a 2.73 ERA at the front of the rotation for the National League Champions.
The anticipated pitching duel between the two lefty aces never materialized, as both of them were gone before the end of the fifth inning, but that highlighted another trend that marks the 2018 World Series as historic — the strong reliance on bullpens in modern team management. The Dodgers used four relievers in the game, while Boston had to use six. Cora used potential Game 3 starter Nathan Eovaldi to pitch through the 8th inning. While the Dodgers are generally considered to have the stronger bullpen, Boston got key performances from Eovaldi, Joe Kelly, and Craig Kimbrel. The Dodgers bullpen, meanwhile, let them down as Eduardo Nunez hit a pinch-hit, three-run homer from Dodgers lefty Alex Wood in the bottom of the 7th to break the game open.
The Dodgers, for their part, have showed this season that the concept of mix-and-match pitching during the game is bleeding into lineup selection as well. Both lineups feature nine players who will wear pitchers down and will feast on mistakes — but Los Angeles has one of the most flexible lineups in baseball history. Boston manager Alex Cora used a hockey term to describe Roberts’ management style, calling the Dodgers’ ability to generate lineup matches as “line changes.”
Starting the game with a right-handed lineup against the left-handed Sale, Roberts had a plethora of good left-handed bats on his bench capable of stepping in when Boston switched to a right-handed pitcher. Despite having so many quality reserve players available, Roberts had emptied his bench in the 7th inning. By the end of the game, only three Dodgers were playing the position that they began the game in.
The two teams have a number of the greatest players of our generation on their rosters, and two of them made a historic impact during Game 1. Boston left fielder Andrew Benintendi — who has already had an tremendous postseason run highlighted by his amazing diving catch to clinch Boston’s victory over Houston in Game 4 of the ALCS — became just the fourth player since the expansion era began in 1969 to get four hits in a Wold Series game before turning 25. He is also the second left-handed hitter to ever touch Kershaw for three hits in a game. His future seems incredibly bright.
Meanwhile, Dodgers hired gun Manny Machado ignored a rain of boos to bat in three runs in a losing effort — becoming the first Dodgers player to twice bat in three runs during a postseason loss. Machado’s ability to perform even when the rest of his team struggles is a hallmark of his personality, and a testament to his professionalism.
The excitement of Game 1 was just a glimpse into what may be one of the greatest World Series match-ups ever. The saga will continue tonight in Game 2.