Since the start of 2008, there are only two pitchers in baseball that have a sub-3.00 ERA with a minimum of 900 innings pitched. Two of the three will be on the mound for their respective teams when the Dodgers and Red Sox take the field Tuesday night in Game 1 of the World Series.
Clayton Kershaw has a 2.39 career ERA in 2,096 1⁄3 innings and second on the list is Chris Sale, tallying a 2.89 ERA in 1,482 1⁄3 over his nine big league seasons. The only other pitcher on the list is Cliff Lee at 2.93 for the last seven years of his career that came to a close in 2014.
Not to be diminished by recent injuries or ailments, Kershaw-Sale is a matchup fitting of the grandest stage.
“Chris is a very good pitcher,” Kershaw said during media day Monday. “He was dominant this year. He’s been dominant for a long time. I enjoy watching him compete.”
“I have nothing but good things to say about him and the way he competes and the way he’s pitched the last few years. I don’t take much solace in the fact about the matchup, I don’t really care too much, other than I’d like him to not be as good, so we could have a better chance of winning, for sure.”
There was no shortage of compliments from either pitcher about their counterpart.
“I think if you just look at his résumé and what he’s done,” said Sale as he spoke about Kershaw. I’ve said it a lot, but consistency, that’s the key to this game. And he’s been as consistent as any starting pitcher in the game for the last decade.”
“Obviously his trophy case is packed. And his résumé is on a lot of sheets of paper, but he’s been able to stay consistent and stay at that dominant level for a long time. You see a lot of ups and downs with people, but he’s been at the top for quite some time now and it’s pretty impressive.”
The trophy case may be packed for Kershaw but it’s missing the most important one in baseball. Winning the World Series has always been the goal and for the second consecutive year, the Dodgers are four wins away from achieving it.
“It’s pretty critical,” Kershaw said about the importance of winning the Fall Classic. “You know, I really want to win the World Series. I think that’s no different than the other 50 guys in both locker rooms, though. I think the only difference maybe is that because we’ve gotten so close in the past, because we’ve gotten to go to the postseason, we’re a little bit spoiled in our expectations every year with the Dodgers, which is a great thing.”
Standing in the Dodgers way will be an offense that was a juggernaut during the regular season. Leading the Red Sox offense, Mookie Betts (1.078) and J.D. Martinez (1.031) were two of only four qualified batters with an OPS north of 1.000 this season.
Limiting Boston’s big hitters will be one of the major factors if the Dodgers are to win the series.
Outside of Manny Machado and Brian Dozier, Los Angeles hardly has any experience playing in the quirky 106-year-old Fenway Park. But that doesn’t matter to Kershaw.
“I don’t think you can let the ballparks dictate how you pitch,” Kershaw said. “You have to go with your game plan regardless of where you’re pitching. And usually when I give up homers, they’re not cheap anyway. So it probably won’t matter if there’s a fence there or not that’s really close.”
“I don’t look too much in the ballparks honestly. It will be good to get out there today with our team just so we can get a feel for it, outfield-wise and position-wise, things like that, but other than that, don’t take too much stock in it.”
Sale spent last week in a hospital after some type of illness. The already wiry left-hander lost some weight while sick, weight he didn’t really have to lose. But Sale assured reporters Monday that he was healthy.
“If I’m standing on the mound, I’m a hundred percent.”
World Series Game 1 info
First pitch: 5:09 p.m.
TV: Fox (coverage starts at 4:30 p.m.)
Announcers: Joe Buck, John Smoltz, Ken Rosenthal, Tom Verducci
Online streaming: Fox Sports Go
Local radio: AM 570 (Charley Steiner, Rick Monday)
National radio: ESPN Radio (Dan Shulman, Chris Singleton)