Sometimes the matchups game doesn’t work out in your favor. Sometimes the eye test should determine the matchup and not the arm from which the pitcher throws. These are things Dave Roberts works through as he manages the Dodgers.
In the game’s most critical point Tuesday, Roberts opted to bring in Alex Wood with two on and two out in the seventh inning. Trailing by a run, it was crucial to get out of the inning without allowing a run.
Alex Cora went to Eduardo Núñez off his bench instead of letting Rafael Devers hit against Wood. Nunez paid off with a three-run homer on a line into the seats on top of the Green Monster to put the game out of reach. After fighting back all night, the Dodgers had nothing left after the crushing blow, going on to lose 8-4.
When Andrew Benintendi led off the inning with a bloop double off the glove of Joc Pederson, Roberts went to Pedro Baez with the middle of the order coming up.
Bookending an intentional walk of J.D. Martinez, Baez blew a 97-mph heater past pinch-hitter Mitch Moreland and Xander Bogaerts to punch both out on strikes. With Devers on his way up with first and second, Roberts made the move.
It took just two pitches for Núñez to turnaround a breaking ball low and inside, sending it over the wall.
“I really liked Alex in that spot,” Roberts told media after the game. “I did. Whether they were going to hit Devers with the lead or go to the bench and go with Nunez, I still like Alex in that spot.”
Baez has made seven appearances in this year’s playoffs and has retired 22 of the 27 batters he has faced, 12 by way of the strikeout. Wood on the other hand, has allowed three home runs in 5 2⁄3 innings.
In the grand scheme, it’s what the Dodges have done all year and they’ve largely been successful at, taking advantage of matchups.
Whatever the case, the Dodgers are now down 1-0 in the series to a good Red Sox team and will have to bounce back in Game 2 if they want to give themselves a shot.
The game didn’t start the way Clayton Kershaw or the Dodgers had envisioned. But it was exactly the way things seem to happen for Kershaw in the postseason at times.
Mookie Betts popped an 0-1 pitch down the first base line that would likely be caught eight or nine times out of ten. But this one would fall behind David Freese who had no help from Yasiel Puig in right or Brian Dozier at second, both being too far from the play.
Instead of retiring the first hitter he faced, Betts singled to start the night for Boston.
After Betts stole second on the first pitch, Benintendi smacked a single through the right side of the infield into right field. Puig came up throwing — without a chance to get Betts — and airmailed it home, allowing Benintendi to scoot over to second.
Both the missed foul ball and the unnecessary throw played big in the inning, further costing the Dodgers when Martinez cashed in Benintendi two batters later with a single to left.
Los Angeles would immediately strike back against Chris Sale in the top of the second, putting together some patient at-bats against the lefty. Matt Kemp was able to lay off Sale’s filthy slider to work eight pitches deep before depositing a 94-mph fastball into the first row of the Green Monster.
Sale had made 51 pitches by the end of the second inning and the count would climb in the third.
Back-to-back singles for Justin Turner and Freese brought Boston fan favorite Manny Machado to the plate with an opportunity. The Dodger shortstop stayed on a changeup to pull it on the ground into left, bringing Turner around to tie the game.
Boston would take the lead again in the third when the Dodgers were unable to turn an inning-ending double play on a Pearce grounder to Machado at short. Martinez again came through for his club, walloping a Kershaw slider off the roll-up garage in dead center to score Pearce.
Neither Kershaw or Sale would last through the fifth, both being pulled after allowing runners to start the inning.
Cora went to right-hander Matt Barnes after Sale walked Dozier to start the top half of the fifth. The Dodgers would again tie the game when Machado grounded out to second in what could have been an inning-ending double play if it weren’t for a wild pitch that allowed Dozier and Turner to move up 90 feet.
With Sale out of the game and Kershaw mowing through the bottom of the order with two strikeouts in a perfect fourth, the momentum was on the Dodgers side if their lefty could get through the third time through the top of the order.
Kershaw lasted just two more hitters, walking Betts on nine pitches and giving up a clean single to left off the bat of Benintendi. Ryan Madson was brought on to face the heart of the dangerous Red Sox lineup.
A four-pitch walk to Pearce put Madson in an impossible situation of facing Martinez with nowhere to put him. The slugger would strikeout but before the Dodgers were out of the inning, two runs would come across to give Boston a two-run advantage.
Both runs charged to Kershaw, meaning since the start of 2013, 13 of the 14 runners left to the bullpen when Kershaw left the game have scored.
“I don’t think he had the fastball command that he typically does, missing up in the zone,” Roberts said about his starter. “I don’t think his slider had the depth that we’re used to seeing. And those guys, to their credit, they put some good at-bats on him.”
“And we didn’t play the defense that we typically do. I thought we left some outs out there. And it didn’t make Clayton’s job any easier.”
Getting just 12 outs in the game, Kershaw would be charged with five runs on seven hits and three walks.
Here's the updated Clayton Kershaw #Dodgers playoff starts chart, through Game 1 of the World Series.— Jon Weisman (@jonweisman) October 24, 2018
• Green (11) = great, allowing two runs or less
• Orange (5) = two earned runs or less through six innings, then sad sevenths
• Yellow (2) = mixed bag
• Red (5) = bad pic.twitter.com/J5QUIwCWCg
Hyun-Jin Ryu takes the ball for the Dodgers as they face David Price in Game 2 against the Red Sox at Fenway Park, looking to rebound from a tough loss in Game 1.
Home Runs: Kemp (1), Núñez (1)
WP: Matt Barnes (1-0): 1 IP, 1 hit, 1 strikeout
LP: Clayton Kershaw (0-1): 4 IP, 7 hits, 5 runs, 3 walks, 5 strikeouts