LOS ANGELES (CBS) — The Dodgers and Red Sox are set to square off in what should be an entertaining World Series matchup.
What better way to start the series than with a pair of aces on the mound?
Two lefties will battle it out in Game 1 Tuesday night at Fenway Park, with Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw going against Red Sox ace Chris Sale. How good are these two southpaws? Among all active pitchers in baseball who have thrown at least 1,000 innings, they’re the only two who own an ERA below 3.00 (Kershaw sports a 2.39 ERA while Sale owns a 2.89 ERA).
While both have been absolute bulldogs during the regular season throughout their career, they haven’t fared as well in the postseason. Kershaw has a .689 winning percentage over his 11 MLB seasons, but is just 9-8 win the playoffs. Sale owns 103 career wins, but just picked up his first postseason victory two weeks ago in the ALDS against the Yankees. Now they’re set to duel on baseball’s biggest stage as they try to improve those postseason resumes, and give their team a 1-0 series lead.
Los Angeles has struggled against lefties this season, batting just .207 against them in the postseason. Their .240 average against lefties during the regular season ranked 20th in the majors. That all bodes well for Sale, even if he isn’t back to 100 percent.
As for his opposition, while most expected that Kershaw would get the ball for Los Angeles in Game 1, he wasn’t officially name their starter until Monday. You can thank Kershaw’s relief appearance in the ninth inning of L.A.’s Game 7 clincher against the Brewers for that late announcement by Dodgers skipper Dave Roberts.
Kershaw has never pitched at Fenway Park. Heck, he’s never even faced the Red Sox. That gives Tuesday night’s matchup an old school feel, bringing us back to the days before Interleague play brought the American League and National League together during the regular season.
Kershaw isn’t worried too much about pitching in the funky dimensions of Fenway Park.
“I don’t really think about that stuff. I appreciate the history and everything that goes along with Fenway Park,” he said Monday. “But I came here, I don’t know how long ago, 2000 something and got to at least see it, got to be here, got to appreciate the stadium and things like that.”
Sale and Kershaw have dueled once before, but it was back in 2012 when Sale’s Sox were White and not Red. Neither pitcher factored into the decision.
That was one of two times Sale has faced the Dodgers in his career (his other was a 2011 appearance as a reliever), and much has changed since. But he does have a history against third baseman Manny Machado, who has six hits (including a homer) and six K’s in 19 at-bats against the Boston lefty. Second baseman Brian Dozier also has experience against Sale, going 12-for-47 with three homers, 11 RBIs and 14 strikeouts against him.
For Sale, Tuesday night will be his first outing since his Game 1 start against the Houston Astros in the ALCS. That was ten days ago. He wasn’t particularly sharp in that outing, either, lasting just just four innings and issuing an uncharacteristic four walks. He only allowed two runs, but Sale lacked his usual pinpoint control. More concerning was the fact that his average fastball hovered around 92 mph and not his usual 98 mph.
Sale was scratched from Game 5 against the Astros with a stomach issue (or if you really believe the lefty, an issue with his belly button ring) that sent him to the hospital, but said he was ready to go if there was a Game 6. There was not, and Sale received a few extra days to rest up and regain his strength ahead of the World Series.
That has made a big difference, and now Sale’s ready for the start of his life.
“There’s no holding back now,” he told reporters at Fenway Park on Monday. “My job’s been the same since the first day I got here. You hand me the ball when you want me to throw it, and take it out of my hand when you want me to stop. That’s what I’m going with.”
Kershaw, meanwhile, has squared off with J.D. Martinez a handful of times after the Dodgers and Diamondbacks met in last year’s NLDS. In that battle, Martinez has a solid edge, albeit in an extremely small sample. The Boston slugger has two homers and a 1.591 OPS in 11 at-bats against Kershaw. One of those homers was in Game 1 of last year’s NLDS, though the Dodgers went on to win the contest 9-5.
But as we all know, what has happened in the past really doesn’t matter any more. Their regular season success and their previous postseason struggles will go by the wayside when Sale and Kershaw take a chilly Fenway field Tuesday night, looking to start their team off on a winning note.
All we really know for sure is Boston fans will be amped up, and Sale is glad they’ll be on his side when he fires off the first pitch of the 2018 World Series.
“I think it’s going to be rocking. This place is going to be obviously going crazy. We have very passionate fans,” said Sale. “It’s going to be fun. I think we’ve all been waiting for this, and our fans, too. Our fans have been there the whole year, just like we’ve been grinding the whole year, and they’ve been showing up for us and I think they’re just as excited as we are. I don’t doubt this place is not going to be getting up and going [for Game 1].”
A pair of aces take the mound for Game 1 of the World Series, and though they both have had their struggles in the postseason, the matchup has all the makings to be an instant classic.