“Beat LA! Beat LA!’’
Born during a Celtic playoff loss to the 76ers at the Old Garden in 1982, the chant was revived at Fenway on Tuesday night, and the redoubtable Red Sox fulfilled the fans’ command with an 8-4 victory over the Los Angeles Dodgers in the first game of the 2018 World Series.
Eduardo Nunez’s seventh-inning pinch-hit three-run homer (another nice call by Midas manager Alex Cora) closed the deal for Boston, and Andrew Benintendi had four hits in his first World Series game.
Chris Sale and Clayton Kershaw, two of the premier pitchers of this generation, jousted in Game 1, and both were gone before getting an out in the fifth inning. Whitey Ford and Sandy Koufax they were not.
After the aces departed, we witnessed a long, soft parade of relievers and pinch hitters. Boston’s bullpen bucket brigade of Matt Barnes, Joe Kelly, Ryan Brasier, Eduardo Rodriguez, Nathan Eovaldi, and Craig Kimbrel held off the deep Dodgers in a game that lasted 3 hours 52 minutes and did not end until 12:03 a.m. Wednesday. The Series resumes at Fenway on Wednesday night.
Stock up on caffeine drinks. The 2018 World Series promises to be a test of fan stamina. The games are all going to lurch toward (or past) midnight.
Hopefully, it will be worth the investment of our time. We’ve got two brand-name franchises facing each other in October for the first time since Red Sox lefty Babe Ruth beat the Brooklyn Robins at Braves Field in 1916 and declared, “I told you I could take care of those National League bums!’’
After breaking an 86-year championship drought in 2004, the Red Sox are going for their fourth World Championship this century. The Dodgers, meanwhile, are trying to win their first World Series in 30 years. The Sox have won 116 (regular and postseason) games and need three more to win the franchise’s ninth World Series.
“We had some good at bats,’’ said Cora. “That’s what we do.’’
“Obviously, they’re a dangerous offense,’’ admitted Dodger manager Dave Roberts — a Boston cult hero since his stolen base heard ’round the world in 2004.
“We had a good game plan and stuck to it,’’ said the ever-flatline Benintendi.
The Sox and Dodgers share a lot of hardball history. Pedro Martinez, Manny Ramirez, Nomar Garciaparra, Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford, and Bill Buckner are among players who have played for both teams. Much-maligned former Sox manager Don Zimmer was a Dodger thoroughbred, and iconic Dodger announcer Vin Scully got his big break broadcasting a college football game featuring Boston University’s Harry Agganis at Fenway Park. Hall-of-Fame-bound architect Janet Marie Smith oversaw the rebuilding of Fenway and Dodger Stadium in this century, and South Boston parking lot magnate Frank McCourt was owner of the Dodgers from 2004 to 2012.
Now they are World Series rivals, and Fox Sports loves it.
Game 1 was not a disappointment. Nor was it played at the speed of sound.
Predictably, David Price and Roberts got the biggest ovations of the pregame introductions. James Taylor performed the national anthem. Despite his fame and previous anthems at Fenway, Taylor admitted to being a tad nervous. It would be poetic to tell you that the Back Bay seemed dreamlike on account of that frostin’, but after a couple of early-evening downpours, it was a tame 53 degrees and dry at gametime.
Just after 8 p.m., Carl Yastrzemski popped out of the Sox dugout for the ceremonial first pitch. Yaz bounced his first heave to Dustin Pedroia, asked for a re-do, and grooved the second one into the mitt of de facto captain No. 15. The next sound we heard was Yaz’s car tires screeching out of the parking lot on Van Ness Street, bound for Route 1 north, perhaps the Kowloon. Gods do not answer letters, nor do they stick around for Game 1 of the World Series. Yaz was the first-ball tosser when the Sox won in 2004, 2007, and 2013.
Boston’s quick-strike offense struck quickly for two runs in the bottom of the first. Mookie Betts led with sharp single to center, immediately stole second, then scored easily on Benintendi’s single to right. Benintendi took second on Yasiel Puig’s ill-advised throw home, and Boston led, 1-0 after eight pitches. The Sox came into the night with a 7-0 record in postseason games in which they score the first run. J.D. Martinez made Puig pay for his alpha male overthrow with an RBI single to make it 2-0.
Back and forth they went. The Dodgers tied it with a run in the second and another in the third. Then the Sox went ahead. Then it was tied. Boston KO’d Kershaw with two runs in the fifth to take a 5-3 lead, and it was a bullpen game for the final five frames.
Boston’s bullpen — a question mark all season — was indomitable once again. The Sox have won seven of their last eight playoff games and the relief corps has been a major part of that success.
“Today was a full-team effort,’’ said Cora. “That was good to see. A very team-oriented win.’’
With two Dodgers aboard and the Sox leading, 5-4, in the seventh, Rodriguez induced Cody Bellinger into an inning-ending pop fly.
Then came the game-breaker. Cora sent Nunez up in place of white-hot Rafael Devers with two outs in the seventh and Nunez delivered a three-run shot, Bernie Carbo style. Cora at this hour is the man who can do no wrong. Is there still time for him to run in the midterms?
“I don’t really care if they second-guess me,’’ said the ever-confident Cora. “We prepare and make decisions. We are in the spotlight here, managers. They are going to dissect every move. I was part of that [Cora worked for ESPN]. I know it’s gonna sound bad, but I really don’t care if they second-guess me.’’
Three to go.
One hundred and 16 down.
Three to go.
Order a case of Red Bull.
Dan Shaughnessy can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org