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World Series Game 1 features matchup of old school aces

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The Red Sox won 108 games, their appearance in the playoffs was never in doubt and they have cruised through the first two rounds of the playoffs. The Dodgers, meanwhile,  stumbled to a terrible start to the season, found themselves in third place in the NL West as late as September, had to play a Game 163 to win the division and then were taken to seven games by the Brewers in the NLCS.

Yet, as our comprehensive World Series preview from yesterday revealed, these two teams are a lot more evenly matched than the previous paragraph might suggest.

While anything can happen in the World Series, I expect this one to be a drawn-out battle. The battle begins with a two old school aces taking the hill.

World Series Game 1

Dodgers vs. Red Sox
Ballpark: Fenway Park
Time: 8:09 PM Eastern
TV: FOX
Pitchers: Clayton Kershaw vs. Chris Sale
Breakdown:

In an age of bullpenning, Game 1 of the 2018 World Series will give us one of the best ace vs. ace matchups we’ve had in some time when Clayton Kershaw of the Dodgers takes on Chris Sale of the Red Sox.

Their resumes are pretty well known at this point. Kershaw has three Cy Young Awards and, if he hadn’t had a couple of midseason injuries in the past few years, might’ve had five. Oh, and he has an MVP Award too. Sale has yet to pull in that kind of hardware but he was on pace for the 2018 Cy Young before being sidelined late in the season. He’ll likely fall just short of Blake Snell for that honor, but his 2.11 ERA and 1.98 FIP show what he has been when healthy. Both Kershaw and Sale are seven-time All-Stars. Between them they have led their respective leagues in one pitching category or another 80 times.

But for all of that career dominance, each is a bit diminished coming in to Game 1.

Kershaw’s 2018 season was not bad by any stretch — he posted an ERA+ of 142 — but it was his worst season since he began his run of dominance in 2011. His velocity and strikeout rate took a significant dip this year too. While he’s certainly capable of looking like the Kershaw of old — He shut the Braves out for eight innings in Game 2 of the NLDS and held the Brewers to one run in seven innings in Game 5 of the NLCS — he’s a bit more capable of a clunker these days, like the one he turned in for NLCS Game 1. Greatness still surrounds Kershaw, but one cannot expect it every single time out lately.

Meanwhile Sale hasn’t pitched in ten days due to a stomach ailment that put him in the hospital during the ALCS, ruling him out for any potential bullpen work Alex Cora had devised for him. He and Cora say he’s fine now and, if he wasn’t, he wouldn’t be getting the ball in the World Series, but it’l be worth watching to see if he’s rusty.

One of the better parts of this matchup: in an age of interleague play, Kershaw and Sale are basically strangers to the opposition and the opposing fan base. Kershaw has never once faced the Red Sox and Sale has not faced the Dodgers for several years. Between that, the venerable ballparks in which they’ll pitch and their status as old school starting pitchers, Game 1 will have something of a throwback atmosphere.

Marlins clinch 1st playoff berth since 2003, beat Yanks 4-3

Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports
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NEW YORK (AP) Forced from the field by COVID-19, the Miami Marlins returned with enough force to reach the playoffs for the first time since their 2003 championship.

An NL-worst 57-105 a year ago, they sealed the improbable berth on the field of the team that Miami CEO Derek Jeter and manager Don Mattingly once captained.

“I think this is a good lesson for everyone. It really goes back to the players believing,” Mattingly said Friday night after a 4-3, 10-inning win over the New York Yankees.

Miami will start the playoffs on the road Wednesday, its first postseason game since winning the 2003 World Series as the Florida Marlins, capped by a Game 6 victory in the Bronx over Jeter and his New York teammates at the previous version of Yankee Stadium.

“We play loose. We got nothing to lose. We’re playing with house money.,” said Brandon Kintzler, who got DJ LeMahieu to ground into a game-ending double play with the bases loaded after Jesus Aguilar hit a sacrifice fly in the top of the 10th. “We are a dangerous team. And we really don’t care if anyone says we’re overachievers.”

Miami (30-28), second behind Atlanta in the NL East, became the first team to make the playoffs in the year following a 100-loss season. The Marlins achieved the feat despite being beset by a virus outbreak early this season that prevented them from playing for more than a week.

After the final out, Marlins players ran onto the field, formed a line and exchanged non socially-distant hugs, then posed for photos across the mound.

“I can’t contain the tears, because it’s a lot of grind, a lot of passion,” shortstop Miguel Rojas said. “It wasn’t just the virus. Last year we lost 100 games. But we came out this year with the hope everything was going to be better. When we had the outbreak, the guys who got an opportunity to help the organization, thank you for everything you did.”

Miami was one of baseball’s great doubts at the start of the most shortened season since 1878, forced off the field when 18 players tested positive for COVID-19 following the opening series in Philadelphia.

“Yeah, we’ve been through a lot. Other teams have been through a lot, too,” Mattingly said “This just not a been a great situation. It’s just good to be able to put the game back on the map.”

New York (32-26) had already wrapped up a playoff spot but has lost four of five following a 10-game winning streak and is assured of starting the playoffs on the road. Toronto clinched a berth by beating the Yankees on Thursday.

“I don’t like any time somebody celebrates on our field or if we’re at somebody else’s place and they celebrate on their field,” Yankees star Aaron Judge said. “I’m seeing that too much.”

Mattingly captained the Yankees from 1991-95 and is in his fifth season managing the Marlins, Jeter captained the Yankees from 2003-14 as part of a career that included five World Series titles in 20 seasons and is part of the group headed by Bruce Sherman that bought the Marlins in October 2017.

Garrett Cooper, traded to the Marlins by the Yankees after the 2017 season, hit a three-run homer in the first inning off J.A. Happ.

After the Yankees tied it on Aaron Hicks‘ two-run double off Sandy Alcantara in the third and Judge’s RBI single off Yimi Garcia in the eighth following an error by the pitcher on a pickoff throw, the Marlins regained the lead with an unearned run in the 10th against Chad Green (3-3).

Jon Berti sacrificed pinch-runner Monte Harrison to third and, with the infield in, Starling Marte grounded to shortstop. Gleyber Torres ran at Harrison and threw to the plate, and catcher Kyle Higashioka‘s throw to third hit Harrison in the back, giving the Yankees a four-error night for the second time in three games.

With runners at second and third, Aguilar hit a sacrifice fly.

Brad Boxberger (1-0) walked his leadoff batter in the ninth but got Luke Voit to ground into a double play, and Kintzler held on for his 12th save in 14 chances.

Miami ended the second-longest postseason drought in the majors – the Seattle Mariners have been absent since 2001.

Miami returned Aug. 4 following an eight-day layoff with reinforcements from its alternate training site, the trade market and the waiver wire to replace the 18 players on the injured list and won its first five games.

“We’re just starting,” said Alcantara, who handed a 3-2 lead to his bullpen in the eighth. “We’ve got to keep doing what we’re doing.”

TOSSED

Yankees manager Aaron Boone was ejected for arguing from the dugout in the first inning. Plate umpire John Tumpane called out Judge on a full-count slider that appeared to drop well below the knees and Boone argued during the next pitch, to Hicks, then was ejected. Television microphones caught several of Boone’s profane shouts.

“Reacting to a terrible call and then following it up,” Boone said. “Obviously, we see Aaron get called a lot on some bad ones down.”

ODD

Pinch-runner Michael Tauchman stole second base in the eighth following a leadoff single by Gary Sanchez but was sent back to first because Tumpane interfered with the throw by catcher Chad Wallach. Clint Frazier struck out on the next pitch and snapped his bat over a leg.

SLOPPY

New York took the major league lead with 47 errors. Sanchez was called for catcher’s interference for the third time in five days and fourth time this month.

REMEMBERING

Mattingly thought of Jose Fernandez, the former Marlins All-Star pitcher who died four years earlier to the night at age 24 while piloting a boat that crashed. An investigation found he was legally drunk and had cocaine in his system. The night also marked the sixth anniversary of Jeter’s final game at Yankee Stadium.

UP NEXT

RHP Deivi Garcia (2-2, 4.88) starts Saturday for the Yankees and LHP Trevor Rogers (1-2, 6.84) for the Marlins. Garcia will be making the sixth start of his rookie season.