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
Pitchers: Clayton Kershaw vs. Chris Sale

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.

Biden praises Braves’ ‘unstoppable, joyful run’ to 2021 win

Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden said the Atlanta Braves will be “forever known as the upset kings of October” for their improbable 2021 World Series win, as he welcomed the team to the White House for a victory celebration.

Biden called the Braves’ drive an “unstoppable, joyful run.” The team got its White House visit in with just over a week left before the 2022 regular season wraps up and the Major League Baseball playoffs begin again. The Braves trail the New York Mets by 1.5 games in the National League East but have clinched a wildcard spot for the MLB playoffs that begin Oct. 7. Chief Executive Officer Terry McGuirk said he hoped they’d be back to the White House again soon.

In August 2021, the Braves were a mess, playing barely at .500. But then they started winning. And they kept it up, taking the World Series in six games over the Houston Astros.

Biden called their performance of “history’s greatest turnarounds.”

“This team has literally been part of American history for over 150 years,” said Biden. “But none of it came easy … people counting you out. Heck, I know something about being counted out.”

Players lined up on risers behind Biden, grinning and waving to the crowd, but the player most discussed was one who hasn’t been on the team in nearly 50 years and who died last year: Hall of Famer Hank Aaron.

Hammerin’ Hank was the home run king for 33 years, dethroning Babe Ruth with a shot to left field on April 8, 1974. He was one of the most famous players for Atlanta and in baseball history, a clear-eyed chronicler of the hardships thrown his way – from the poverty and segregation of his Alabama youth to the racist threats he faced during his pursuit of one of America’s most hallowed records. He died in January at 86.

“This is team is defined by the courage of Hank Aaron,” Biden said.

McGuirk said Aaron, who held front office positions with the team and was one of Major League Baseball’s few Black executives, was watching over them.

“He’d have been there every step of the way with us if he was here,” McGuirk added.

The president often honors major league and some college sports champions with a White House ceremony, typically a nonpartisan affair in which the commander in chief pays tribute to the champs’ prowess, poses for photos and comes away with a team jersey.

Those visits were highly charged in the previous administration. Many athletes took issue with President Donald Trump’s policies and rhetoric on policing, immigration and more. Trump, for his part, didn’t take kindly to criticism from athletes or their on-field expressions of political opinions.

Under Biden, the tradition appears to be back. He’s hosted the NBA champion Milwaukee Bucks and Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers at the White House. On Monday he joked about first lady Jill Biden’s Philadelphia allegiances.

“Like every Philly fan, she’s convinced she knows more about everything in sports than anybody else,” he said. He added that he couldn’t be too nice to the Atlanta team because it had just beaten the Phillies the previous night in extra innings.

Press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre was later questioned about the team’s name, particularly as other professional sports teams have moved away from names – like the Cleveland Indians, now the Guardians, and the Washington Redskins, now the Commanders – following years of complaints from Native American groups over the images and symbols.

She said it was important for the country to have the conversation. “And Native American and Indigenous voices – they should be at the center of this conversation,” she said.

Biden supported MLB’s decision to pull the 2021 All-Star Game from Atlanta to protest Georgia’s sweeping new voting law, which critics contend is too restrictive.