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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.

Adrián Beltré is a slam dunk Hall of Famer

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Rangers third baseman Adrián Beltré officially announced his retirement on Tuesday, ending months of speculation about his future. The 39-year-old put together one of the greatest careers we have ever seen, spending time with the Dodgers, Mariners, Red Sox, and Rangers across 21 seasons.

Beltré will be eligible for the Hall of Fame five years from now. Given how much more analytically-literate the electorate has become in recent years, Beltré will very likely get the requisite 75 percent of the vote to earn enshrinement in Cooperstown. In a just world, he would get 100 percent of the vote, but no player has ever gone into the Hall of Fame unanimously.

Beltré retires having hit .286/.339/.480 with 477 home runs, 1,707 RBI, 1,524 runs scored, and 121 stolen bases in 12,130 plate appearances. Beltré hit for the cycle three times: in 2008 with the Mariners, and in 2012 and 2015 with the Rangers. He won four Silver Sluggers and made the All-Star team four times, both of which seem criminally low. He also won five Gold Gloves and two Platinum Gloves. For the bulk of his career, he was arguably the best defensive third baseman if not just in his league then in all of baseball. Injuries slowed Beltré in his 30’s, particularly in the last two seasons, but despite that, he showed when he was healthy that he could still hang with the young guns in his old age. No one would have been surprised if he hung around for one more season. Despite health issues, Beltré still hit around the league average with above-average defense.

Among Hall of Famers who played at least 50 percent of their career games at third base, Beltré’s career 95.7 WAR ranks behind only Mike Schmidt (106.8) and Eddie Mathews (96.6), per Baseball Reference. He’s ahead of Wade Boggs (91.4), George Brett (88.7), and Chipper Jones (85.2). Those six are the only third basemen in the 80’s when it comes to WAR.

As Jon Morosi points out, Beltré is the only third baseman in baseball history with 3,000-plus hits and 400-plus home runs. Individually, the 3,000-hit club boasts only 32 members while the 400-homer club has 55 members. Beltré’s 3,166 hits and 477 homes rank 16th and 30th, respectively.

Beltré’s numbers are absurdly good, but beyond that, he was a character. He took the game quite seriously, but he was still able to have fun. He became one of the most .gif-able players in the game. Beltré didn’t like his head being touched, so when he approached or went through the dugout collecting high-fives after hitting home runs, his teammates would oftentimes playfully pat him or rub his head. Beltré would pretend to go after them in revenge.

Beltré once borrowed groundskeeping equipment in order to avoid Gatorade baths.

Beltré wasn’t afraid to drop to one knee to hit a homer, either.

Beltré played games with his opponents after successfully swiping a base.

Beltré got into standoffs with opposing players, further proving he’s anything but an easy out.

Beltré made relevant cultural references.

Beltré once trolled the umpire, who asked him to get back into the on-deck circle, by moving the on-deck circle.

Happy trails to not only one of the best players of his generation, but to one of the most entertaining as well. Baseball will be poorer without Adrián Beltré. His Hall of Fame induction ceremony should be tremendous, though.