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Red Sox offense leads way in 8-4 win over Dodgers in World Series Game 1

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For the sixth time in 10 games this postseason, the Red Sox offense managed to score at least seven runs. On Tuesday night in Boston, the club defeated the Dodgers 8-4 to take a 1-0 lead in the World Series, thanks in part to a three-run home run by Eduardo Núñez in the seventh inning when the score was 5-4.

The Red Sox opened the scoring in the bottom of the first inning, plating a run each on singles by Andrew Benintendi and J.D. Martinez. The Dodgers responded as Matt Kemp slugged a solo home run to left field off of Chris Sale in the second and Manny Machado tied the game at two apiece in the third with a single. In the third, J.D. Martinez gave the Red Sox the lead back, knocking in a run with a double to straightaway center field that was mere feet from crossing the fence.

In the top of the fifth, the Dodgers chased Sale after he issued a leadoff walk to Brian Dozier. Dozier came around to score, tying the game at three-all, when Manny Machado grounded out up the middle against Matt Barnes. Again, the Red Sox offense responded, matching the momentum by chasing Kershaw with no outs in the bottom of the fifth after he also issued a leadoff walk followed by a single. Xander Bogaerts knocked in the go-ahead run with a ground out and Rafael Devers added an insurance run with a single to make it 5-3.

Neither Kershaw nor Sale, two of the absolute best pitchers baseball has to offer, could record an out in the fifth. The duo of aces combined for eight innings, yielding eight combined runs on 12 hits and five walks with 12 strikeouts. Hardly a pitcher’s duel as was expected.

Both teams put up zeroes in the sixth, but the Dodgers clawed back for a run in the top of the seventh when Machado lifted a sacrifice fly to center field for his third RBI of the game. Yet again, the Red Sox had an answer in the bottom half. It started with Andrew Benintendi hitting a ground-rule double off of Julio Urías for his fourth hit of the game — all four hits came against lefties, by the way. (During the regular season, Benintendi had a .694 OPS against lefties and .877 against righties.) Dodgers manager Dave Roberts opted to bring in the right-handed Pedro Báez to face Steve Pearce, which prompted Red Sox manager Alex Cora to counter by pinch-hitting Mitch Moreland, who struck out. Báez intentionally walked J.D. Martinez, then struck out Xander Bogaerts before departing in favor of lefty Alex Wood to face the left-handed Rafael Devers. Cora again played the matchups, pinch-hitting Núñez for Devers and it worked out this time. Núñez ripped a 1-0 knuckle curve into the seats above the Green Monster in left field, breaking the game wide open at 8-4.

Nathan Eovaldi took over the top of the eighth, working a 1-2-3 frame by inducing three ground outs from Kemp, Enrique Hernández, and Yasiel Puig. The Red Sox went down with not much of a scare in the bottom half to send the game into the ninth. With the four-run cushion, Cora called on Craig Kimbrel to close it out despite his 7.11 ERA and 18.75 percent walk rate this postseason. He was apparently tipping his pitches. Kimbrel had an easy time, getting Joc Pederson to ground out, then striking out Max Muncy and Justin Turner.

With Game 1 in the books, the Dodgers will look to even things out in Game 2 on Wednesday night. Hyun-Jin Ryu is slated to oppose David Price in another battle of lefty starters.

Sports teams do not “heal” cities or nations

Associated Press
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Bob Nightengale of USA Today has a story today in which he talks to Cleon Jones, Ken Harrelson, Art Shamsky and others from the 1969 Mets about their Amazin’ World Series title run. The story is tied to the upcoming commemorations of the 50th anniversary of that phenomenally unexpected and improbable season.

And that’s fine as far as it goes, but as so often is the case with nostalgic remembrances, it goes too far:

They will gather together in New York later in June, rehashing stories from 50 years ago, reminiscing about the year they turned the baseball world upside down, becoming perhaps the most beloved team in history.

The 1969 Mets.

The team that helped revitalize a city in ruins and heal a nation in turmoil, showing the world you can turn the inconceivable to the improbable to the possible to the incredible, in a way only sports can possibly do.

Now would be a good time to remember that the city the Mets allegedly revitalized found itself on the brink of bankruptcy in the early-to-mid-70s and experienced urban decay and spiking crime rates for the next 20+ years. It would also be a good time to remember that the nation the Mets allegedly healed witnessed the Kent State shootings a few months later, among other bits of strife for the next, oh, 50 years and counting.

Yes, I am being flip and superficial here, but I do so simply to illustrate how flip and superficial “[Sports Team] healed [City/Nation]” narratives invariably are.

We see these sorts of things whenever a team from a down-on-its-luck place has a title run. Detroit. Cleveland. New Orleans. The idea is generally a broad-brush paint job in which the source of strife — poverty, crime, economic strife, natural disaster, terrorism, etc. —  is detailed with the local sports team’s subsequent title run cast as a spiritual balm. The words “heal” and “uplift” are pretty common in these stories. Back in 2002 I wrote about a classic of the genre, a documentary about the 1968 Detroit Tigers, who allegedly healed Detroit following he 1967 riots. Anyone familiar with Detroit from 1968-on may understand that the claims of healing asserted therein were . . . somewhat overstated.

Whatever the details, most of these narratives have the same sorts of flaws. At best they overstate the significance of sports in society, presuming that happiness among ticket-buying sports fans — who are usually better off than your average city resident who may be the one in need of healing — means broad-based happiness among the populace. More commonly they simply ignore the actual city or society beyond anything but its most superficial markers. The pattern:

  • Montage of the strife in whatever its form (bonus if it’s from the 1960s and you can re-use some existing “turbulent 60s” b-roll;
  • A chronicling of the sports team’s run; and
  • A declaration that everything was better after that.

It’s not even a matter of correlation and causation being confused. There’s very rarely ever any evidence presented that the sports made the underlying problems any better. All one usually gets from these things is a sense that, at least to the sports commentator/documentarian telling the story and to the people who closely followed the sports team, things were good. Unless, of course, I missed the part about how LeBron James solved Cleveland’s declining population problems and how the 2010 New Orleans Saints solved the ongoing mental, economic and medical trauma of those displaced by Katrina.

Which is not to say that sports mean nothing in this context. Sports success can certainly make a lot of people happy, even people hit hard by adversity, temporarily speaking. People only tangentially-connected to the strife in question may, also, decide that a sporting event “healed” a city. For example, if something bad happened in your city but didn’t affect you directly, you may believe that the trophy-hoisting put a nice bookend on the trauma that was more directly felt by others. And, of course, individuals directly connected with the sporting events in question, like Cleon Jones in the Mets piece, can experience a more lasting change in their lives as a result of this sort of success that they might see as general uplift.

That’s not the same thing as healing, though. Because while you or I can close that chapter on it all when the game is over, survivors of traumatic events and victims of systematic oppression or chronic strife cannot and do not do so that easily. There were people still hurting in Detroit after 1968, in New York (and the nation) after 1969, in New Orleans after the Saints won the Super Bowl, and in Cleveland after the Cavs won their title. The very best that can be said of sports triumph amid civic adversity is that it’s a pleasant, albeit temporary distraction. But not everyone had the luxury of enjoying that temporary distraction and a distraction is not the same thing as a cure.

Why do sports writers and commentators do this? I suppose it’s a function of people believing that the world in which they operate is, well, the world. The entertainment writer sees everything as a Hollywood story, the political writer sees everything as a Washington story and the sports writer sees everything as a sports story. It’s an understandable loss of perspective and we all fall prey to it sometimes.

It’d be better, though, if we spent more time appreciating that our perspective on the world is not the only one. I won’t speak for the entertainment or political people, and I won’t speak for the way in which any other person may prioritize the world as they observe it. But in my world — sports — I think it’d be better if we did not ascribe outsized significance to the beat we cover. Doing so asks far more of sports than sports is capable of delivering and erases the ongoing pain and suffering of people for whom sports is no sort of cure.