BOSTON – Perhaps they were bedeviled by the odd dimensions and unsettling curves and contours of Fenway Park. Maybe the daunting notion of toppling a team that won 108 games played with their minds.
And it's quite possible that the Los Angeles Dodgers simply aren't as good as the, Boston Red Sox.
Yet after Game 1 of the World Series, it's impossible to know if that's the case. Not when the Dodgers played as poorly as they did Tuesday night.
"You gotta show up," Dodgers first baseman David Freese said after his club's dispiriting 8-4 loss to the Red Sox, "especially this time of year, Game 1, at Fenway. You want Game 1 for sure, especially against a team like this, but all of a sudden, it’s right away, you need Game 2.
"That’s where we’re at."
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History will note that Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw once again wasn't at his best in a playoff game, and that lefty reliever Alex Wood gave up the dagger, a three-run home run to pinch hitter Eduardo Nuñez in the seventh inning that broke open a 5-4 contest.
Bookend misplays by their fielders – and plenty of inattention to detail in between – is what truly sealed their fate, however.
It was Freese who launched the Dodgers' evening of misadventure, misplaying a foul popup off the bat of leadoff hitter Mookie Betts. Certainly, the wind was swirling a bit on a stormy, 53-degree night, but it also wasn't the most challenging of plays.
"I just got twisted," said Freese, who was playing in his fourth career playoff game at Fenway.
Betts would steal second and come home to score on Andrew Benintendi's RBI single, and Benintendi would scamper to second when right fielder Yasiel Puig airmailed the throw past the cutoff man.
That enabled J.D. Martinez to drive home Benintendi with an RBI single.
"Little things add up to big things in the course of a long series," said second baseman Brian Dozier, who was at the center of a lot of those little things, if not guilty of defensive malpractice.
The Dodgers were this-close to turning a pair of crucial double plays; the first, on a second-inning grounder off the bat of Steve Pearce, was overturned on review, extending the inning for Martinez to rip an RBI double.
The second was the killer: Moments after the Red Sox chased Kershaw in the fifth, reliever Ryan Madson found himself in a no-out, bases-loaded situation. He narly escaped, striking out Martinez and luring a perfect double-play ball from Xander Bogaerts.
But shortstop Manny Machado was playing Bogaerts deep in the hole, and while he relayed quickly to Dozier, the turn was a split-second too late to nail Bogaerts.
In came the go-ahead run, and the inning stayed alive long enough for Rafael Devers to make it 5-3 with a single.
"They kind of brought to light pretty quick the what-ifs if we do a couple things defensively, or offensively, scratch one or two more runs," says Dozier. "That’s part of the game."
Manager Dave Roberts wasn't beyond second-guessing, either. With the Dodgers starting an all-right-handed hitting lineup for the first time in World Series history, his club was ripe for a significant shift change once they drove Boston ace Chris Sale from the game.
They got their wish in the fifth, after Dozier's leadoff walk and a Justin Turner single left them primed for a big inning.
Boston manager Alex Cora went right to his best set-up man, Matt Barnes. With a trio of left-handed power hitters on the bench – Joc Pederson, Cody Bellinger and team home run leader Max Muncy – Roberts opted to let Freese hit.
He struck out on four pitches, waving meekly at an 0-2 curveball.
"In the fifth inning, if you start hitting for guys, you’re going to have nobody left in the game," says Roberts, who noted Barnes enjoys somewhat similar success against hitters from either side of the plate. "With the neutral guy and with how David is swinging the bat, I still liked him against Barnes."
Fair enough. But Roberts ran out of players two innings later, anyway.
Pederson provided the final pratfall, whiffing on Benintendi's fly ball in the seventh inning after a long run from his left field perch in front of the Green Monster. It bounced into the stands for a ground-rule double, enabling Nuñez to crush his game-icing homer.
"It’s definitely not easy," he said of the Fenway outfield experience. "It’s great placement on (Benintendi's) part; I thought I got a good read on it, called off (Turner) and just couldn’t come up with the play."
A scenario that played out far too many times for the Dodgers in Game 1.
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