Dodgers tap Clayton Kershaw as World Series Game 1 starter

ByAlden Gonzalez ESPN logo
Tuesday, October 23, 2018

BOSTON -- Clayton Kershaw was officially announced as the Los Angeles Dodgers' Game 1 starter Monday, but the reality of that became clear Sunday night, when an MLB Network camera caught Kershaw acting out his delivery in the Fenway Park bullpen moments after his team arrived in Boston.

Kershaw, who was raised in Texas and makes his living in Southern California, wore shorts and a light sweater in 40-degree weather.

"It's just trying to get used to it," Kershaw said prior to his team's workout Monday. "If I'm cold yesterday, then I won't be as cold tomorrow."

Kershaw will oppose another sensational lefty, Chris Sale of the Boston Red Sox, on Tuesday, with first pitch scheduled for 8:09 p.m. ET. The Dodgers are slated to follow with Hyun-Jin Ryu in Game 2, then Walker Buehler and Rich Hill in Games 3 and 4, respectively, when the series shifts to Dodger Stadium.

The Red Sox will start David Price in Game 2, but didn't announce the rest of their rotation because Nathan Eovaldi and Rick Porcello could help out of the bullpen in the first two games.

The Dodgers chose Ryu over Hill in Game 2 because they liked the possibility of Ryu pitching two games in this series. As expected, the Dodgers will load their lineup with right-handed hitters to oppose Sale in Game 1, with David Freese starting at first base and Matt Kemp serving as the designated hitter, manager Dave Roberts said.

Kershaw pitched the final inning in Game 7 of the National League Championship Series on Saturday -- three days after a 98-pitch start -- but doesn't expect that to hinder him at the onset of this World Series.

"It was fine," said the 30-year-old Kershaw, who needed only 15 pitches to mow through the Milwaukee Brewers. "It was somewhat of a normal inning, which was good. I tried to throw as few pitches as possible in the bullpen before. Obviously the intensity is different and things like that, but that's why I came here yesterday, to make sure everything was good."

Kershaw has long carried the label as a subpar performer in October, but his past seven postseason starts -- 3.32 ERA, 0.84 WHIP, .532 opponents' slugging percentage -- have been impressive collectively. In this postseason, he threw eight scoreless innings against the Atlanta Braves in the NL Division Series, then had two drastically different starts against the Brewers in the second round -- recording only nine outs and getting charged with five runs in Game 1, then twirling seven innings of one-run ball in a crucial Game 5.

Kershaw will now be matching up against Sale for the second time in his career -- the only other time was June 15, 2012 -- and will be making his first appearance ever at Fenway Park.

Kershaw visited Fenway as a kid and downplayed the significance of debuting here. He called Sale "a very good pitcher" who "has been dominant for a long time," but said: "I don't take much solace about the matchup. I don't really care as much, other than I'd like him to not be as good so we can have a better chance of winning."

The Dodgers entered last year's World Series coming off a 104-win regular season, but lost to the Houston Astros in seven games, then had to fight their way through a 92-win campaign in 2018, requiring a 163rd game to clinch their sixth consecutive division title. The Red Sox, coming off a 108-win season and a plus-250 run differential, are favorites in this series.

The Dodgers are plus-130 underdogs in Game 1, making this the first time since July 24, 2012, that they have not been favored with Kershaw on the mound, a stretch of 199 starts.

"It's kind of a role reversal for us," Roberts said. "It's the high-payroll, high-powered Red Sox. I like the underdog role."

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