Boston pinch-hitter Eduardo Nunez smashed a three-run homer over the towering “Green Monster” left-field wall and the Red Sox held off the Los Angeles Dodgers 8-4 in Tuesday’s World Series opener.
With Boston clinging to a one-run lead, the 31-year-old Dominican reserve infielder blasted the seventh-inning offering from Dodgers reliever Alex Wood over the Fenway Park landmark and the Red Sox seized the lead in Major League Baseball’s best-of-seven final, which continues here Wednesday.
“I know he throws lot of off-speed,” Nunez said. “I know he doesn’t want me to beat him with fastball, so I will see all at-bat something soft and he do it twice.”
Boston outfielder Andrew Benintendi became only the third Red Sox batter with four hits in a World Series game after Jacoby Ellsbury in 2007 and Wally Moses in 1946, scoring three times in the hosts’ triumph.
“We were able to execute,” Benintendi said. “For the most part we were able to do what we wanted to do. We were able to get on the board early and often.”
The Red Sox seek a ninth title overall, the first since 2013 and fourth in 15 seasons, while the Dodgers, who fell one win shy of last year’s crown, chase their seventh World Series trophy but first since 1988.
Windy and rain-drenched Fenway Park had the coldest conditions the Dodgers had endured all year, but they twice rallied to equalize until Nunez broke open the back and forth contest.
“From the first at-bat, we put pressure on them. That’s what we do,” Red Sox manager Alex Cora said. “We attacked pitches in the middle of the strike zone and we did an outstanding job offensively.”
Dodgers shortstop Manny Machado, despised by Red Sox fans after a 2017 slide that injured Boston’s Dustin Pedroia, ignored boos and derisive chants to drive in three runs.
Machado smacked a bases-loaded sacrifice fly to centerfield in the seventh inning that scored pinch hitter Max Muncy from third base to pull Los Angeles within 5-4.
In the Boston seventh, Benintendi lofted a ground-rule double and Martinez was walked before the Dodgers pulled reliever Pedro Baez for Wood. Cora inserted Nunez, who delivered the decisive blow.
“He makes great moves. He’s very smart,” Nunez said. “I think that’s the reason we’re here, because every move we make it’s for a good reason.”
The Red Sox finally had breathing room over the Dodgers.
“It was a huge hit,” Benintendi said. “Getting that extra three runs, that extra cushion, was like a deep breath, an exhale. We knew we were set up pretty well those last two innings.”
Boston relievers Nathan Eovaldi and Craig Kimbrel retired the last six Dodgers batters to seal the victory.
Dodgers manager Dave Roberts benched Pedro Baez for Wood despite him striking out the two batters he faced.
“I really liked Alex in that spot,” Roberts said.
Left-handed star starting pitchers Clayton Kershaw for LA and Boston’s Chris Sale lasted more than two batters into the fifth inning.
Boston leadoff batter Mookie Betts, the major league’s top hitter, singled and scored on a Benintendi single and J.D. Martinez later singled Benintendi in for a 2-0 Boston lead.
Dodgers designated hitter Matt Kemp blasted a second-inning solo homer off Sale over the Green Monster in his first World Series at-bat and Machado singled in an equalizer in the third inning.
A video review overturned a double play to put Boston’s Steve Pearce at first base with two outs in the third and Martinez made the Dodgers pay by knocking him in with a double for a 3-2 Red Sox edge, but Machado hit a run-scoring ground out in the fifth inning to pull the Dodgers level again before a fielder’s choice by Xander Bogaerts and a Rafael Devers run-scoring single put Boston ahead to stay.
“That’s a good offense. They got the big hit when they needed it,” Roberts said. “We didn’t play the defense we typically do. I thought we left some outs out there. To beat a club like that, you’ve got to play a cleaner game defensively.”
© Agence France-Presse (Additional edits from Maurice Gleeson)