Aces out: Sale, Kershaw chased early in Series opener

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This multiple exposure shows Boston Red Sox starting pitcher Chris Sale throwing during the fourth inning of Game 1 of the World Series against the Los Angeles Dodgers on Tuesday, Oct. 23, 2018, in Boston. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)
BOSTON — Aces were out early in the World Series, where four-plus innings have become a standard night.

The outings of the Dodgers’ Clayton Kershaw and Boston’s Chris Sale turned into short stories. Each failed to get an out in the fifth inning Tuesday night, just the fourth time both starting pitchers were chased that early in a Series opener and the first since 2004 — also at Fenway Park.

They were long gone by the time Boston won 8-4 in what became a predictable postseason battle of bullpens.

For a century, aces were baseball’s studs, grabbing the mound for Game 1 as if by birthright and not letting go easily. Think Bob Gibson 50 years ago, pitching a five-hit shutout for St. Louis against Detroit with 17 strikeouts and one walk.

But no pitcher has thrown a complete game in the opener since Philadelphia’s Cliff Lee beat the New York Yankees in 2009. The last complete-game shutout in Game 1 was thrown by Oakland’s Dave Stewart against San Francisco in 1989, part of a tradition of gems in openers that included complete-game shutouts for Boston by Luis Tiant in 1975 and Babe Ruth in 1918.

Complete game shutouts have gone the way of flannel uniforms and spittoons, the sport transforming at its most rapid pace since the live-ball era began nearly a century ago.

The first meeting of seven-time All-Stars in a World Series opener was far from a pitcher’s duel. Sale lasted 91 pitches and Kershaw 79.

Kershaw dropped to 9-9 in postseason play. Pitching off the first-base side of the rubber with his high arm reach and double leg kick, he allowed five runs, seven hits and three walks. Andrew Benintendi became just the second left-handed hitter to go 3 for 3 in a game against the three-time Cy Young Award winner, after Miami’s Christian Yelich on June 27, 2015.

Sale, a lanky lefty, pitched off the extreme third-base side of the rubber and fared little better, giving up three runs, five hits and two walks against the first batting order in Series history that included nine right-handed hitters, none of them switch hitters. Sale was pitching for the first time since a one-night hospital stint due to a stomach illness during the Championship Series.

Not since Boston knuckleballer Tim Wakefield (3 2/3 innings) and St. Louis right-hander Woody Williams (2 1/3 innings) in 2004 had both starters exited so quickly, an 11-9 win that started the Red Sox to a four-game sweep and their first title since 1918.

The only others were the Dodgers’ Don Drysdale (two innings) and Baltimore’s Dave McNally (2 1/3 innings) in the Orioles’ 5-2 win in 1966 and the New York Yankees’ Waite Hoyt (2 1/3 innings) and the New York Giants’ Mule Watson (two innings) in the Giants 5-4 win in the first Series game at Yankee Stadium in 1923.

But this is the pitcher’s game of the present, and it seems the future.

This was just the 26th Series game in which both starters failed to get an out in the seventh, the second in a row after the Dodgers’ Yu Darvish exited in the second inning in Game 7 last year and Houston’s Lance McCullers Jr. departed in the third. Before now, the only back-to-back double short outings were by Brooklyn and the Yankees all the way back in the Games 6 and 7 of 1947.

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