BOSTON (AP) — Red Sox manager Alex Cora didn’t want his lefties to feel left out.
Even as Los Angeles loaded its lineup with right-handed batters to face Boston lefty Chris Sale, Cora stayed with Andrew Benintendi and Rafael Devers against left-handed Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw in Game 1 of the World Series on Tuesday night.
Benintendi responded with four hits — going 3 for 3 against the three-time NL Cy Young Award winner — and three runs. Devers drove in one of them to lead the Red Sox to an 8-4 victory in a blustery Series opener.
“We’re facing a guy who’s one of the best of all time. And a lot of guys didn’t have a lot of experience off of him; the first time a lot of us have faced him. Didn’t really know what to expect,” Benintendi said. “We had a good game plan. We stuck to it.”
Benintendi had one four-hit performance in the regular season but had never topped two in a postseason game during his career. The 24-year-old left fielder became just the second lefty ever to have three hits against Kershaw in a game.
“He hangs in there with lefties,” Cora said. “We do feel that he’s a good hitter against them. When he’s using the whole field, he becomes very dangerous.”
Benintendi had an RBI single and came around to score in the first, singled again in the third and singled a third time to chase Kershaw with nobody out in the fifth before scoring to give Boston a 5-3 lead.
In the seventh, Benintendi sliced a double that handcuffed charging left fielder Joc Pederson and scored on Eduardo Nunez’s pinch-hit homer.
“He got lucky, too,” Cora said. “Twice, probably.”
Although Kershaw is tough on everybody, he’s not that much better against lefties (who have a .195 batting average against him over his career) than righties (.211). So Cora decided to stick with left-handed regulars Benintendi and Jackie Bradley Jr., as well as Devers, who has platooned with Nunez.
Leaving Nunez on the bench was a tough call for the manager, requiring a talk with the 31-year-old third baseman who had never played in the World Series before and had started against every lefty in the playoffs so far.
“We felt Raffi was going to hang in there with Kershaw, and having (Nunez) on the bench, it was going to pay off,” Cora said. “So keeping him in the dugout and out of the lineup was going to probably give us a chance to win the game. And it worked out.
“He was prepared. He wasn’t upset, actually, that he wasn’t playing. I told him, ‘Be ready, man. You might have a big at-bat tonight and do your thing.’ And he did.”
Kershaw and Sale were both chased in the fifth inning. With righty Pedro Baez on the mound in the seventh, Dodgers manager Dave Roberts brought in lefty Alex Wood to face Devers.
Cora countered with Nunez, and he hit a low breaking pitch into the first row of the Green Monster seats to give Boston an 8-4 lead.
“That was the plan and we did it,” Nunez said. “I think he makes great moves. He watches a lot of video. He’s very smart. I think that he’s the reason we’re here. Because every move we make, it’s for a reason, and it’s a good reason.”
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