Red Sox

WORLD SERIES: Kershaw strikes out 11 as Dodgers win opener, 3-1

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WORLD SERIES: Kershaw strikes out 11 as Dodgers win opener, 3-1

LOS ANGELES -- No sweat, Clayton Kershaw.

Changing jerseys to beat the 103-degree heat, the Dodgers ace with a checkered playoff history delivered a signature performance, pitching Los Angeles past the Houston Astros 3-1 Tuesday night in the World Series opener.

Boosted by Justin Turner's tiebreaking, two-run homer in the sixth inning off Dallas Keuchel, Kershaw was in complete control against the highest-scoring team in the majors this season.

"Definitely feels good to say it was the World Series, and it feels good to say we're 1-0," Kershaw said.

The left-hander had waited his whole career for this moment. And once he took the mound in his Series debut, he lived up every bit to the legacy of Sandy Koufax, Orel Hershiser and the greatest of Dodgers hurlers.

The three-time Cy Young Award winner struck out 11 , gave up just three hits and walked none over seven innings, featuring a sharp breaking ball that often left Houston batters taking awkward swings. His lone blemish was a home run by Alex Bregman in the fourth that made it 1-all.

No matter, with Koufax in the house, Kershaw did his pal proud.

"He was as good as advertised," Keuchel said.

A sweltering, pulsating crowd at Dodger Stadium dotted with Hollywood A-listers was filled with Kershaw jerseys, and he drew loud cheers all evening.

Kershaw got one more ovation when he walked through a corridor to a postgame interview. There, fans applauded a final time.

"I felt good. It's a tough lineup over there," Kershaw said. "The way Keuchel was throwing it was up and down a lot, which was good. It got us into a rhythm a little bit. I think for me personally, it helped out a lot."

Brandon Morrow worked a perfect eighth and Kenley Jansen breezed through the Astros in the ninth for a save in a combined three-hitter. The Dodgers' dominant relievers have tossed 25 straight scoreless innings this postseason.

With both aces throwing well, the opener zipped by in 2 hours, 28 minutes - fastest in the World Series since Game 4 in 1992 between Toronto and Atlanta. Jimmy Key and the Blue Jays won that one 2-1 in 2:21.

It certainly was unusual for this postseason, when nine-inning games had been averaging 3 hours, 32 minutes - up 18 minutes from two years ago.

Chris Taylor gave the Dodgers an immediate jolt in their first Series game since 1988 when he hit a no-doubt home run on Keuchel's very first pitch. Taylor was co-MVP of the NL Championship Series with Turner, and they both kept swinging away against the Astros.

"Just getting that momentum early is huge," Kershaw said. "And let the crowd kind of feed off that. It was definitely as good a start as we could have hoped for."

The loss left the Astros still without a single World Series win in their 56-season history. In their only other Series appearance, they were swept by the White Sox in 2005.

Game 2 is Wednesday evening, with AL Championship Series MVP Justin Verlander starting against Dodgers lefty Rich Hill.

Kershaw has almost every imaginable individual accolade on his resume - five ERA titles, an MVP trophy, a no-hitter and seven All-Star selections - but also was dogged by a shaky October past.

He began this outing in the twilight with a 6-7 career playoff record and an unsightly 4.40 ERA. He improved to 3-0 in four starts this postseason.

"I don't know if you can decipher between a postseason start and a World Series start. The adrenaline, I feel like every game is so much more magnified," Kershaw said.

A Series opener that served as a showcase for several of the game's best young hitters - Jose AltuveCarlos CorreaCody Bellinger and more - instead was dominated by Kershaw.

"Couldn't be happier for him," Turner said.

Facing a team that had the fewest strikeouts in the majors this year, Kershaw fanned more Houston hitters than any starter this season. And he helped the Dodgers, who led the majors with 104 wins and a $240 million payroll, improve to 8-1 this postseason.

"Tonight is about Kershaw," Astros manager A.J. Hinch said.

It was 1-1 when Taylor drew a two-out walk in the sixth. Turner followed with his drive off the bearded Keuchel .

"Keuchel was really good tonight. He was just a pitch or two less than Kershaw," Hinch said.

While it was sticky, the conditions didn't seem to affect either side.

Kershaw, as always, wore his bright blue Dodgers jacket walking to the bullpen to get ready.

"It was hot warming up. But once the game started, the sun went down, it didn't feel that hot," Kershaw said.

There is no reliable record for the hottest temperature at a World Series game. But weather data indicates this might've been the steamiest ever.

Notorious for late arrivals, Dodger fans showed up early and the seats in the shaded sections filled up fast. Keeping with the theme, the stadium organist played 1960s hits "Heat Wave" and "Summer in the City" as Houston warmed up.

When Vin Scully's familiar recorded call of "It's Time for Dodger Baseball" boomed over the PA system, the crowd really let loose, with the entire ballpark standing and chanting for the pregame introductions.

Scully drew a huge ovation when he was later shown on the video board, sitting in a box. Several players clapped along for the Hall of Fame broadcaster, who's nearly 90 and spent 67 seasons calling Dodgers games.

Dustin Hoffman, Jerry Seinfeld and Lady Gaga were among the many celebs in the crowd of 54,253, along with Dodgers great Tom Lasorda and part-owner Magic Johnson.

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Nunez returns to Red Sox on one-year deal

Nunez returns to Red Sox on one-year deal

FORT MYERS, Fla. — Eduardo Nunez is back in the fold on a one-year deal with a player option for 2019.

The infielder doesn’t give the Sox the punch of J.D. Martinez, who remains a free agent. But he does give the Sox some depth and a veteran presence after a strong performance with Boston last season.

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Nunez makes $4 million this season, and can make $4 million in 2019 with a $2 million buyout — so he’s guaranteed to make at least $6 million if he tests free agency after 2018. 

But he can make up to $10 million over the two seasons if he sticks around for 2019. Nunez can make another $2 million in 2019: he can earn up to $1 million based on plate appearances in 2018, and another $1 million based on 2019 performance bonuses.

The deal is structured so that Nunez has something of a safety net if he doesn’t have a great year in 2018, but also provides him some freedom to explore the market if he does. The Red Sox don’t appear to have a full-time job available for Nunez, who is good enough to play everyday for some team, but he should be used plenty while Dustin Pedroia is out. His usage would only increase if the Sox don’t sign Martinez or another bat to DH.

Nunez is expected to be around JetBlue Park on Sunday. The Globe reported he was on hand Saturday.

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Pedroia, healing well, says he could have handled 2017 differently

Pedroia, healing well, says he could have handled 2017 differently

FORT MYERS, Fla. — Often, Dustin Pedroia is not one to expound on his feelings publicly. His interviews with media can be amusing and witty, but they also can be terse. In 2017, they tended toward the latter. 

A welcome-to-spring session with reporters on Saturday brought out 20 minutes of another side of Pedroia, one that seemed almost eager to expound. He was cast in a poor light last season, the year's troubles started to compound early.

Pedroia said Saturday the knee he had repaired in the offseason had been bothering him since April. He called the surgery “the best decision I could have made.” 

“My knee doesn’t hurt,” Pedroia said. “Last year, waking up and walking around was painful. It’s not fun to live your life like that. Having the surgery, I could tell immediately that I was feeling better. Not one time did I have any pain in the entire process. Now, it’s just building strength and getting back to being athletic and things like that and your body picks that up quick.”

Pedroia, 34, didn’t share a timetable. The initial expectation, at the point Pedroia went for the surgery, was that he would be out until at least May.

He shared how he thinks the Red Sox need greater leadership as a group, not just from one individual.

"I’ve thought a lot about this, you know and I’m thinking, man, you know, you guys write all these stories about how we don’t have enough leadership and all this stuff,” Pedroia said. “I’m like, thinking about it, I’m like, when did the Red Sox start getting successful? From 2002 or whatever on. You know, they had Tek [Jason Varitek]. But not only did they have Tek, but they had David [Ortiz], they had Trot Nixon, they had Johnny Damon. There was a ton of core players that were leaders. 

“And then you look at the next championship they won, they had David, Tek, Mike Lowell, Alex [Cora]. There’s multiple leaders. And then ’13, there’s multiple leaders. So I think our core group, our guys that [are young], it’s my responsibility, I need them and they need me and we all have to work together. Because it’s not one leader. And everybody always says that, it’s not one guy in baseball. 

“We have to go be together and know that. I know David’s gone, but you know when Tek was done, we were okay. Because he built that into David, and David’s built that into me to where I got to do a better job of finding a way to get everybody to realize that it’s not one guy, it’s everybody. And that’s — after thinking about it — that’s what it is."

There was more. A lot more. The team, Pedroia said, became too results-oriented in the short term last year.

“It was more ‘Hey, what are our results today? We’ve got to do good today,’” Pedroia said. “‘Bogey’s got to get four hits today. Mookie’s got to live up to huge expectations,’ instead of being who you are, and that’s especially in this environment that’s how you have to be. You have to understand you’re going to be bad and you’re going to be great.”

Twenty minutes in, the second-to-last question was a brief return to last year’s form. Terse.

Pedroia was asked whether there was a team discussion about the handling of the Manny Machado and Dennis Eckersley incidents.

"Yeah, we talked about those things,” Pedroia said, matter of factly. 

It was by far the shortest answer he gave Saturday and stood out for that reason.

Pedroia and everyone else listening knew well that the question, which he did technically answer, was meant to provide some level of insight into those discussions. 

The conclusion: last year still isn’t easy to talk about. Which may be a positive sign. Consider: Pedroia’s reputation as a team leader was questioned. A prideful person who believes in his work, who cares about his standing and his reputation, would be made uncomfortable by last year’s proceedings.

A follow-up question came, and it was something of a breakpoint. Did those discussions resolve the issues quickly, was anything lingering?

He could have given a similar yes-no answer again. 

He didn’t.

“Yeah, no, I mean, I think as a team, no, we were together all the time. You know, those things happen,” Pedroia said. “I mean it’s baseball. I think when you sit back and look at it. Could it have been handled differently? Without question. I mean, 100 percent. It’s like everything in life. You make mistakes and then you don’t make mistakes. So, you know you learn from it, you move forward, you understand if you’re in another situation like that, if you want to do something different, do something different. And that’s what we all took out of it.”

On Saturday, he did something different.

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