There was only one baseball game, and it was dramatic. Leads were taken and leads were lost, nails were bitten and a game was won. But there are four time zones in the continental 48, which means that, for a kid whose bedtime is at 9 p.m. -- but whose parents are letting her stay up an extra half-hour because it's the World Series, but only if she brushes her teeth and gets in her P.J.s by 9 -- America actually held four different ballgames last night, all of them ending at different points.
We set four timers last night, one for 9:30 p.m. in each time zone. These are the game stories for each of them.
The East Coast Game
They might someday tell the story of the time Chris Sale and Clayton Kershaw, the two best left-handers of their generation, wrestled until daybreak under the career-defining stakes of a World Series ultimatum. And if they do, you'll know this World Series went at least five games.
Because in Game 1 on Tuesday each ace was a little erratic, a little unlucky, a little not like himself, as the early spotlight instead found the two best offenses in the game trading body blows.
The Boston Red Sox jumped on Kershaw with three smashed singles and a pair of runs in the first inning; it was only Kershaw's pickoff of J.D. Martinez -- who was breaking early on a 3-2 count -- that rescued him for further labor. A second-inning rally was thwarted when Jackie Bradley Jr.'s rocket up the middle went through Kershaw's defenseless legs but found the waiting glove of Manny Machado, standing astride second base as part of a defensive shift.
The Los Angeles Dodgers scratched back with a run in the second (on a Matt Kemp home run) and one in the third, when the heart of the Dodgers' order linked three singles together to tie the game. Sale needed more than 70 pitches to get the first nine outs.
Kershaw was quickly again in trouble in the bottom of the third, then out of trouble -- and then, after the commercial "outro" music had already played, suddenly back in it again. Andrew Benintendi had singled earlier in the inning on a misplayed pop-up to left field, and with one out Steve Pearce grounded to shortstop. Machado made a sterling play to get the force at second base and Brian Dozier pivoted to complete the double play, and the out call by first-base ump Kerwin Danley seemed to absolve Kershaw.
But a video review of the play overturned Danley's call, bringing Martinez to the plate with the score 2-2. Martinez got ahead in the count 1-0. Then --
Time for bed, kiddo.
Noooooo, can't I just...
Sorry, pal, a deal's a deal. You can see who won in the morning.
The Central Game
Even in this, the age of bullpens and bullpenning, of closers and openers, the siren call of the ace starting pitcher causes skippers to steer into their own destruction.
On Tuesday, Boston Red Sox manager Alex Cora trusted his ace for one batter too many. A quarter of an hour later, in a situation almost creepy in its symmetry, Los Angeles Dodgers manager Dave Roberts repeated the mistake -- and even outdid Cora by one.
The opening game of the 2018 World Series was supposed to be decided by the genius of Clayton Kershaw or the nastiness of Chris Sale, the two best lefties of the decade. Neither pitcher was dominant, though, and after J.D. Martinez's 412-foot double drove in Steve Pearce in the third, the Red Sox held a 3-2 lead going to the fourth.
Each pitcher, facing the bottom of the opposing order, cruised. First it was Sale, striking out two batters in a perfect fourth inning. Then it was Kershaw, striking out a pair in his flawless dispatch of the 7-8-9 batters.
Lesser starters in this modern game would be pulled at that point. Neither lefty looked sharp; each was facing the top of the order for the third time. But Cora let Sale start the fifth inning, and was rewarded with a leadoff walk to Brian Dozier. Cora replaced Sale at that point, but the damage was done. The walk would come around to score on Manny Machado's one-out groundout, tying the game.
Roberts, who has used a deep and star-packed bench to aggressively pinch-hit for his regulars this postseason, might well have regretted letting the right-handed David Freese bat against Boston righty Matt Barnes in the middle of the rally -- Freese struck out in a spot that Max Muncy or Cody Bellinger might have been suited for -- but he had equalized the score, which seemed the most important thing.
Roberts, having watched Sale's glitch, had his own decision to make with Kershaw in the bottom of that inning. He certainly considered that Kershaw is his own man and that Sale's outcome ultimately has nothing to do with Kershaw's. Confident that his ace was different, then, Roberts sent Kershaw out for the fifth -- and Kershaw rewarded him with a leadoff walk. Roberts let the leash out just a little longer, and after a line drive by Andrew Benintendi the threat had doubled. Kershaw's night was ended, and Ryan Madson's unlikely bid to strand those runners was thwarted when Xander Bogaerts hustled down the line to beat out a double play by inches. One run scored on the fielder's choice, and another on the Rafael Devers single that followed. With two on and two outs and the Red Sox now ahead 5-3, Ian Kinsler fell behind 0-1 --
OK, buddy, that's it for tonight. Bedtime.
Come on, let's move. You can see who won in the morning.
The Mountain Game
There will be games that the Los Angeles Dodgers' starting nine are outplayed by the opponents' starting nine. So it was at Fenway Park on Tuesday night, when the Boston Red Sox jumped ahead early thanks to the Dodgers' sloppy play, the Dodgers' woeful hitting with men in scoring position, and the disappointing effort the Dodgers got from their ace Clayton Kershaw.
But if there's one thing the rest of the National League learned while getting walked over by the Dodgers, it's that L.A.'s starting nine is only the prologue. Trailing 5-3 six innings into of the World Series, and with Boston trying to play matchups with its best right-handed relievers, manager Dave Roberts flipped his sword to his other hand.
Joc Pederson, the left-handed outfielder, pinch hit and grounded sharply into the shift for the first out of the seventh inning. He was followed by another pinch hitter, Max Muncy, who singled to right. Starter Justin Turner singled as well, and the third pinch hitter of the inning, Yasmani Grandal, batted. He worked a walk to load the bases.
Manny Machado flied out to center field to drive in one run. With Cody Bellinger -- another earlier substitution -- coming up, Boston blinked, replacing its shutdown right-handed set-up man, Ryan Brasier, with lefty Eduardo Rodriguez. The lefty has been much less reliable than Brasier of late, but Bellinger couldn't make the switch backfire, flying out for the final out of the inning. Still, the Boston lead was halved and Boston's situational relievers were now spent.
Meanwhile, the Dodgers' bullpen was keeping the game close. Ryan Madson escaped the fifth inning without allowing any runs of his own, and Julio Urias pitched a perfect sixth inning. Pedro Baez struck out two batters in the seventh before Roberts called for a pitching change, with two runners on and two runners out and the Red Sox ahead 5-4.
And now you've got to go to bed, munchkin.
Can't I just see this next batter?
By the time it gets back from commercial, it'll be 9:30. And I don't want you to be grumpy all day tomorrow. Let's go, I'll tuck you in. You can see who won in the morning.
The West Coast Game
It's a game of inches, until it turns into a game of yards.
Eduardo Nunez broke open a close contest with a three-run home run in the seventh inning, giving the Boston Red Sox an 8-4 victory and a one-game head start on the Los Angeles Dodgers in the World Series. But Nunez's 373-foot line drive was merely the final moment of tension in a game that had been held tautly together by bang-bang plays, reviewed calls, narrowly defeated defenders, and all of the dramatic pacing of postseason baseball.
Minutes before Nunez gave the Red Sox a four-run lead, Boston's Andrew Benintendi had led off the inning with Boston just one run ahead. On an 0-2 count he popped a shallow fly down the left-field line. Joc Pederson, just into the game at left field, charged in for it, stretched out his gloved right hand, but came up just short. The ball glanced off his glove and skipped off the warning track and into the stands for a ground-rule double. It was Benintendi's fourth hit of the game off Dodgers left-handers.
That double -- and the intentional walk to J.D. Martinez that was sandwiched by Boston strikeouts -- is what allowed the Red Sox to bring Rafael Devers to the plate with two outs in that seventh inning. Devers' approach compelled the Dodgers to replace the right-handed Pedro Baez with the left-handed Alex Wood, and Wood's entrance precipitated the entry of Nunez into the game, and Nunez's heroics ended the nail-biting. Wood threw a curveball, low and out of the zone, yet Nunez reached down and redirected it on a sharp line over the Green Monster.
It was the only run that came easy. The Red Sox had scored their first run after Mookie Betts singled, stole second on a throw that Manny Machado couldn't handle -- though it had Betts beat -- and scored on Benintendi's first hit. Benintendi took second base on a close play, and his hold on the bag appeared as tenuous as a hydrogen bond. The Dodgers challenged the safe call, claiming the runner had disengaged with the bag, but lost the challenge; Benintendi would score on Martinez' single in the inning, giving the Red Sox an early 2-0 lead.
The Dodgers would erase that lead with a pair of one-run innings, but the Red Sox would lead again after scoring a run in the third. Steve Pearce beat a double play relay by inches, a video review this time overturning the "out" call on the field and extending the inning; Martinez doubled him in. The Dodgers battled back -- another solitary run, this time on a rally in the fifth -- but the Red Sox again beat out a double play by inches to keep the bottom of that inning alive. This time it was Xander Bogaerts hustling down the line (as the go-ahead run scored from third), and this time it was Rafael Devers following with a two-out, run-scoring hit.
The Dodgers could manage one more rally, and one more lonely run, on Manny Machado's bases-loaded sacrifice fly in seventh. But Nunez answered back with his blast in the bottom of the inning.
From that point, the Red Sox merely had to hold on. Closer Craig Kimbrel had done managed to hold on, but just barely, throughout the postseason: He had five saves in five tries, but four had been white-knuckle efforts. If the Red Sox have been worried about their suddenly wild closer, they've tried not to show it, and Kimbrel repaid their confidence with his cleanest performance yet: 13 pitches, 10 of them strikes, including a pair of swinging strikes on disappearing curveballs. He finished Justin Turner off by throwing two boring, 97 mph fastballs that appeared targeted for the cursive "g" on Turner's chest. Turner fouled the first off, in self-defense. He swung through the second, in self-defeat.
And that was that.
That was that?
That was that.
So what now?
Now they go home until it's time to play tomorrow. And now you go brush your teeth. It's almost 9.