The 2018 World Series begins Tuesday evening when the Boston Red Sox host the Los Angeles Dodgers at Fenway Park.
First pitch for Game 1 is scheduled for 8:09 p.m. Eastern Standard Time (EST), with Chris Sale of Boston squaring off against fellow ace Clayton Kershaw for Los Angeles – who entered the season as consensus favorites to win it all.
And when Kershaw takes the mound, his Dodgers will be (+130) moneyline underdogs to the Red Sox (-150) – per the opening odds posted by online sportsbook Bovada – marking the first time since July of 2012 that Kershaw hasn’t been the betting favorite.
The books may be on to something though, given Kershaw’s historical struggles pitching in the postseason anywhere other than Dodger Stadium.
Kershaw’s status as a true ace is undisputed, as a sparkling 2.39 career ERA, 1.00 WHIP, and 153-69 record can attest.
But even as he’s led the boys in blue on six straight trips to the postseason – capped thus far by a classic Game 7 loss to the Houston Astros in last year’s Fall Classic – Kershaw can’t seem to summon the same magic when pitching in the playoffs.
In 22 postseason starts throughout his 11-year career, Kershaw is just 9-8 with a lackluster 4.09 ERA. When pitching on the road, his playoff performance dips down to a 4.43 ERA, and over his last 10 starts in October, the number balloons to 7.23.
In his lone road start of this year’s postseason, Kershaw lasted only three innings, giving up six hits and five runs while walking two Milwaukee Brewers in the Dodgers’ NLCS opening game loss.
The disturbing home/away splits extend to last year’s World Series too.
Kershaw dominated the Astros over seven strong innings at Dodger Stadium in Game 1, striking out 11 batters while surrendering just three hits and no walks. But when Game 5 changed the backdrop to Minute Maid Park in Houston, Kershaw was rocked for six runs on four hits and three walks in just four and two-thirds innings.
He’ll be making a pair of firsts on Tuesday, however, as Kershaw faces the Red Sox for the first time ever, while taking the Fenway Park mound for his maiden voyage.
Asked about the “mystique” of baseball’s oldest and most revered ballpark after being named the Game 1 starter, Kershaw was typically understated in his response to MLB.com:
“I don’t really think about that stuff. I appreciate the history and everything that goes along with Fenway Park.
But I came here, I don’t know how long ago, 2000-something, and got to at least see it, got to be here, got to appreciate the stadium and things like that.”
Kershaw will be tasked with taming the Red Sox’ potent lineup, which led all of baseball with 876 runs scored behind sluggers Mookie Betts and J.D. Martinez.
But Boston also has an ace up its sleeve in Chris Sale, a Cy Young contender this season behind a 12-4 record, 2.11 ERA, and 0.89 WHIP.
Sale has been serviceable so far in the postseason, winning Game 1 of the ALDS over the New York Yankees with 5.1 innings of five-hit, two-run ball. His only start of the ALCS lasted 4.1 innings, with Sale allowing one hit and two runs but five bases on balls in a loss to Houston.
A stomach ailment forced Sale to sit out his scheduled Game 5 start against the Astros, but he told CBS Sports that he’s “100 percent” ready to roll for Game 1.
Run line bettors can back Los Angeles (+1.5) for a (-160) price, while the Boston (-1.5) run line offers (+140) odds. And fitting with their dog status in Game 1, the Dodgers are (+135) to win their first World Series title since 1988.
As for the Red Sox, they’ll be (-165) favorites to win their fourth championship in the last 15 years (2004, 2007, 2013).