(Reuters) - Eduardo Nunez slammed a three-run pinch hit homer and Andrew Benintendi collected four hits to power the Boston Red Sox to a 8-4 win over the Los Angeles Dodgers in Game One of the World Series on Tuesday.
The first World Series meeting between the two iconic franchises in 102 years had been a seesaw battle until Nunez stepped up to the plate in the bottom of the seventh and took Dodgers reliever Alex Wood over the Green Monster, cashing in Benintendi and J.D. Martinez.
The Dodgers and Red Sox and a capacity crowd will be back at Boston’s Fenway Park on Wednesday for Game Two of the best-of-seven series.
With the teams sending out their aces, Game One had offered the promise of a marquee pitching duel between Red Sox seven-time all-star Chris Sale and Dodgers three-time Cy Young winner Clayton Kershaw.
But both starters were colder than the crisp fall weather, lasting just four plus innings.
Kershaw, who has never lived up to his Cy Young credentials in the post-season, endured another rough outing, surrendering five runs on seven hits to take the loss.
Sale yielded three runs on five hits.
Red Sox reliever Matt Barnes was credited with the win, working just one inning and giving up one hit.
Benintendi, the first player with four hits and three runs in a World Series debut, said the Red Sox came in with a plan on how to handle Kershaw.
“We had a solid approach against him tonight and for the most part we executed what we wanted to do,” he added.
“Getting on the board early and often, that’s what we’re trying to do and it gives us a better shot at winning.
“Up and down the lineup there’s not an easy out. We’re going to grind out at bats.”
The Red Sox wasted no time revving up the chilled Fenway faithful with Benintendi and J.D. Martinez connecting on run scoring singles to stake Boston to a 2-0 first inning lead.
Los Angeles answered right back in the top of the second with a solo home run from Matt Kemp, then tied it up in third on a Manny Machado soft roller to left field.
The Red Sox would retake the lead 3-2 in the bottom of inning, Martinez slamming a two-out double off the center field wall scoring Steve Pearce.
The rollercoaster contest continued into the fifth as Sale opened the inning by issuing a leadoff walk to Brian Dozier.
That would be the end of the game for Sale as Boston manager Alex Cora wasted no time going to his bullpen for hard-throwing Barnes.
Boston would not escape the inning without surrendering a run as Machado ground out to score Dozier and pull level at 3-3.
But once again the Red Sox would hit back, scoring a pair at the bottom of the same inning after driving Kershaw from the game.
With the bases loaded, Dodgers reliever Ryan Madson was able to limit the damage to a Xander Bogaerts force out scoring Mookie Betts and an RBI single from Rafael Devers.
The Dodgers loaded the bases with one out in the seventh but could manage only a single run, Machado bringing across his third of the game on a sacrifice fly that trimmed the Boston advantage to 5-4 before Nunez put the contest out of reach.
“They are a dangerous offense, especially when you give them extra outs,” said Dodgers manager Dave Roberts. “I thought we pitched them okay but that’s a dangerous offense over there.”
(This story has been refilled to correct 112 years to 102 in second paragraph)
Reporting by Steve Keating in Toronto, Editing by Peter Rutherford