Boston’s Chris Sale was hospitalized last week with a stomach ailment while Clayton Kershaw threw an inning last weekend, but both left-handed seven-time All-Stars will pitch in Tuesday’s World Series opener.
The 114th edition of Major League Baseball’s best-of-seven final begins at Boston’s 106-year-old Fenway Park, with Kershaw hoping to lift the Los Angeles Dodgers over the Red Sox to their first title in 30 years after falling one win shy last year.
“Because we’ve gotten so close in the past, because we’ve gotten to go to the post-season, we’re a little bit spoiled in our expectations,” Kershaw said Monday.
“We’re very fortunate to be on a great team, but we’re still missing that (championship) ring.”
Kershaw has won three Cy Young Awards as best pitcher, led the National League in strikeouts and wins three times each and earned-run average five times. In 2014, he became the first pitcher in 46 years to be named the National League Most Valuable Player.
But for all his accolades, he has never been able to deliver a World Series title for the Dodgers in his 11 major league seasons, Los Angeles falling to Houston in seven games last year.
“It’s pretty critical. I really want to win the World Series,” Kershaw said.
“It’s good that we’ve been there. I think for our team to get to come back after last year… coming that close, the experience can help a little bit as far as what to expect.”
Two-time American League strikeouts leader Sale, meanwhile, says he is fit and ready after medical issues.
“We’re all excited, ready to go.” That’s what we sign up for,” Sale said. “This is what we prepare for all year, a chance to win a championship and that’s where we’re at right now.
“If I’m standing on the mound, I’m 100 percent.”
Kershaw says he will not be disrupted by pitching the last inning of the Dodgers’ playoff win Saturday at Milwaukee, even throwing a bullpen practice in shorts Sunday in chilly Boston to be certain.
“It was fine. It was somewhat of a normal inning, which was good. I tried to throw as few pitches as possible in the bullpen before,” Kershaw said.
“The intensity is different but that’s why I came here yesterday to make sure everything was good. It’s just trying to get used to it. If I’m cold yesterday, then I won’t be as cold tomorrow.”
– Dominant and consistent –
It figures to be a matchup of baseball’s best lefties. Sale went 12-4 this season with 237 strikeouts and a 2.11 ERA. Kershaw struggled with injury but was 9-5 with 155 strikeouts and a 2.73 ERA.
“He has been as consistent as any starting pitcher in the game for the last decade,” Sale said of Kershaw.
“His trophy case is packed. But he’s been able to stay consistent and stay at that dominant level for a long time. You see a lot of ups and downs with people, but he’s been at the top for quite some time now and it’s pretty impressive.”
Kershaw respects Sale equally and expects him to be his best.
“Chris is a very good pitcher. He has been dominant for a long time. I enjoy watching him compete,” Kershaw said.
“Pitching in the World Series, you’re pitching on adrenaline all through October anyway… everybody’s probably feeling fine right now.”
Sale says the quirks of baseball’s oldest ballpark, including the huge left-field wall known as The Green Monster, could trouble Kershaw in his first Fenway appearance.
“It’s not an easy place to play as a visitor,” Sale said. “We have nooks and crannies, some sharp edges and some different things going on out there. I could definitely see how this could raise some challenges for a team that doesn’t play here a lot.”