Over the past month or so, the Red Sox have crushed the top pitchers in baseball. They pounded out hits against Justin Verlander, Gerrit Cole, Dallas Keuchel, and Luis Severino en route to the World Series, and now, you can add Clayton Kershaw to that list.
38,454 fans crowded into a frigid Fenway Park last night to watch the Red Sox put up eight runs on eleven hits in Game 1 of the World Series against the Dodgers. In a game that lasted for nearly four hours, the Red Sox took no time getting runs on the board. The Sox offense got started with a Betts single and stolen base, which would start the rally for the Sox as three of their first four batters got hits off of one of the best pitchers in baseball. While facing a pitcher like Kershaw in Game 1 of the World Series on a forty degree night would be some teams’ worst nightmare, the Red Sox love the challenge, says hitting coach Tim Hyers.
“This team enjoys that. That’s the type of team they are. They respect the other pitchers. Kershaw is one of the best. But this group enjoys competing, and with this much talent, they’re really going to be hard to beat.’’
The Dodgers wouldn’t go down without a fight. After a Matt Kemp home-run and a few exchanges of runs, the Red Sox held only a 5-4 lead heading into the bottom of the seventh. With two outs and two runners on, Alex Cora decided to go to his bench and have Eduardo Nunez pinch hit for Rafael Devers. The move payed off, as Nunez rocketed a home-run over the monster to put the icing on the cake in Game 1, giving the Red Sox and 8-4 lead.
“He makes great moves,’’ Nunez said of Cora. “He very smart. I think that he’s the reason we’re here.”
Heading into the eighth Cora brought in his Game 3 or 4 starter, Nathan Eovaldi, to bridge the gap to Craig Kimbrel. This move, again, paying off for the first year manager, as Eovaldi tossed a scoreless inning, touching 101 MPH with his fastball.
Cora has been very aggressive all postseason. Whether it be not starting Brock Holt after he hits for the cycle, bringing Chris Sale and Nathan Eovaldi out of the pen, or like last night, pinch hitting Nunez in the seventh and taking out Sale in the fifth. Regardless of the move, nearly every one has payed off for the first year manager, and that’s a big reason for the Red Sox success this postseason.
“I really don’t care if they second-guess me, I prepare,’’ Cora said. “We prepare as a group, and you make decisions. It’s a game, man. I enjoy it. I know that we’re in the spotlight here, and there’s a lot of shows at night they’re going to dissect every move. I’m fine with that.’’
While they did have a big blast from Nunez, it was small-ball and eight singles that provided the Red Sox with a crucial Game 1 victory over the Dodgers. This Sox team wastes no at-bats and simply gets better with runners in scoring position and two outs. With runners in scoring position and two outs, they are hitting .405, slugging. 784, and posting a 1.335 OPS. With runners in scoring position they’re hitting .365 with a .647 slugging percentage and an 1.138 OPS.
Tonight, they will have to do much of the same when facing Dodgers starter Hyun Jin Ryu, who has been very good this postseason. For the Sox, it will be the left-hander David Price on the bump as they look to go up 2-0 heading to Los Angeles. The Dodgers will have to look to be more aggressive against Price tonight and try to put up runs to keep up with the scorching hot Red Sox offense. But for the Sox, they’ll be doing what they have done all year, grinding out at bats, trusting their pitching, and most importantly, trusting Alex Cora.
“When you see the results, and when we keep winning because of it, after a while as a player you say, “This is the right way to do it. So they buy into when he makes moves and why he’s doing it. They say, ‘Ok, we’ll do it that way and go out and win.’’
After all, it has won them 116 games, so I have every reason to believe it will win them three more.