The Boston Red Sox produced a stunning late rally to defeat the Los Angeles Dodgers 9-6 and move to the brink of their ninth World Series crown on Saturday.
First baseman Steve Pearce smashed a game-tying home run in the eighth inning and then belted a three-run double in the top of the ninth to cap a superb fightback from Boston, who now lead the best-of-seven series 3-1.
The Red Sox, who can clinch the Major League Baseball crown with victory in game five at Dodger Stadium on Sunday, had earlier trailed 4-0 after Yasiel Puig’s three-run homer put the Dodgers ahead in the sixth inning.
Less than three weeks after he was booed off the field by the Fenway Park faithful after surrendering three runs in 1 2/3 innings to the New York Yankees, Price has changed the narrative around his postseason shortcomings, as well as his underwhelming tenure with the Red Sox, by delivering when Boston have needed him most.
He finally broke through by winning his first playoff start in the clincher against the Houston Astros in the American League Championship Series, tossing six scoreless innings in Game 5 to send the Red Sox to the World Series.
If that performance was redemption, Wednesday’s outing to give Boston a 2-0 lead over the Los Angeles Dodgers – in front of many of the same fans that have booed and criticised him – was the icing on the cake.
Price wasn’t as sharp this time around on a blistering cold night at Fenway, but he gamely battled through tough spots – including a bases-loaded jam in the fourth – to only allow two runs over six innings of work for another win.
“It’s huge,” Price said of his effort. “This is the biggest stage in baseball. There’s no other stage that’s going to be bigger than pitching in a World Series game, unless it’s Game 7 of the World Series. To be able to do that, it feels good, for sure.”
Coming through on the biggest stage is what Red Sox Nation envisioned Price would do when he signed a mammoth seven-year, $217 million deal in the winter of 2015.
Instead, the past three years saw Price almost run out of town. Part of that was his own doing as he posted number not befitting a frontline ace, while also being prickly at times with those outside the clubhouse, including a confrontation with Red Sox announcer Dennis Eckersley on a team flight last season. But it’s not as if he’s been bad in the regular season – his 39-19 record and 3.74 earned run average during his time in Boston haven’t been disastrous.
However, postseason performance is what Red Sox players are often judged by, and up until Price’s past two starts, he hadn’t had a signature moment.
Now he does. Not just one, but two in what could be one of the most memorable seasons not only in the team’s history, but in Boston sports history.
The job isn’t done yet, but it’s possible Price doesn’t pitch again this year and the next time Boston fans see him is when he’s on a Duck Boat for the championship parade.
As nothing less than a beloved figure.
What started as a marquee pitching match-up in Game 1 of the World Series quickly evolved into a contest where all the little things mattered.
The Boston Red Sox held serve at home with an 8-4 win, and more than their star power on the mound or at the plate, it was their timely execution – and the Los Angeles Dodgers’ failure to do the same – that decided the opener.
Ultimately, neither Chris Sale nor Clayton Kershaw factored into the result, despite it being the first meeting of seven-time All-Stars in a World Series opener. The two aces lasted just four innings on a night where both were at less than their best, with Kershaw surrendering five runs and Sale allowing three.
The bullpen played a larger role than expected and while the Red Sox relievers were nearly flawless in shutting down the Dodgers’ lineup over five innings, Los Angeles’ arms couldn’t contain the damage.
But other than the knockout blow delivered by Eduardo Nunez on his pinch-hit three-run home run in the seventh inning, much of that damage could have been avoided for the Dodgers.
They failed to turn two potential inning-ending double plays – on Steve Pearce in the third and on Xander Bogaerts in the fifth – that led to three runs.
Los Angeles also couldn’t grab hold of a couple fly balls that ended up costing them runs. The first came when Mookie Betts, in his lead-off at-bat, popped one up in foul territory, which first baseman David Freese couldn’t corral. Four pitches later, Betts singled before stealing second base and scoring on Andrew Benintendi’s hit.
In the seventh, Benintendi was gifted a double when left fielder Joc Pederson and third baseman Justin Turner couldn’t converge on a shallow fly ball. Four batters later, Nunez cleared the Green Monster to give Boston a four-run cushion.
The Nunez bomb was another example of the Red Sox being rewarded for paying attention to the details.
When Dodgers manager Dave Roberts replaced right-handed pitcher Pedro Baez with lefty Alex Wood to face the left-handed hitting Rafael Devers, Boston manager Alex Cora countered by pinch-hitting Nunez. The decision was far from a slam dunk as Nunez was hitting just .188 with one extra-base hit in the postseason, while Devers’ bat had been key.
But as he had been doing all playoffs, Cora pushed the right button once again and the Red Sox claimed a relatively comfortable win to take another step towards a title.
Boston are a deep, talented squad with players who can change the game on any given night – Benintendi’s four-hit performance was more evidence of that.
The reason they were the best team in baseball this season, however, extends beyond the richness of their roster. Whether it’s been two-out hitting, base-running or managerial decisions, the Red Sox have thrived all-around.
The Dodgers will have to meet that standard – or hope Boston suddenly start beating themselves – if they want to make this a competitive series, beginning with Game 2 on Wednesday.