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NEW YORK — The Red Sox are playing scared.

They need to put on their big boy pants and start playing like the team that won 108 games this season.

They need to start playing like the team that effectively ended the American League East race in early August by sweeping the Yankees four straight at Fenway Park.

They need to start playing with the swagger and idiocy of the 2004 Red Sox, who beat the Bronx Bombers four straight times after falling behind, 3-0, in the ALCS.

The Sox need to rediscover their mojo. They’ve been looking over their shoulders at the Big Bad Yankees since taking a 5-0 lead in the third inning of Game 1. They’ve been outscored, 10-2, over the last 15 innings.


Mookie Betts needs to start playing like the MVP. Betts has been a silent 1 for 7 over two games while mastodons Aaron Judge and Gary Sanchez have been rounding the bases after hitting prodigious homers. In nine playoff games over three years, Betts is a .242 hitter with no homers and no RBIs. That’s not Mookie Betts. He’s better than that.

The young Yankee sluggers are flexing their muscles while the Red Sox stars are turtling. Did you see what Judge did Saturday night at Fenway after hitting a homer in his third straight playoff game? He walked out of Fenway, right past the Sox clubhouse, to the tune of Sinatra’s “New York, New York.’’

Ouch. Them’s fighting words. That would be like David Ortiz parading past the home team clubhouse in Yankee Stadium while blasting “Dirty Water,’’ or “I’m Shipping Up To Boston,’’ on a John Cusack boom box.

John Cusack from the 1989 movie, “Say Anything.”

The Sox need to stop whining about the loss of Steven Wright. Wright pitched 53⅔ innings and went 3-1 for Boston in 2018. When did he become the key to the pitching plans for October? Why has the loss of Steven Wright upended Boston’s entire mound strategy? How did Rick Porcello end up in the bullpen in Game 1? What other 100-win team doesn’t know the identity of its Game 3 starter until the day before Game 3? Why does it suddenly look like the Red Sox are making it up as they go along in these playoffs?


Alex Cora needs to get Rafael Devers’s bat in the lineup. Devers is the guy who hit a 100-mile-per-hour Aroldis Chapman fastball over the wall in New York. Stop worrying about Devers’s defense and pretending that Eduardo Nunez is Brooks Robinson.

While we’re at it, it’s probably time for Brock Holt to replace Ian Kinsler.

Cora should have his “Winning Wall” of 109 photos shipped to the Bronx and put it right in the middle of the Sox clubhouse. Remind these guys who they were this year.

The Sox need to start stealing bases — something they did way better than the Yankees this season. Everybody knows it’s easy to run on the Yankees. Start running.

They need to bunt on CC Sabathia when he starts Game 4. Sabathia hates that. Good. Get him off his game.

While we’re at it, some Sox pitcher needs to come up and in on Sanchez. Put him on his butt. He’s way too comfortable up there.

Oh, and Eduardo Rodriguez needs to cover first base on a ball hit to the right side.


Dave Dombrowski needs to pick up another reliever (whoops, too late for that one).

The guys in the Sox bullpen need to stop throwing pitches that hit the dirt after traveling only 58 feet.

Chris Sale needs to pitch on short rest if that’s what it takes. Porcello needs to come out of the pen every day if that’s what it takes. Craig Kimbrel needs to be ready for a six-out save. Every day. These are the playoffs. These are the Yankees.

David Price? If he ever gets in any other playoff game he needs to stop flexing his Fortnite hand and tugging at his uniform, and simply throw the ball hard to home plate, without hesitation. Price needs to do what Pedro Martinez told him to do — stand on the mound, look at the guy at the plate, and remind yourself that you are better than him. Then pitch that way.

This series it not over. So why is everybody in Boston so scared? Why does a 1-1 series bring doom and gloom to New England?

Two games will be played at Yankee Stadium this week. There’s no reason that — at the very least — the Sox can’t square this thing and bring it home to Fenway for an epic fifth and deciding game Thursday night.

Start spreading the news.

Dan Shaughnessy is a Globe columnist. He can be reached at dshaughnessy@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @dan_shaughnessy.