The story of the 2018 Red Sox is one of a ruthlessly efficient team whose lineup did a consistently excellent job not only of identifying opportunities but seizing them. That notion has played out through two games of the World Series, with the Red Sox claiming a 2-0 advantage in the race to four wins thanks to an offense that continued to play with the feel of a runaway freight train in a 4-2 victory in Game 2 of the World Series.
For the most part, Hyun-Jin Ryu stifled Boston’s offense, flying through quick innings in the first, third, and fourth frames. But on the few occasions that the Red Sox were in position to strike, they did just that.
With Xander Bogaerts on second and two outs in the bottom of the second inning, the Red Sox followed a familiar pattern to take an early lead, with Ian Kinsler drilling a two-out single to plate his teammate and put the Red Sox up, 1-0.
Three innings later, with Ryu rolling and the Red Sox trailing, 2-1, Christian Vazquez and Mookie Betts delivered back-to-back two-out singles. Opportunity knocked. The Red Sox took a wrecking ball to the door.
Andrew Benintendi fouled off a pair of tough, full-count curveballs to elicit an eight-pitch walk and load the bases. That walk led Dodgers manager Dave Roberts to turn to righthander Ryan Madson against righthanded hitter Steve Pearce. The decision backfired when Pearce took a five-pitch walk against Madson (none of the pitches were particularly close) to force in the tying run. J.D. Martinez then untied it, dunking a two-run single to right field.
Those two walks followed by a run-scoring hit epitomize what the Red Sox have done all postseason. The team is now 17-for-40 with two outs and runners in scoring position, and perhaps even more incredibly, they have 11 walks against just seven strikeouts in those moments.
The team is proving incredibly disciplined in the most pivotal moments of games while taking exactly what opposing staffs provide — whether a line drive single or an opportunity to drive the ball in the air.
In the playoffs, the Sox are now hitting .415 with a .564 OBP and .756 slugging mark. Among teams with at least 20 postseason plate appearances with runners in scoring position and two outs, that average and OBP are the highest marks in postseason history, while the slugging percentage ranks second.
The Red Sox are now in an enviable position. Of the 54 teams that have gone up, 2-0, in the World Series, 43 (80 percent) have gone on to win the title, including each of the last 10 such teams. The Dodgers now face the daunting proposition of beating the Red Sox in at least four of the next five games.
Other takeaways from Game 2:
■ David Price, postseason ace? One outing removed from his dominant effort — and first career victory in a playoff start – in the ALCS clincher, David Price once again pitched brilliantly. The lefthander leaned heavily on his altered mix — leaning primarily on a four-seam fastball and changeup and working north and south in the strike zone, a shift from the east/west approach he had while leaning on a two-seamer and cutter for most of the second half — to carve the Dodgers.
Price sailed through three no-hit innings, and after a two-run stumble in the fourth, recovered to give the Red Sox six sharp innings. He allowed just the two runs on three hits (all in that fourth inning), joining Derek Lowe (2004), Pedro Martinez (1999), and Jim Lonborg (1967) as the only Red Sox pitchers to throw at least six innings while allowing no more than two runs or three hits in back-to-back postseason appearances.
■ He Puig’d it: Yasiel Puig was stationed shockingly deep in right field on Martinez’s go-ahead two-run single, leaving tremendous space into which Martinez could dump his hit. According to Daren Willman of MLB.com, Puig was 319 feet from the plate on the Martinez hit — about 27 feet deeper than his typical positioning, and certainly deeper than where the Dodgers wanted him to play.
■ So, about that setup issue . . .: The Red Sox received a dominant scoreless inning each from Joe Kelly (two strikeouts) and Nathan Eovaldi (one strikeout), comfortably bridging the gap from Price to Craig Kimbrel in the ninth. With Red Sox manager Alex Cora employing starters in setup roles alongside Kelly, Matt Barnes, and Ryan Brasier in front of closer Craig Kimbrel, the Red Sox now have converted all six of their save opportunities this postseason.