‘This is a business trip.’ Red Sox look to finish the job in Los Angeles
LOS ANGELES — Somewhere in a back room of the Capital Grille on Boylston Street in Boston, the Red Sox regular season is sitting in a box waiting to be opened up again so all the good memories can be poured out.
But for now it sits, put aside until the World Series is over.
When the Sox finished off their 108-win season last month, manager Alex Cora gathered his players for a private dinner the next day. It was his way of ending one season and starting another.
“We celebrated 108. We talked about it,” Cora said on Thursday. “And after that we said we’ve got to turn the page, because in the city where we play we knew that we were going to be judged by what we do in October.”
That was the harsh reality, unfair as it may seem. But all those regular-season victories would not count for much unless the Sox validated it with a trophy.
Now they are two victories away from another celebration that won’t fit in a restaurant. The Sox hold a 2-0 lead in the World Series with Game 3 at Dodger Stadium on Friday night.
Based on the first two games, there seems to be little chance the Dodgers can win four of the next five games and rob the Red Sox of their reward. The Sox have pitched, hit, and defended better than the Dodgers and Cora has run his team more adeptly than has Dodgers manager Dave Roberts.
But the games still have to be won. Rick Porcello, the Game 3 starter, understands that.
He played for Red Sox teams in 2016 and ’17 that won the American League East, then were eliminated in the first round. That got manager John Farrell fired.
“You take 108 wins in the regular season, and you don’t want to just throw that to the curb and say that doesn’t matter if we don’t win a World Series,” Porcello said. “We had the most wins of any Red Sox team in the history of the organization. We take a lot of pride in that accomplishment. And that’s not something that’s easily done.
“But I will say that especially with the way the last two postseasons have gone for us, we were chomping at the bit to make a long run here. We definitely would be disappointed if we came up short of the World Series at this point.”
That helps to explain how the Sox have somehow played better in the postseason than they did in the regular season. The Sox are 9-2 in the postseason, tearing through the Yankees, Astros, and Dodgers.
They have averaged 6.2 runs in the postseason, hitting .363 with runners in scoring position. They also have a 3.64 earned run average — 3.18 by their relievers.
As they prepare for their final road games of the season, the Sox are 5-0 on the road in the playoffs, having outscored the Yankees and Astros by 27 runs.
“It’s almost two different seasons,” Porcello said. “You hang your hat on what you did during the regular season, those accomplishments and be proud of those things.
“But everybody had an understanding of now this is a new season that’s started and basically a fresh slate. We’ve got to start from scratch and build the foundation in the postseason that we built in the regular season.”
When J.D. Martinez hit a three-run homer in the first inning of Game 1 of the Division Series, Cora felt that was a good sign well beyond the number hanging on the scoreboard.
“It was like, ‘OK, here we go.’ It was a good moment for us,” he said.
It happened again in the ALCS. After the Sox lost Game 1 against the Astros with Chris Sale on the mound, they came back and scored five runs in the first three innings of Game 2.
Now the Sox are playing with the kind of confidence Cora has been trying to prod out of them since the early days of spring training when his intent was to change how the players viewed themselves.
“We know we have a good team and I’m glad that lately I’ve been hearing that from Mookie [Betts] and some of the guys. Finally they understand that, yeah, it’s cool to play with swag and show it,” Cora said.
“And they’re showing a lot of emotion. They’re showing up every day, of course, they’ve been doing that since February. But I’m glad that they finally believe in that they’re in a great team and we’re in this position.”
The Dodgers will not be an easy out. They trailed, 2-1, in the NLCS and won Game 7 on the road in Milwaukee to advance to the World Series.
“Understanding and appreciating that it’s the World Series, it’s still not a do-or-die-like Game 7,” Roberts said. “I know that even just getting back home feels different. It’s going to be exciting [Friday]. It’s going to be energetic.”
Porcello’s job is to blunt that emotion early and give his team a chance to produce offensively against 24-year-old Dodgers rookie Walker Buehler.
It will be the first World Series start for Porcello, who was wearing a suit as he took questions at Dodger Stadium.
“This is a business trip,” he said.