LOS ANGELES — If Steve Pearce hasn’t made a case for the Red Sox re-signing him as a free agent this offseason, not sure what more he has to do.
The free agent-to-be has earned his stripes for another year or two in a Red Sox uniform. The Pearce-Mitch Moreland platoon is effective and not that costly. Like Nathan Eovaldi, Pearce has likely made himself some money in the open market, but that money should come from the Sox.
In fact, Pearce and Moreland combined for seven RBIs in Game 4 on Saturday night, all of them against an ineffective Dodgers’ bullpen after starter Rich Hill had stifled the Red Sox bats for 6⅓ innings, exiting with a 4-0 lead.
Who knows, maybe Alex Cora took Eduardo Rodriguez out too late after Yasiel Puig slammed a three-run homer in the sixth (439 feet) to make it 4-0, and maybe Dave Roberts took Hill out too soon after 91 pitches when he was still effective to call on a bullpen that gave the Sox offense life support in a 9-6 win.
Moreland slammed a pinch-hit three-homer in the seventh (437 feet) to pull the Sox to within one. And from there it was the Steve Pearce Show. Welcome to Hollywood.
Pearce tied it up with a solo homer off Kenley Jansen in the eighth. In the ninth, after Rafael Devers put the Sox ahead with a pinch-hit single to right, Pearce came up and cleared the bases with a double to right-center as three runs scored to pretty much seal the deal for the Red Sox.
Pearce and Moreland helped bail Cora out a bit. Cora’s once pristine record of making the right moves virtually every time came into question when E-Rod pitched to Puig with Matt Barnes warming up. Rodriguez, who had pitched a strong game in what could be considered an emergency start before Puig’s blast.
Cora’s questionable decision to stay with Rodriguez was soon forgotten when a couple of pinch-hitting moves (Moreland and Devers) paid off and enabled the Sox to regain control despite a shaky moment in the bottom of the ninth when closer Craig Kimbrel made it interesting again.
Pearce made the starting lineup with the lefty Hill on the mound, and like most Sox hitters, didn’t much of a sniff against Hill, whose only hit allowed was a single by Christian Vazquez in the in the fifth inning.
Pearce had drawn a first-inning walk hitting in the No. 3 spot in the order. He had also flied out twice to left field. Pearce, known for his ability to hit lefties, didn’t get cranking until the Dodgers brought in their righthanders.
Pearce’s tying shot came against Jansen, while his bases-clearing double came against righty Kenta Maeda. Cora has said all along that Pearce can hit lefties and righties. And he’s proven that.
Pearce came to the Red Sox in a July deal with Toronto, basically to platoon with Moreland. That was not long after the team had cut ties with Hanley Ramirez, who was slumping and was about to see his playing time diminish.
Pearce has been in a platoon role most of his playing career and was more than happy to share the load with Moreland. Pearce hit 284 with 11 homers and 42 RBIs for the season, with an .890 OPS. Against lefties, he had a .901 OPS with a .279 average with seven homers and 26 RBIs.
“Steve has been unbelievable,” Cora said. “He’s a complete hitter. We got him to face lefties, but he’s shown time and time again that he can hit anyone. He gives you good at-bats and he really stepped up for us and got a couple of big hits, one to tie the game and then to give us a little cushion.”
Said Brock Holt, “Yeah he’s been huge for us. He’s come up with big hits. He feels the moment. He knows when we need to get something going and he’s come through so much for us. He’s just a great teammate. He’s always team-first and we love him.”
The vaunted Red Sox offense had completely disappeared the last two games atDodger Stadium. Part of that is due to two splendid starting pitching performances by Walker Buehler and Hill. Hill, a Milton native, has missed a lot of time the past two years mostly with blister issues, but when he does pitch he’s generally effective.
Hill likely took great satisfaction in stuffing his hometown team in a key World Series game. He absolutely frustrated the Red Sox with offspeed stuff, deception, and a fastball that he located and threw for strikes at 91-92 miles per hour. It was the opposite of Game 3, during which Buehler threw pure gas at 98-99 m.p.h.. Hill’s way was just as effective, but he didn’t get to cherish a victory as his bullpen let him down.
Cora admitted the Red Sox energy was down after the epic game the night before. And then Hill lulled them to sleep even more. But it took the great at-bats by Moreland and then Pearce, who just took over from there.
The Steve Pearce Show.
The Sox are should hope that it continues next season.