There will be no gradual build back from the All-Star break. The Red Sox, manager Alex Cora suggested, need to hit the ground in a dead sprint when play resumes on Friday night against the Dodgers — the same team that the Red Sox summarily dispatched in five World Series games less than nine months ago.
“You saw what happened in October,” Cora said on Sunday. “[The Dodgers] are going to be hungry, hungry to kick our ass so we better be ready for that.”
Apprised of the assessment, Dodgers infielder Max Muncy cracked a smile.
“Absolutely,” Muncy said at the All-Star Game. “That’s a very fair assessment. I would agree with that.”
Of course, for some members of the team, that sentiment is less about revenge for what transpired last October than a broader outlook that has prevailed on the Dodgers this year. Los Angeles owns a 60-32 record, easily the best in the majors. And after the team entered the break with three straight losses to the Padres — its first losing streak of more than two games since mid-April — it is trying to re-establish its edge.
“I would like to think that we would have that burning desire to kick everyone’s ass every time we take the field. I think that’s what’s made this team so good,” said Dodgers first-base coach George Lombard, who spent several years as a Red Sox minor league coach and manager. “I think that’s why we’ve had some of the success we’ve had. We have really good players who want to win.”
That said, it doesn’t take much for the Dodgers to access recollections of what happened against the Red Sox last October. Pitcher Walker Buehler, who delivered seven shutout innings at the outset of the 18-inning Game 3 marathon, still relished his role in a World Series epic.
“I feel like I watched another game in the clubhouse,” said Buehler. “I don’t know if that will ever be done again. Obviously it was pretty cool to be a part of it.”
Muncy punctuated that contest with the walkoff homer against Nate Eovaldi to lead off the bottom of the 18th inning — for him, something akin to Carlton Fisk’s walkoff homer for the Red Sox in Game 6 of the 1975 World Series.
“I have the whole moment framed around my house. Any time I walk around my house, I can see it. It kind of gives me chills,” said Muncy. “It’s one of those moments I’ve kind of replayed in my head, and it’s a moment where I kind of wish I remembered more of it. When it all happened, it was kind of a blackout. There is about 30 minutes I can’t remember. I remember hitting the ball and the next thing I know, I was in the media room talking to the media. It all happened so quick. It was such a blur that I wish I could remember more of it. Until we win a World Series, it will be the most incredible moment of my career for sure.”
But, of course, the moment is also something of a reminder of what the Dodgers did not accomplish last October — and what the Red Sox did. Undoubtedly, the same will be true of the return to Fenway Park on Friday. That said, while some members of the Dodgers might experience an amplified hunger to win owing to the memories of the end of 2018, others mixed a desire to win with acknowledgement of the immutability of the past.
“We want to win every game, no doubt. But we can’t take back us losing the World Series,” said Clayton Kershaw. “We’d love to get in there, win three games, but it doesn’t really affect what happened last year. It’s over, but it doesn’t mean we’re not going to try to win.”