The big Dodgers-Red Sox World Series rematch at Fenway Park was a bore for two days. The Red Sox won by seven runs on Friday and the Dodgers by nine runs on Saturday.
That all changed on Sunday night when Xander Bogaerts and J.D. Martinez hit back-to-back home runs in the eighth inning to tie the game up and send it deep into the night.
Red Sox fans, who were getting shouted down in their own park by the throngs of Dodgers fans in town for the weekend, filled up Fenway with “Beat LA” chants. But the Sox left runners stranded in scoring position in the ninth, 10th and 11th innings.
You can’t miss your shot that many times against a team like the Dodgers and expect to win. After getting six shutout innings from a string of six relievers, the Sox turned to Hector Velazquez in the 12th inning.
The result was all too predictable. The Dodgers scored three runs and held on to beat the Sox, 7-4, to take the series.
The Sox turned what would have been a confidence-building victory against the best team in baseball into a kick-in-the-pants defeat with several big mistakes.
When Jackie Bradley Jr. led off the 11th inning with a double, Marco Hernandez followed with a groundball up the middle. Bradley bolted for third and was easily thrown out by shortstop Corey Seager.
Question 1: Why didn’t Hernandez bunt? He had bunted Bradley from first to second in the ninth inning.
Alex Cora: “[With a runner] at second, I like taking three shots. At the end it was a 3-1 count. He put a good at-bat. We like taking three shots there.”
Analysis: I’m anti-bunt almost always because an out is worth more than advancing 90 feet. Bradley is a good base runner who would have scored from second on a single. With first base open, the Dodgers would have walked Mookie Betts with Bradley at third. Hernandez has hit well this season, too. Swing the bat.
Question 2: What was Bradley thinking?
Bradley: “With Marco, they were going to be shifted more up the middle. As the pitch is being delivered, I saw [Seager] shuffling towards the hole. Off the bat I didn’t necessarily think it was hit hard enough. I had to slow down in order for it to go by or it would have hit me. It was a tough play for me to read. Initially I thought it was the right read.”
Cora: “That ball was right in front of him. He knows you stay at second and we have Mookie and Raffy [Devers] lined up. It’s a mistake. He knows it.”
Analysis: Bradley screwed up. Not much more you can say. He’s one of their smartest base runners and wasn’t that time.
The Sox still had a chance to win the game in that inning. Hernandez smartly tagged up and went to second when Betts flied out to deep right field and Alex Verdugo was slow getting the ball in.
Bogaerts followed with a grounder up the middle that second baseman Chris Taylor did well to keep from going into center field. Hernandez would have scored easily. Instead Martinez came up and grounded into a force to end the inning.
Velazquez, pitching for the third time in as many days, had nothing in the top of the 12th. He walked leadoff hitter Joc Pederson on six pitches. Cody Bellinger than reached when Brock Holt booted a grounder and Velazquez collided with the runner going to cover first.
Holt recovered to tag Bellinger but it was an easy interference call for the umpires. A.J. Pollock then singled to load the bases and Velazquez walked Max Muncy on five pitches to force in the first of three runs.
Question 3: Why was Velazquez even in the game? He threw 31 pitches in the first two games of the series and faced eight batters. Marcus Walden had thrown 26 pitches to four batters on Saturday.
Cora: “Waldy made a lot of pitches [Saturday], too. It was one of those, either/or. They’re taxed. We’re thinking about probably Hector can go multiple innings, two innings, and then go with Waldy or stay away from him.”
Analysis: Walden had not pitched for seven days prior to Saturday. If he can’t work back-to-back days after being off a week, either he’s dealing with an injury or the Sox just don’t trust him. Either way, it’s not good.
Velazquez took the loss but the game was lost when the Sox couldn’t score late in the game. They left seven runners on base in the last four innings. If the offense does their job, Velazquez never gets in the game.
The Sox were set-up for a walk-off victory when Bradley drew a walk to start the ninth inning and was sacrificed to second. The Dodgers then intentionally walked Betts and called in closer Kenley Jansen.
Dave Roberts opened himself up for second guessing, waiting to bring Jansen in instead of just starting the inning with him. But it worked as Devers lined out to left and Bogaerts struck out swinging on three pitches.
The Dodgers are 62-33 for a reason. They worked over David Price for 113 pitches in five innings, an astonishing 31 of them foul balls. Price allowed only one earned run but made a quick exit.
“I feel like I can make better pitches,” Price said. “When I have the opportunity to put somebody away I haven’t been able to do that.”
The Dodgers positioned their infielders well, too, stealing several outs. They’re a talented, smart, deep and well-prepared team.
“Good game-planning. It seems like they attack you as a unit,” Cora said.
Cora sounded wistful as he said that. He had a team like that last season.