Red Sox top Dodgers in World Series opener
The Boston Red Sox drew first blood in game one of the MLB World Series after defeating the Los Angeles Dodgers 8-4.
Andrew Benintendi became just the third Red Sox player to tally four hits in a World Series game, going four for five with three runs scored and an RBI at Fenway Park.
It was Eduardo Nunez, though, who truly sealed Tuesday's victory with his three-run, pinch-hit homer off Alex Wood in the bottom of the seventh inning.
Simple plays are tougher when games are bigger
While the Dodgers are back in the World Series for the second season in succession and the Red Sox have a team full of experienced players, there were many moments where that was hard to see on Tuesday.
Yasiel Puig loves to hustle, but he is often known for making the wrong baseball play and game one was no exception. In the first inning, Puig tried to catch Mookie Betts at home on a Benintendi single and allowed the Red Sox left fielder to advance to second on his overthrow. Two batters later J.D. Martinez singled up the middle and Benintendi scored, costing the Dodgers a run they should not have allowed.
Two innings later, Benintendi tried his hardest to give that run back when he did not run out a fly ball to left field that dropped in for a hit. That ball bounced past Chris Taylor and should have resulted in a double. It did not because Benintendi did not run the play out and it almost cost Boston a run. Steve Pearce hit into what looked like a double play that could have ended the inning. Fortunately, Pearce was hustling and he beat the throw and Martinez drove him in with a double in the subsequent at-bat.
Where WAR is wrong: Martinez edition
Martinez will never have a better WAR in a season than Betts when the Red Sox center fielder is healthy. It will not happen because WAR favours a player's defensive value, as it honestly should. Betts finished with 10.9 WAR this year while Martinez had a 6.4.
But honestly, this is a flat-out crime. Martinez gets robbed of WAR because the stat does not calculate one thing he is immensely talented at: making a line-up better. Martinez's presence in Boston's line-up this season had quantifiable and unquantifiable effects. On the quantifiable side, with Martinez in the line-up the Red Sox scored 91 more runs this season than last. Martinez split time between batting third and fourth, and while all the runs cannot necessarily be attributed to him, Boston's third and fourth hitters scored 42 more times and had 55 more RBIs.
Now, for the unquantifiable numbers. With Martinez in the line-up two things absolutely happened. One: Benintendi saw better pitches and therefore got on base more because Martinez was hitting behind him. Benintendi scored 19 more runs this season than last. Two: Xander Bogaerts faced pitchers in the stretch more often and likely saw more offerings in the zone as a result. Bogaerts added 15 points to his batting average and drove in 41 more runs this season.
That type of impact does not show up in WAR, but it is a clear impact Martinez made. Martinez went two for three with two RBIs, a walk and a run scored in game one.
Cora has magic touch
There is no way around it, just about every move Alex Cora has made this postseason has worked. There are obvious ones to point out, like sticking with David Price for two starts against the Houston Astros when everyone said he should not. All the Red Sox did in both of those game was win.
But the less obvious moves became glaringly clear in the bottom of the seventh inning on Tuesday. Rafael Devers had been hitting very well in the game as he went one for two with an RBI and a walk. He also had performed well against lefties this season hitting .272 on the year. So, when the Dodgers brought in lefty Alex Wood to face the 21-year-old, it would not have been a bad move to keep him in.
But Cora went to Eduardo Nunez, who hit .260 against lefties this season and is a .263 hitter against southpaws in his career. It could have backfired. But, as most things Cora has done this this year, it worked out. Nunez smacked a three-run homer to left field, busting the game wide open.
The Red Sox are now three for eight in pinch-hit appearances this postseason and have reached base in five of 10 plate appearances. Cora can do no wrong.