I legitimately can’t believe the Red Sox won this game. This team seemed dead in the water after six innings of play. Coming off an absolutely crushing loss on Friday night (slash Saturday morning), the offense didn’t show anything in this Game Four. They were totally and utterly shut down by Rich Hill, and then the Dodgers had a big sixth inning to seemingly break the game open. All of the momentum was with L.A., and nothing was going Boston’s way. And then, things shifted. The role players on the Red Sox roster stepped up one by one, and they picked up the struggling stars. Mitch Moreland had the big three-run blast, then Steve Pearce tied it with a solo homer, then Rafael Devers drove in Brock Holt. Mix in another incredible showing from Joe Kelly, and the Red Sox pulled it out. Somehow, some way. This team. Just one more win.
After the Game Three debacle that saw the offense completely lifeless and inept for over seven hours, there was some optimism that things would get back on track on Saturday. I’m not really sure where it came from, but I had it too. I thought they’d be inspired by what Nathan Eovaldi, and too a slightly lesser extent, Eduardo Núñez did in that marathon game. I thought they were just too good to be doing that for another game in a row. And, most importantly, I thought that Rich Hill was a much more hittable pitcher than Walker Buehler. If they were going to get on track against any pitcher in this Dodgers rotation, Hill seemed like the best bet.
I hope you didn’t make that bet. I feel like I say this every game (I legitimately might) but the first inning felt important for the Red Sox offense. The top half of the lineup was hitless on Friday night, and that is the type of thing that can snowball if it’s not stopped quickly. Mookie Betts specifically, but also Xander Bogaerts and J.D. Martinez needed to get some positive momentum at the plate.
It didn’t happen. The top hitters looked exactly like they did in Game Three, and once again the Red Sox offense has a whole just looked totally lost. Steve Pearce reached on a walk in the first, but that was it. Both Betts and Martinez struck out in ugly at bats that inning. The second also featured a walk and in the third Eduardo Rodriguez led off the frame by getting hit by a pitch. That was as good an opportunity as any to get going, particularly with the top hitters coming up, but it didn’t work. Betts grounded into a fielder’s choice — on which Rodriguez barely ran, which may have been due to nagging injury but certainly wasn’t optically ideal — and the Red Sox never got a runner beyond first base.
After Boston went down in order in the fourth, they finally got their first hit of the night on a Christian Vazquez single. The catcher was the only hitter who looked competitive early in this game, flying out right in front of the wall in his first at bat and just missing a home run on a foul ball right before getting that single. He would, however, be stranded at first.
The good news for the Red Sox is that, like so many other times in this postseason, the pitching showed up to help make up for the complete lack of offense. It was impossible to really know what to expect from Rodriguez, who hadn’t pitched a full start in over a month and had been largely absent from the team’s plans for most of the postseason. We obviously know the talent was there, but he hadn’t looked great for most of September and was up and down for the postseason to this point. Although the extent to which Boston’s bullpen was overextended in Game Three was exaggerated in my opinion, a long outing from Rodriguez would go a long way.
It didn’t really look like he was going to get super deep into this game with his performance in the first. He didn’t look bad, to be fair, but it was something of a typical Rodriguez start. He was leaning heavily on his fastball, and he was nibbling around the edges of the zone. The lefty did allow just a single in the inning, but it also took 24 pitches to do it. If he wasn’t going to start attacking hitters and mixing in more cutters and changeups, it seemed like the night would be quick to get away from him.
He made sure that didn’t happen. Rodriguez began to look a lot sharper in the second inning and had the look of someone who wanted to go deep into the game. The Dodgers were able to get more hits than the Red Sox were against Rich Hill, but overall the results were the same and runners were not advancing beyond first base. He allowed singles in the second and fourth and nothing more than that.
The southpaw somewhat shockingly made it into the sixth with the top of the Dodgers lineup coming up and the score still stuck at zeros. Rodriguez kicked things off by hitting David Freese, but then he came back and struck out Max Muncy. In what seemed like a clear mistake at the time from Alex Cora, Rodriguez stayed out to face Justin Turner. To me, it seemed the team already got all they could have asked for from their lefty, and with one of the top righties in the game at the plate it was time for a change. That’s not how they went, and Turner came through with a double to put a pair in scoring position with one out.
After intentionally walking Manny Machado, it was Cody Bellinger up with the bases loaded and one out. Rodriguez got a ground ball, and he got it, but things didn’t go according to plan. Steve Pearce made the play and got the out at the plate, but then Vazquez made a massive mistake. The throw was a little high and he didn’t quite have time to step over and get a clear throwing path for the double play at first base. The obvious, and correct, play is to just eat the ball and continue the inning, but he tried to be the hero. His throw predictably ended up past Pearce at first, and the Dodgers scored. Cora still stuck with Rodriguez after that, and Yasiel Puig came through with what seemed like the dagger. He blasted a no-doubt, three-run shot and it was 4-0 L.A.
So, now things were firmly on the shoulders of an offense that has completely disappeared on the west coast. They had nine more outs to score at least four runs, which seemed like a tall task. They got something going in the seventh with Xander Bogaerts and Brock Holt both drawing walks to put two on with one out. As Dave Roberts turned to Ryan Madson, the Red Sox countered by bringing Jackie Bradley Jr. to the plate. Bradley popped one out to shallow right field, and that left it up to Mitch Moreland who came in to hit for Matt Barnes. Moreland did the damn thing, getting a first-pitch changeup up in the zone and blasting it to right field. Just like that, it was a 4-3 game.
After Joe Kelly tossed a scoreless bottom half, the Red Sox came back to the plate in the eighth with Dodgers closer Kenley Jansen trying for a six-out save. It didn’t take six outs. Instead, after a quick first out from Andrew Benintendi, Steve Pearce did the thing this time. Jansen missed middle-in with a cutter, and you can’t do that to a locked in Steve Pearce. The first baseman launched one just over the wall in left-center field, and we were all tied up.
That was all Boston would get there, and Joe Kelly came back out to the mound. The righty gave up a leadoff single to Manny Machado, and after a strikeout and a fielder’s choice he was just an out from preserving the tie. Chris Taylor had other ideas, though, poking a base hit through the left side to put runners on the corners for Yamsani Grandal. Kelly came through with a massive strikeout to strand the runners, and we headed to the ninth with the game still tied at four apiece.
With Dylan Floro on the mound in the ninth, the Red Sox were looking to avoid another extra inning game. After the first out of the inning, Brock Holt came up and put a double down the left field line, leading to a pinch hitting appearance from Rafael Devers with one out and a runner in scoring position. Boston’s youth came through, putting a single through the middle of the infield to score Holt and give the Red Sox their first lead of the game. The Red Sox would load the bases after a ground out, an intentional walk and an infield single, and Pearce had a chance for some serious insurance. He came through, ripping a bases-clearing double and giving Boston a four-run lead. Xander Bogaerts added one more, and it was 9-4 Red Sox.
Now it was just up to Craig Kimbrel to protect a five-run lead. No problem, right? Well, about that. He started off with a four-pitch walk to Brian Dozier, which to be fair was a little misleading because some poor receving from Blake Swihart cost him some strikes. Still, it’s not what you want. Then, Enrique Hernandez smashed a two-run homer, and suddenly this was a three-run game just two batters into the inning. After getting the first out of the inning, Justin Turner ripped a single into left field. Devers came through with a big play behind the bag and a perfect throw across the diamond for out number two before Bellinger ended the game on fly ball. Three down, one to go.
Tomorrow might be it. The Red Sox will have a chance to close out the season with a championship on Sunday night in Los Angeles. They’ll have Chris Sale on the bump with the Dodgers countering with Clayton Kershaw. First pitch is at 8:15 PM ET.