I feel like the final score of this game doesn’t really do justice to how incredible this game was for the Red Sox, but this was one of the most exhilarating wins of the season. This team was done after the sixth inning. Their offense had completely fallen asleep and the Yasiel Puig felt like a total backbreaker. Fangraphs’ win probability gave the Red Sox a four percent chance at winning the game. It felt all but certain this series was about to be tied at two games apiece and it was turning into a best of three. This comeback was unreal. This team. Here are some more scattered thoughts.
- The story of this game, and really the entire postseason, was the impact made by role players. I’m going to write up a whole post on this (maybe today if I have time, maybe at a later date) but they’ve straight-up carried this team. Mookie Betts and J.D. Martinez have been awful in this series and inconsistent at best in the postseason as a whole. Given how the regular season went and how star-dependent they seemed for so much of the year, that should have sunk them. But every day, there’s a different group of role players coming through. Tonight, it was Steve Pearce and Mitch Moreland and Brock Holt and Rafael Devers. And that’s just the position players. This team is deeper than they got credit for all year, and they’re showing that off at the absolute perfect time.
- Speaking of role players stepping up, not enough can be said for what Joe Kelly has done all October and he did it again in this game. I was fairly critical of Kelly all year and wasn’t sure he should be on the postseason roster. I was sure he shouldn’t be a high-leverage arm in October at the very least. Well, he’s proven me wrong time and again. This comeback is going to be remembered for the big hits, and for good reason. Nothing matters if they don’t score the runs. That said, nothing matters if the Dodgers keep extending the lead either. Kelly got right up when Moreland hit his three-run homer and ended up throwing two huge innings to keep the Dodgers at four runs. He gets a well-deserved “W” next to his name in this one.
- Those insurance runs in the ninth inning were huge. The Red Sox were only up by a run heading into that inning, and even though Craig Kimbrel had looked better in his last few outings it still felt like Boston needed at least one more in their last inning. They got a lot more, thanks to Pearce. Obviously, they don’t win if they don’t score more in the ninth.
- Speaking of Kimbrel, he was really bad again in this game. Now, it wasn’t totally on him and I’ll get to some outside factors in a second, but Kimbrel has to throw strikes. He got back to living out of the zone again here and he came dangerously close to blowing it. They still ended up with a three-run win which seems safe, but it only took two batters for things to get tense here. We’re at the point that I don’t want to see him on the mound in Game Five if they are up by one in the ninth.
- Those outside factors? The biggest one was Blake Swihart. We got a glimpse into why he hasn’t been catching much this year and not at all in this postseason. He’s not as bad behind the plate as he was in this game, but he was awful for Kimbrel, Swihart had trouble receiving everything and cost the closer at least a handful of strikes. I’m much higher on Swihart’s future than I was a few months ago, but he still has work to do if he wants to be somebody’s long-term catcher.
- I talked about how Joe Kelly might be a little underrated in this game. Well, double that for Eduardo Rodriguez. Good lord did he show something in this game. He’s another guy I was down on heading into the postseason, though not so much in the regular season. Still, I was expecting as a best-case scenario that he’d allow one or two runs over four innings or something like that. He was over-extended in this game (again, I’ll get to that in a second) and his final line doesn’t do his performance justice. This was as good a performance as we’ve seen from Rodriguez since the middle of the summer, and he deserves a ton of credit for not letting this game get away while the bats were sleeping while also not forcing Drew Pomeranz or Heath Hembree into this game early.
- Alex Cora had a rough sixth inning, and he admitted as much in the postgame press conference. It was bound to happen given how amazing he’s been all postseason, but he messed up here. I would have taken Rodriguez out before Justin Turner hit his double, though admittedly the double wasn’t exactly crushed. He definitely should have been out when Puig came up, though, and that’s where Cora admits his mistake. Fortunately it didn’t end up coming back to bite them, but it’s also refreshing to hear the manager admit (and presumably learn from) his mistakes.
- Speaking of that Puig home run, that sparked Chris Sale to go ballistic in the Red Sox dugout. If they do indeed finish this series, we’re going to hear a ton about this dugout tirade, and deservedly so. A ton of guys in that dugout admitted that Sale’s explosion propelled the offense and woke them up. The video is amazing, too. He is legitimately pissed off yelling at the offense. It also scared Rafael Devers.
Chris Sale was quite heated.— Fabian Ardaya (@FabianArdaya) October 28, 2018
“He throws two fucking pitches,” he said, likely about Rich Hill. pic.twitter.com/vVcIN8RUjY
- Manny Machado looked like he tried to spike Steve Pearce at the end of that game at first base. For most players, on a play like this, you give the benefit of the doubt and call it an accident. Machado is not most players, and it’s just another reason for Boston fans to hate him. He’s going to be fun to hate in New York next year.
- There’s a lot of talk about how bad of a game Dave Roberts had and his pitching decisions. The only mistake I felt he made, for whatever it may be worth (not much), was bringing in Ryan Madson. I can’t imagine how he ever comes in with runners on base.
- Speaking of which, we need to all chip in for a fruit basket or something like that for Madson.
- There was also some talk about Rodriguez slamming his glove to the ground after Puig hit his home run. I loved it. He was pissed, and he showed it. Emotions on the baseball field are good. Thank you for your time.
- Rafael Devers, man. This kid is absolutely unreal and it really feels like we’ve watched him grow up this postseason. He’s definitely still rough around the edges at the plate and can lose his discipline, but he doesn’t feel anything. He’s 22! He had the go-ahead hit and then made a huge play in the ninth to stop the bleeding. His defense in particular has gotten so much smoother. I love watching him play, and I am looking for him to have a monster year in 2019.