BOSTON — It doesn’t matter who’s on the mound these days. You could bring out Bob Gibson, Sandy Koufax or Cy Young himself. The Boston Red Sox are going to punish them.
The Red Sox have hammered the greatest pitchers this month, with three-time Cy Young winner Clayton Kershaw becoming the latest victim Tuesday, as the Red Sox rolled over the Los Angeles Dodgers, 8-4, in Game 1 of the World Series at Fenway Park.
The Red Sox have faced some of the greatest starters in baseball the last three weeks. Justin Verlander one night. Gerrit Cole the next. Luis Severino and Dallas Keuchel. They’ve knocked all of them out.
“It’s almost like basketball, run-and-gun, fast break, let’s go’’ Red Sox hitting coach Tim Hyers said. “That’s part of our DNA. We don’t wait, we take it to our opponent and step on the gas pedal.
“This team enjoys that. That’s the type of team they are. They respect the other pitchers. Kershaw is one of the best. But this group enjoys competing, and with this much talent, they’re really going to be hard to beat.’’
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The Red Sox, who scored the most runs in the major leagues this season, showcased all their offensive skills this night in front of a frenzied crowd of 38,454 on a night the temperature dropped to 45 degrees by the end of the night.
They played small ball with eight singles. Played long ball with a three-run homer by pinch-hitter Eduardo Nunez. Got a historic night out of Andrew Benintendi with his four-hit game, the third in Red Sox World Series history. They were aggressive, and also patient, drawing five walks. The Dodgers used five different pitchers, and none of them left the game unscathed, with Kershaw rocked for seven hits and five earned runs in four innings.
“I felt great, just didn’t pitch well,’’ Kershaw said. “We knew they were a great team.’’
This is a team that has won 116 games and counting, and when it comes to the World Series, they’ve treated the National League as if they belong in Pawtucket.
The Red Sox have now won 13 of their last 15 World Series games, a feat accomplished only by the New York Yankees in World Series history. They have pummelled the National League for years, winning 28 of their last 33 games against the NL in the regular season.
“They’re some of the best hitters in the game,’’ Dodgers infielder David Freese said. “They can spit on pitches and work counts.’’
The Red Sox had seven different players either drive in a run or score, with three of their first four hitters in the game, led by Mookie Betts, producing a hit, showing the Dodgers what was in store the rest of the evening.
“Obviously, we're facing a guy who's one of the best of all time,’’ Benintendi said, “and didn’t really know what to expect. We had a good game plan. We stuck to it. It started with Mookie.
“It puts pressure on them right away.’’
The Red Sox, who have won eight of 10 games this postseason, have been punishing the opposition with their offense. They’ve scored 64 runs in the playoffs, and have scored at least seven runs in four of their last five games.
They’ve sure got a way of spoiling their pitching staff.
“We’re never out of a game with the lineup we have,’’ Red Sox reliever Ryan Brasier said. “Never.’’
Said Red Sox reliever Matt Barnes: “They make our lives even easier. If we just keep it close, we know they’ll come through.’’
The only thing more entertaining for the Red Sox is watching the magic of rookie manager Alex Cora, who once again pushed all of the right buttons, made all of the right moves, and has his own players believing that everything he touches will turn to gold.
This time, it was Cora summoning Nunez, who had only one career RBI as a pinch hitter in 44 career at-bats to pinch-hit, for Rafael Devers with two out, two runners on, and the Red Sox clinging to a 5-4 lead.
Two pitches later, it was Nunez, of course, hitting one atop the Green Monster for a three-run homer, and a trip to the interview room as the hearo.
“He makes great moves,’’ Nunez said of Cora’s genius. “He very smart. I think that he's the reason we're here.’’
Cora has aggressive all postseason with his moves, whether to have starters come out of the bullpen like he did Tuesday with Nathan Eovoldi, bench Nunez to have him ready for a critical situation, or turn to a bullpen for the last five innings when Chris Sale couldn’t get out of the fifth innings. He has been Bobby Cox, Joe Torre and Tony La Russa all rolled into one.
“I really don’t care if they second-guess me, I prepare,’’ Cora said. “We prepare as a group, and you make decisions. It’s a game, man. I enjoy it. I know that we’re in the spotlight here, and there’s a lot of shows at night they’re going to dissect every move. I’m fine with that.’’
Besides, the way Cora is rolling these days, you half-expect him to walk into the Red Sox clubhouse Wednesday and announce that he just won the Mega Millions $1.6 billion jackpot. Why not? He’s hitting on everything else.
“We chuckle about it some,’’ Red Sox bench coach Ron Roenicke says, “but you get on that roll and you hope it continues for a few more games. But it’s not just that it goes right. The players know it goes right. When the players know it always goes right, it gives them more confidence when they go into those situations.
“When you see the results, and when we keep winning because of it, after a while as a player you say, “This is the right way to do it. So they buy into when he makes moves and why he’s doing it. They say, 'Ok, we’ll do it that way and go out and win.’’
The formula has worked all season.
There’s no reason to believe it will stop now.
Follow Nightengale on Twitter @Bnightengale
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