Bob DeChiara/USA Today Sports

Anatomy of inning that handed Red Sox Game 2 of World Series

Ryan Hannable
October 25, 2018 - 2:09 am

Midway through Wednesday’s Game 2 of the World Series, things weren’t going so well for the Red Sox.

They found themselves trailing 2-1, and going into the bottom of the fifth inning, Dodgers starter Hyun-Jin Ryu was starting to find a groove, retiring seven straight batters before the Red Sox mounted a rally that brought a World Series title that much closer to Boston.

Fittingly, it started with two outs and two strikes. 

Down 0-2 in the count, No. 9 hitter Christian Vazquez lined a single to right field to get things started.

“Just trying see the ball and swing at strikes,” he said of his approach. “The pitch 0-2 in was close, but he threw me a cutter backdoor and I hit it. It was a good pitch to hit and I hit a line drive the other way.”

Vazquez added: “I was trying to get on base and let the top of the order bring everybody home.”

Then came lead-off man Mookie Betts, who laced his second hit of the game right back up the middle, setting up first and second with two outs for Andrew Benintendi.

Dodgers manager Dave Roberts began to get righty reliever Ryan Madson loose in the bullpen, but he stuck with the left-on-left matchup. 

Benintendi put together a tremendous at-bat, fouling off several pitches before working an eight-pitch walk.

“Just anything to keep the line moving,” he said. “He threw some good pitches. I was able to get a couple of swings off and foul them off. All of that was with two outs, so that was a good inning put together by our team. Just kind of that next guy up mentality.”

It was then time for Roberts to make his first real decision of the game, calling for Madson with the bases loaded to face right-handed hitting first baseman Steve Pearce.

“Madson has been our guy for quite some time, and he's pitched out of big spots there,” Roberts said. “The usage right there, I'm not worried about that. He's fresh. He pitched yesterday, didn't throw too many pitches. Had a couple of days off coming into the series, has an off-day tomorrow. So that part of it was pretty easy. And I just felt I really liked him against Pearce.”

It turned out to not be the right decision, as Madson walked Pearce on five pitches to plate Vazquez and tie the game at two. The four balls were not even close to the strike zone.

“I don’t know if it’s mechanical, physical, emotional,” he said. “There’s a lot of elements going in there, and I’ve just got to regroup and start over again.”

A night after saying the cold bothered him, Madson didn’t want to use it as an excuse, but by the time the fifth inning rolled around, temperatures were in the mid-40s, with wind chills in the 30s.

“It definitely makes it tougher, but everybody else deals with it just the same,” he said of the cold.

Pearce just wanted to get a pitch to hit, but it never came.

“He’s a good pitcher,” he said. “You see it a lot. Sometimes guys are wild on the first two pitches and then they paint. All I know is when I was 1-0, I was in a hitters count. Then 0-0, I was in a hitters count. I was up there ready to hit and I took each pitch serious. You don’t want to be laid back because he missed with a couple of pitches. He’s a darn good pitcher.​“

Not only did the walk tie the game for the Red Sox, it meant J.D. Martinez would be coming to the plate with the bases loaded against Madson. The Red Sox DH was 0-for-4 lifetime against him going into the at-bat.

Even though Madson made a good pitch, Martinez fought it off the opposite way depositing it into right field in front of Yasiel Puig to score Betts and Benintendi, who were off on contact.

“I faced him yesterday and it was a very similar situation,” Martinez said. “He was a little wild, and I went up there kind of passive. I said, this is the time, I said, trust your eyes. Go up there and trust your eyes and if it's a ball, it's a ball, but don't go up there being passive.

“It wasn't a bad pitch. It was a good pitch. I was just fortunate enough to stay inside of it and dump it in, really.”

Madson agreed — he thought it was a good pitch, too.

“I beat him, he didn’t hit it good,” he said. “But he was strong enough to put it into a good spot out there.”

Immediately off the bat it looked like Puig would have a chance, but he was playing extremely deep, almost on the warning track. Roberts didn’t say that played a factor and he was just respecting Martinez’s power.

“I think with the Martinez ball, even if he was in, it's going to drop in,” he said. “It's two out, they're running on contact. And you've got to still respect J.D.'s power. But I thought it was an executed pitch that he just got enough of it to muscle it out to the outfield. I don't think the outfield depth really played a factor in that.”

Xander Bogaerts would then strike out swinging to end the frame, but the damage had been done. 

Three runs on three hits -- all with two outs -- which shouldn’t be a surprise at this point in October.

Since the postseason began, 53 percent of Red Sox’ runs — 36 of 68 — have come with two outs.

“It has to be tough,” Red Sox manager Alex Cora said of what all these two-out hits do to the opposition. “One thing in the playoffs, and we talked about it before we started, get the leadoff guy out, don't give up two-out hits or runners. And we've been doing that to the opposition, like you said.

“Putting the ball in play in those situations is very important. I said it a few days ago, and I'll say it again we live in an era that .210 with 30 home runs and 70 RBIs is acceptable, it's a good season, and we don't believe that. There's certain situations that a strikeout is not just an out. And we put them in play, and they did again tonight, and that's why we won the game.”

If and when the Red Sox clinch the World Series title, they can point to Wednesday’s fifth inning as a major reason why.

Related: Nathan Eovaldi has taken over role of Red Sox' best set-up man