Greg M. Cooper/USA Today Sports

From bullpen to inside clubhouse, Eduardo Nunez’s three-run homer excited entire Red Sox team

Ryan Hannable
October 24, 2018 - 2:28 am

When Eduardo Nunez came to Fenway Park on Tuesday, he was disappointed. 

When he left, he was the hero in the Red Sox’ 8-4 win over the Dodgers in Game 1 of the World Series.

Nunez was bummed not to get the start at third base against Clayton Kershaw even though he’s a right-handed hitter going up against the lefty ace of the Dodgers staff, but manager Alex Cora told him to be prepared to pinch-hit in the late innings.

And that he was.

With the Red Sox clinging to a 5-4 lead, Nunez pinch-hit for Rafael Devers in the bottom of the seventh against left-handed reliever Alex Wood, and the 31-year-old ripped a three-run homer into the first row of the Monster seats to put the game out of reach.

“He was prepared. He wasn't upset, actually, that he wasn't playing,” Cora said. “I told him, "Be ready, man. You might have a big at-bat tonight and do your thing. And he did.”

The Red Sox dugout erupted as they knew going up by four runs with just six more outs to get, they were sitting pretty.

“Hey, my man,” Xander Bogaerts said with a huge smile afterwards. “He got a tough pitch and he hit it out. I think all the credit goes to him. That was not an easy pitch to hit. I know I would have hit a ground ball there, and he hit it out. He had the big hit tonight.”

“A lot of joy, a lot of excitement because we know how important this game is and we take it one day at a time,” he added. “To give us a lead of four runs at the time — they were chipping back. They weren’t giving up. They were scoring runs and adding on slowly but surely. When Nunez hit that out I knew the game was going on our side.”

The hit allowed many of the players to exhale a bit because of the cushion it gave them.

“Everybody was excited,” Mookie Betts said. “Especially in a spot like that we need a couple more runs to feel comfortable. A team like that one run you might not feel that comfortable but once we got it to four we knew we could close out a game like that.”

It was also just another example of Cora making the right move at the right time, because the manager could have easily stuck with Devers considering he already had a big hit earlier in the night.

“It’s one of those things where — everyone likes to say a perfect touch, I kind of look at it as he has confidence in the whole team, and he’s going to put everybody in the best position to be successful, and that’s what he’s been doing all year,” J.D. Martinez said. “So, for him to put Nunez in that spot versus a lefty, that doesn’t surprise me. That’s a good matchup for us and it was a good call for him.”

From the bullpen, it was hard to tell where the ball would end up because of the angle. They were just hoping it would at least hit the wall to plate at least one run.

“We were hoping it was off the wall at least and we would be able to score a couple of runs,” Nathan Eovaldi said, who was warming up at the time. “For that ball to get out and Nuney to be able to come off the bench and do what he did, that is awesome. It was a huge lift.”

Even inside the clubhouse, the impact of the hit was felt because of the roar from the Fenway Park crowd.

“It was crazy,” reliever Ryan Brasier said. “I was in here doing some stuff after I got done throwing and we could hear the crowd outside, and in here everyone was going nuts. Like I said, guys 1-9, off the bench, we have been getting big hits from everybody.”

Given all the physical alignments Nunez has had to deal with over the last several years, there was a genuine happiness from the rest of the team that he was able to come through with such a big hit in the biggest of spots.

Three more wins, they’ll be even happier.

Related: Eduardo Nunez: Three-run homer was redemption for last season