USA Today Sports

The top 'What ifs' from Red Sox World Series run

November 08, 2018 - 12:33 pm


We’re a little over a week removed from the roller coaster ride. For an entire postseason run, it felt as though God was a Red Sox fan. 

Everything went their way. From the bullpen being magnificent to David Price shaking off postseason woes to Steve Pearce being the World Series hero – the Red Sox could do no wrong. 

And when it didn’t go their way, God woke up and continued to orchestrate for the Local 9. (Example: Alex Cora leaving Eduardo Rodriguez in to face Yasiel Puig and give up a three-run home run, only to have Dave Roberts top his gaffe, taking out Rich Hill, leading to a Red Sox comeback and a 3-1 series lead). 

Since the dust has settled, we have a chance to take a second, third and fourth look at everything, let our emotions go back to normal and return right back down to Earth. 

The bottom line: a lot could’ve gone differently for the Red Sox. 

What if Eduardo Nunez had thrown the ball past Steve Pearce in Game 4 of the ALDS? 

All throughout the 2018 season, one of the biggest storylines surrounding the team was their defensive liabilities at third base in Eduardo Nunez and Rafael Devers. 

It got so bad that toward the end of the season, every time Nunez or Devers would throw a ball across the diamond to first base, every Sox fan would grip the bottom of their seats and cringe, hoping the throw made it within the vicinity of the first basemen.   

Heading into the bottom of the ninth in Game 4 of the ALDS, the Red Sox had the New York Yankees in a chokehold – up 4-1 in the game and a half inning away from advancing to the ALCS. 

But then came a Craig Kimbrel meltdown, a 4-1 lead narrowed down to 4-3, and runners on first and second base with two outs. Gleyber Torres hit a weak ground ball to Nunez at third base, causing Nunez to charge and make an off-balance throw. Pearce sprawled out and somehow stayed on the bag to secure the final out of what would best be described as a heart attack-inducing inning for Sox fans near and far.  

But what if Nunez had thrown it away? 

For one, the runner on second would’ve scored to tie the game and it’s also safe to say the runner from first would’ve as well because of the jump they got on the dribbler to third.

That would’ve ensured a Yankee victory and a series all knotted up at two. Game 5 would’ve brought the series back to Boston and the pressure would be fully on the Sox. 

Chris Sale would’ve started against Masahiro Tanaka in Game 5. J.A. Happ would be a possibility, but Tanaka was better against the Red Sox in Game 2. Price would never be considered because of his dumpster fire-level performance in Game 2. 

If this scenario were to have played out and the Sox then go onto lose Game 5, Price would’ve been one of the biggest scapegoats for why a 108-win team flopped in the playoffs. His inability to find his game in the postseason would’ve plagued the minds of Red Sox fans and, dare I say, caused him to opt out. 

Feels like he’s been dominant in the postseason forever, right? 

What if Andrew Benintendi didn’t make the catch in Game 4 of the ALCS? 

Well, to start, Joe Castiglione never would’ve fallen out of his chair. That’s the biggest shockwave stemming from a “what if” in this column. 

But in all seriousness had Benintendi not been 100 percent sure on diving for that ball and missed it, the Red Sox would’ve been in deep trouble. 

The Red Sox entered that inning up 8-6 but quickly saw Kimbrel put the lead in jeopardy (again!) when he loaded the bases. He found a way to get two outs and with Alex Bregman up, induced a weak line drive to left field. 

Benintendi made one of the plays of the playoffs on the catch and secured a comfortable 3-1 lead for the Sox. 

But what if he didn’t? 

If the ball had gotten past Benintendi, all runners would’ve scored giving the Astros a 9-8 win and tying the series at two. 

The choice to dive for the ball would’ve been criticized to hell and back by sports talk radio and writers alike. Benintendi would’ve been an easy scapegoat for the loss. 

Kimbrel also would face a sharp increase in scrutiny. The fogginess of fun after a World Series typically reserves the negatives from the playoff run to the shadows. People forget, but up to that point, Kimbrel was a basket case. 

In reality, David Price started Game 5 and was brilliant, going six shutout innings and finally throwing the playoff monkey off his back. But that was with a 3-1 series lead and no pressure. Would he have performed the same with the pressure of a series tied up and the humiliation from the night before? What if Sale was forced into getting that start?

The Red Sox most likely would still win the series even with the Benintendi miss. Nonetheless, momentum still would’ve shifted a ton if that ball were to get by. 

And oh yeah: Castiglione would’ve stayed strapped into his seat. 

What if the Red Sox didn’t come back to win in Game 4 of the World Series? 

Out of everything on this list, this had the best chance of happening at the time. 

Alex Cora had his first managerial mishap of the postseason when he left Rodriguez on the Dodger Stadium mound to surrender a gut punch of a three-run home run to Puig. E-Rod throwing his glove seemed to be the signal of the series being tied.

But because God was seemingly a Red Sox fan this year, it wasn’t. 

If memory serves right, Roberts pulling Hill led to Mitch Moreland hitting a three-run home run, Steve Pearce hitting a home run to tie it and then a bases-clearing double to put the game out of reach. 

But what if none of that ever happened? 

Had the Red Sox not come back, the Dodgers would’ve won Game 4 and tied the series up at two. The momentum would’ve undoubtedly been on LA’s side after the 18-inning marathon in Game 3 and the drubbing of the Sox in the fourth game. 

Just like in the last scenario, the pressure would all be on Price in Game 5. 

If the Red Sox were to lose Game 4, Ian Kinsler would be on deck to be Bill Buckner for his throwing error in Game 3. That error along with Cora leaving E-Rod in just a bit too long would increase in importance with every passing game in the series. 

Chances are that the Sox would still win the World Series. Price was hot at that point; the Sox still had the comradery surrounding Nathan Eovaldi from Game 3 and had Games 6 and 7 at Fenway. 

For at least one solid month, destiny was on the Red Sox' side.  

Related: Bryce Harper contract talk leads to Mookie Betts reminder