By Terry Lyons, Editor-in-Chief
BOSTON – Philadelphia 76ers legend Andrew Toney, the “Boston Strangler,” would be proud of this Boston Red Sox team and their fans. Julius “Dr. J” Erving would be proud of this Boston Red Sox team and their fans. The late Darryl Dawkins would love it even more.
The chants of “BEAT LA,” “BEAT LA” rained down from the deep centerfield bleachers at Fenway and bellowed throughout the tiny ballpark as the Boston fans would only pause their immediate disdain for the Dodgers to voice their opinions on the New York Yankees. In the top of the 9th inning as closer Craig Kimbrel took the mound, protecting a 4-2 Boston lead, the chants grew louder and louder and the memory of that May, 1982 day resonated in the minds of those of us who were at the old Boston Garden that NBA spring day, so long ago.
Boston’s Craig Kimbrel in Game 2
Toney put up 34 that day and Dr. J scored 29 in a 120-106 beatdown of the Celtics and the most loyal of Boston fans showed their preference to root for the 76ers and against the Lakers who were waiting to play in the 1982 NBA Finals. The “chant” was born in the NBA but it continued tonight at Fenway where the Red Sox took a 2-0 series lead against the LA Dodgers.
With Los Angeles leading 2-1 going into the bottom of the 5th inning, Boston took control of the series by scoring three runs in a two-out rally started by a Christian Vazquez base hit, fueled by a pair of walks (one by Hyun-Jin Ryu, tonight’s LA starter and one by righty Ryan Madson), and then a clutch J.D. Martinez single to right field, knocking in two (Mookie Betts and Andrew Benintendi) to spot the Sox the 4-2 lead.
Boston managed eight hits on the night with Betts recording a 3-for-4 ballgame while scoring the game-deciding run.
Boston’s pitching staff, anchored by starter David Price (6.0 innings, three hits, two runs, five strike-outs), held the Dodgers to only three hits on the night. Price’s relief was impeccable, as Joe Kelly (1.0 inning, two strike-outs), Nathan Eovaldi (1.0 inning, one strike-out) and Kimbrel’s perfect 9th inning closed the deal for the Red Sox who now fly west to face the Dodgers in the middle three games of the 2018 World Series at Dodgers Stadium. The Dodgers will need to win two-of-three in order to send the series back to Fenway for possible Game 6-7, scheduled for October 30-31st.
As Sox manager Alex Cora noted tonight in the postgame, “At least we know if things don’t go well for us in LA, we’re coming back. So that’s good.”
LA manager Dave Roberts was determined to make that happen as he met with the media following tonight’s game.
“This is two games,” said Roberts, “and obviously it’s magnified. It’s the World Series, but it’s still two separate baseball games.
“We’re going to shuffle it up for Game 3,” added Roberts, “bit it’s not necessarily because of performance. These are the guys who got us here and we’re going to ride them out,” he said responding to questions about juggling his line-up which has been stymied by Boston’s two ace left-handed pitchers in Price and Game 1 starter Chris Sale.
Cora was particularly vocal about Price who he called, “one of the best pitchers in the big leagues.”
“He beat the Astros in Houston. He beat the Dodgers here in Fenway Park,” said Cora of Price’s last two outings, finally breaking a streak of losses or no-decisions in his postseason appearances. “The guy works,” Cora said. “He cares about his teammates.
“One thing is for sure,” he added, “I trust the guy. We trust him and we love him. He was amazing tonight. He was into it, too. I don’t think he liked the fact that I took him out in the 6th, I’ll tell you that.”
Cora’s decision again proved accurate. After pressing the right buttons on offensive match-ups and the Game 1 Eduardo Nunez game-winning homer pinch hit substitution, the magic Cora worked tonight was calling for the right relievers in the right order to hold Los Angeles scoreless over the final five innings of the game to protect the victory for Price, his first in the World Series and second of the 2018 postseason.
Is it what Price signed up for when he signed his lucrative $217 million contract back in 2015?
“Yeah, I mean, 108 wins in the regular season,” said Price, “beating the Yankees in the ALDS and beating the reigning champs in the ALCS and being up 2-0, this is part of the reason I came here, absolutely.”