The Red Sox tear up the script, tie the World Series at two games a piece

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ST. LOUIS — A start from a broken pitcher that went way better than anyone might have guessed. A three-run homer from the most unlikely of men.  On a night when the smart money was lining up against the Boston Red Sox, the storylines didn’t go the way they were supposed to go, resulting in a 4-2 Red Sox win and a series that is now tied at two games a piece.

About those pesky storylines:

  • Clay Buchholz’s arm was supposed to be 87% Nutella and jelly swirl — and maybe it was given his decreased velocity — but he somehow made it through four innings allowing only a single unearned run. The over/under on columns describing his performance as “gutsy” tomorrow morning is approximately six gabillion. And I’m taking the over.
  • The ground ball specialist Seth Maness was called in to bail out Lance Lynn with two out and runners on in the sixth inning, on a night when home plate umpire Paul Emmel was calling low, low strikes. He’s supposed to induce a worm burner but he left a sinker high. Oops.
  • That high sinker was delivered to The Totally Ineffective Jonny Gomes, who was supposed to be pumping one of the handles on the two-man handcar bound for oblivion with Jarrod Saltalamacchia as Game 4 commenced. But thanks to back tightness Shane Victorino was pulled, forcing Gomes into the game. Naturally, he hit a three-run homer.

But more than anything, The Red Sox, who walked off the field with their heads hanging low after Saturday night’s crazy loss, were supposed to be demoralized and broken. So much for that storyline too. And make that strike 937 against the idea that momentum is a thing in baseball.

What is a thing? David Ortiz knocking three hits and a walk, putting him at 8 for 11 this World Series and at .430+ in World Series play over his career. He didn’t knock in any runs tonight but he scored two and, Jonny Gomes’ heroics notwithstanding, is carrying this Red Sox team offensively.

Also a thing: John Farrell learning from his mistakes from Saturday night and not sticking with guys too long. Pulling Buchholz when he did. Pinch running for Ortiz when he got on base for the fourth time and using Mike Napoli as his defensive replacement. Not that he went fully conventional. He brought John Lackey in to pitch relief in the eighth. It was his first work from the pen in nine years. The performance was a bit shaky thanks to some bad defense behind him, but it ended up not killing him.

Those were just details, though. The important thing is that, on a night when a loss would have likely killed the Sox’ hope at winning this World Series, they gathered themselves together in businesslike fashion and delivered the sort of win that teams who aren’t upset, rattled or demoralized deliver. “We haven’t lost four games in a row all year,” their actions seemed to say tonight, “so we certainly weren’t going to lose four straight in the World Series.” A World Series that is now tied 2-2. And that is now guaranteed to head back to Fenway Park for a Game 6 on Wednesday night.

But first a Game 5 in St. Louis on Monday. In a series that refuses to follow a script.

Justin Turner is a postseason monster

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A not-insignificant amount of the Dodgers’ success in recent years has to do with the emergence of Justin Turner. In his first five seasons with the Orioles and Mets, he was a forgettable infielder who had versatility, but no power. The Mets non-tendered him after the 2013 season, a move they now really regret.

In four regular seasons since, as a Dodger, Turner has hit an aggregate .303/.378/.502. His 162-game averages over those four seasons: 23 home runs, 36 doubles, 83 RBI, 80 runs scored. And he’s also a pretty good third baseman, it turns out. The Dodgers have averaged 95 wins per season over the past four years.

Turner, 32, has gotten better and better with each passing year. This year, he drew more walks (59) than strikeouts (56), a club only five other players (min. 300 PA) belonged to, and he trailed only Joey Votto (1.61) in BB/K ratio (1.05). He zoomed past his previous career-high in OPS, finishing at .945. His .415 on-base percentage was fourth-best in baseball. His batting average was fifth-best and only nine points behind NL batting champion Charlie Blackmon.

It doesn’t seem possible, but Turner has been even better in the postseason. He exemplified that with his walk-off home run to win Game 2 of the NLCS against the Cubs. Overall, entering Wednesday night’s action, he was batting .363/.474/.613 in 97 postseason plate appearances. In Game 4, he went 2-for-2 with two walks, a single, and a solo home run. That increases his postseason slash line to .378/.495/.659, now across 101 plate appearances. That’s a 1.154 OPS. The career-high regular season OPS for future first-ballot Hall of Famer Albert Pujols was 1.114 in 2008, when he won his third career MVP Award. Statistically, in the postseason, Turner hits slightly better than Pujols did in the prime of his career. Of course, we should adjust for leagues and parks and all that, but to even be in that neighborhood is incredible.

In the age of stats, the concept of “clutch” has rightfully eroded. We don’t really allow players to ascend to godlike levels anymore like the way we did Derek Jeter, for instance. (Jeter’s career OPS in the playoffs, by the way, was a comparatively pitiful .838.) Turner isn’t clutch; he’s just a damn good hitter whose careful approach at the plate has allowed him to shine in the postseason and the Dodgers can’t imagine life without him.