The Red Sox were three batters into Game 5 of the World Series and they already had a lead, thanks again to first baseman Steve Pearce. In the lineup strictly because lefty Clayton Kershaw was on the bump, Pearce drilled a first-pitch 92 MPH fastball over the fence in left-center to put the Red Sox up 2-0.
The game is far from over, though, as the Dodgers responded in the bottom half of the first. David Freese, also in the lineup strictly because of lefty starter David Price, hit a leadoff solo home run to make it 2-1.
Entering Sunday’s game, Pearce was hitting .265/.419/.500 with a pair of home runs and a pair of doubles, nine walks, eight RBI, and 10 runs scored in 43 plate appearances this postseason. He has reached base safely in all 13 playoff games.
Pearce hit a game-tying solo homer off of Kenley Jansen in the eighth inning of Saturday night’s Game 4. He then blew it wide open with a bases-clearing double off of Kenta Maeda in the top of the ninth inning. He would later score on a Xander Bogaerts single and the Red Sox went on to win 9-6.
The Braves clinched a postseason berth with Saturday’s 10-1 win over the Nationals. Now, the only question is whether they’ll get there with an NL East division title or via one of two wild card spots currently up for grabs.
Granted, things are looking pretty good on the division title front. After losing their second straight game to the Braves, the Nationals sit 10.5 games back of first place in the NL East, and every other division rival is at least 15 games out. The Braves, meanwhile, carry a magic number of four; should they clinch, it’ll be their 19th franchise title and 14th since they migrated to the East division in 1994.
They certainly looked like postseason contenders on Saturday. Mike Foltynewicz led the charge with six innings of one-run, five-strikeout ball, limiting the Nationals to four hits while rookie right-hander Austin Voth kept the Braves scoreless through 5 2/3 frames. Things started to tip in Atlanta’s favor in the sixth inning: Nick Markakis put the team on the board with an RBI single, and a four-run breakout in the seventh helped cement a sizable lead. Over the last three innings, the Braves found opportunity after opportunity against the Nationals’ bullpen, capitalizing on walks, throwing errors, and productive outs as they climbed toward a double-digit finish.
The win didn’t come without some sacrifice, however. The Braves lost Charlie Culberson to a facial injury after he was struck by a Fernando Rodney fastball in the seventh inning, and they’ll likely be without him for the remainder of the regular season — pending a formal diagnosis, of course. Culberson’s loss isn’t the only one the club is feeling right now, either, as Johan Camargo ended his season with a hairline fracture in his right shin and Freddie Freeman is playing through a minor bout of elbow soreness after making an early exit from Friday’s 5-0 shutout.