In the bottom of the fifth inning of Game 2 of the World Series on Wednesday night, Hyun-Jin Ryu, who had been pretty darn good through the first four innings, quickly retired Ian Kinsler and Jackie Bradley Jr. At that point, Ryu had retired seven straight batters, had thrown just 59 pitches, and was facing the Red Sox’s No. 9 hitter with a chance to get through five innings with the lead and probably one of those tingly feelings you get when you know you did a really good job.
And then the Red Sox started their two-out nonsense.
Two batters and 10 pitches later, Ryu was on the bench. Another seven pitches after that, the Dodgers’ lead was gone, the decisive runs had crossed home plate, and the Red Sox were on their way to a 2-0 series lead.
The league as a whole this season hit .232/.337/.385 with two outs and runners in scoring position. After J.D. Martinez’s go-ahead single, the Red Sox are now 17 for 39 in those situations during the playoffs.
You: Start Brock Holt!
I mentioned that Ryu pitched well through four innings. He did, but after a Xander Bogaerts double sandwiched between a Martinez flyout and Rafael Devers strikeout, he left an 0-1 cutter up and over the plate and the second baseman brought home the Red Sox’s first run of the game. Yes, it came with two outs.
If you’re one of those people crazy enough to bet on something as unpredictable as a baseball game, you’ll know that the over/under on Game 2 was 8 ½ runs. That seemed kind of low, especially when you consider the total hit 12 in Game 1 when Chris Sale and Clayton Kershaw were on the mound.
The under paid off, as you well know by now, but it wasn’t without some help from the defense. Like this:
David Price did something you rarely see in the playoffs these days — he pitched six innings. Price put together his second straight strong postseason start, but got into some trouble in the fourth when he loaded the bases with nobody out. The Dodgers got their two runs on a Matt Kemp sacrifice fly and a Yasiel Puig RBI single.
At the time, it felt like a breakthrough for the Dodgers in taking their first lead of the series. In hindsight — when you consider the Red Sox’s two-out magic — the fact that they had the bases loaded and nobody out and only came away with two runs feels like a missed opportunity. They had a chance to knock out Price, take a commanding lead, and get into Boston’s bullpen early. Instead, well, you know…
Not to sound too sports-talk radio-host-y, but that seems to be the difference in the series right now. The Red Sox clutch hitting through two World Series games — all postseason, really — is one of those stats you’d look at if it came during a random June spell and say “that’s not sustainable!” And you’d be right. But in the World Series, that doesn’t matter, because it’s helped them to the point where they’re now just two wins away from a championship.
Thank you for reading
This is a free article. If you enjoyed it, consider subscribing to Baseball Prospectus. Subscriptions support ongoing public baseball research and analysis in an increasingly proprietary environment.Subscribe now