Boston (AFP) - A year after collapsing injured on the field to start the Major League Baseball playoffs, Boston Red Sox second baseman Eduardo Nunez went from heartbroken has-been to World series hero.
The 31-year-old Dominican infielder smashed a three-run homer Tuesday over Fenway Park's giant "Green Monster" left-field wall to secure host Boston's 8-4 victory over the Los Angeles Dodgers in the opening game of the 114th World Series.
"It's weird because I don't care about being a hero. As long as we have the win, that's all that matters," Nunez said. "We're here to win and lose together. Who cares who's the hero that night? As long as we have a hero, that's a good feeling because we have the win."
Both managers made substitutions in the seventh inning that left pinch-hitter Nunez at the plate against Dodgers reliever Alex Wood with two runners on base and two outs and Boston clinging to a 5-4 lead.
Nunez blasted the ball high to left field and into the first row of seats atop the iconic landmark.
"In the beginning I thought it was going to be a single, because the ball go so high," he said. "When I see the ball is going, I was excited, because I didn't expect the ball going away."
As Nunez circled the bases, he looked at the cheering Red Sox supporters delirious with delight.
"That was the best feeling as a player, see all the fans, they paid tickets to watch us, to play and be crazy," Nunez said. "That's a great feeling."
Nunez began his major league career for Boston's arch-rival, the New York Yankees, in 2010 and also played for Minnesota and San Francisco before joining the Red Sox last year.
But Nunez suffered a right knee injury in September 2017 that was later diagnosed as a severe ligament sprain. He aggravated the injury in his return later that month and when he started Boston's playoff opener, he collapsed on the field after trying to run out a ground ball in his first time at bat. He was carried off the field and dropped from the lineup.
"For sure I was disappointed in myself last year. I was getting injured in the wrong time," Nunez said. "So my teammates lost in the first round. Was awful. So I signed back. I told Alex (Cora, the Red Sox manager), the only reason I signed back here, was I want to win rings. I never have that experience. I never have a World Series game.
"So I come through with a lot of injuries this year with my knee, a lot of issues. But thank God I come through, and we're here. I'm very excited to have the win."
- 'It was a great job' -
After knee and ankle injuries, Nunez had his magical moment.
"When you've got a guy like him on the bench, it's a weapon for us. And when he's going well, we all seem to go well," Red Sox outfielder Andrew Benintendi said. "It's not easy to come off the bench and pinch-hit, especially when it's (cold). It was a great job."
Cora appreciated how much the moment meant.
"As a baseball man, that was sad to see last year. He changed the complex of the Red Sox. He carried this offense and put this team in a different dimension. And he got hurt and only one pitch in the playoffs, and then he was out of it," Cora said.
"For him to show up today and put up a big swing, that's his first World Series swing, it's very gratifying to see him do that."