LOS ANGELES (AP) — Boston's bench is a big reason why the Red Sox are one win from their fourth World Series title since 2004.
With the Red Sox regulars being held in check by the Los Angeles Dodgers, it was pinch-hitters Mitch Moreland and Rafael Devers who came up with huge at-bats as Boston rallied for a 9-6 victory Saturday to take a 3-1 lead in the Series.
Moreland hit a three-run homer off Ryan Madson in the seventh inning and Devers singled home Brock Holt with the tiebreaking run in the ninth.
Boston's pinch-hitters have come up big all Series. Through the first four games, they are 6 for 18 (.333) with two home runs and seven RBIs. The Red Sox are batting .218 overall.
"The bench has been the key to our entire playoffs," slugger J.D. Martinez said. "The guys that no one expects are the ones who are delivering. It is unreal."
Moreland's homer to right field on a first-pitch changeup from Ryan Madson was Boston's second pinch-hit homer in the World Series. The 1959 Dodgers and 1975 Red Sox are the only other teams with multiple pinch-hit home runs in the same Fall Classic. Not bad for a team that hit only two pinch-hit homers during the course of a 162-game regular season.
Moreland joins Bernie Carbo (who had two in 1975), Bobby Kielty (2007) and Eduardo Nunez (Game 1 this year) as Boston players who have homered in a World Series game as pinch-hitters.
"With the way we play, we're constantly trying to get some guys on base, put pressure on the other side. So we got that chance right there," Moreland said after hitting his third World Series home run. "I saw him throw a couple of changeups to Jackie (Bradley Jr.) up in the zone. I decided, why not sit on that one first pitch? And when he threw it, I saw it pretty good, and put a good swing on it."
It was Moreland's fourth career postseason homer but first as a pinch-hitter. Prior to that swing, Moreland was batting .250 this postseason (4 for 16) but was 1 for 6 in a pinch-hitting role.
Devers was batting .276 (8 for 29) for the postseason, and Saturday night was only the third time he has been brought in off the bench. After Holt doubled off Dylan Floro with one out, Devers laced a 2-0 changeup to center, scoring Holt for a 5-4 lead, and the Red Sox went on to score five runs in the ninth.
The third baseman, who turned 22 on Wednesday, became the youngest player in World Series history to have a pinch-hit, go-ahead RBI in the ninth inning or later. The last player younger than 23 to deliver a pinch-hit RBI in the Fall Classic was Pittsburgh's Milt May in 1971 against Baltimore.
"I was just ready for my moment to come, whenever that may be," Devers said. "Being in the National League, you've got to be ready from the first inning with obviously the pitchers hitting. So I just wanted to be ready for whatever the situation was."
Red Sox hitting coach Tim Hyers said Boston's bench success can mostly be attributed to first-year manager Alex Cora and the way he has been able to keep everyone involved by always communicating to players about when they will be used during a game.
"He just has a way of giving them confidence by telling them, 'I am going to use you here, be ready, be prepared' and then it happens," Hyers said. "They are prepared and have confidence when they walk out to the batter's box because the manager has prepared them to go out and show."
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