BOSTON – During the inning that undid Game 2 of the World Series, the Los Angeles Dodgers looked in control. This is how the Boston Red Sox operate, of course. As they cruised to a franchise-record win total and blitzed the American League playoffs, they lulled teams into false senses of security before striking with the savagery and ruthlessness of a coiled snake.
So it went in the bottom of the fifth inning Wednesday night, when the Dodgers coaxed a couple of easy outs and faced the worst hitter in Boston’s lineup. He singled. So did the next one. Then came a walk. And another. And a single. And by the time the Red Sox were done, a deficit had turned into a 4-2 advantage that would hold and stake them a two-games-to-none lead in the World Series.
It was, by all accounts, a spectacular meltdown from the Dodgers. Starter Hyun-Jin Ryu had cruised for 4 2/3 innings and was facing Christian Vazquez, the Red Sox’s catcher and worst hitter. Ryu pressed him to a two-strike count. Vazquez flipped a pitch into right field. As no-harm, no-foul as it might have seemed, Mookie Betts stepped in and whacked a single to center.
Los Angeles huddled on the mound before Andrew Benintendi stepped in. Then the Dodgers did so again. And again. Benintendi stepped out. Ryu stepped off. The cat-and-mouse game was in full effect and ended with a Benintendi walk to load the bases.
In came Dodgers reliever Ryan Madson, so effective as Los Angeles secured its second consecutive National League pennant, so feckless in Game 1 as he allowed by runners he inherited from Clayton Kershaw to score. He managed to keep that streak alive in Game 2, walking Steve Pearce on five pitches to tie the game at 2 and allowing a J.D. Martinez single to right field that scored a pair more.
The crowd of 38,644 at Fenway Park – perhaps witnessing its last game of the season, unless Los Angeles wins at least two of the next three games at Dodger Stadium – was giddy, almost because it had come to expect this from the Red Sox. Coming into Game 2, they were 15 for 37 with runners in scoring position and two outs this postseason – a .405/.551/.784 line. They had drawn nine walks, struck out just five times and drove in 27 runs. Their best work this October has come at the toughest times.
That goes for their pitching Wednesday, too. After going winless in his first 11 postseason starts, David Price booked his second consecutive playoff win with six solid innings. Then came the Red Sox’s trio of fireballers to lock down the seventh, eighth and ninth. Joe Kelly was unhittable. Nathan Eovaldi was just as nasty. And Craig Kimbrel, no longer tipping his pitches, closed down Los Angeles with a 1-2-3 ninth.
It was the end of an awful game for the Dodgers, not just because of the fifth. They didn’t muster a single hit after a Yasiel Puig single in the fourth inning. They countered Kelly, Eovaldi and Kimbrel’s 100-mph petrol with Madson dousing the fifth inning with a far more conflagrant gasoline. Worst of all, they left the Red Sox just two wins from their fourth championship in 15 seasons.
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