Red Sox

Rajai Davis knows what three straight playoff wins look like

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Rajai Davis knows what three straight playoff wins look like

BOSTON — The last time a team won three straight playoff games, Rajai Davis was in the unfortunate position to have a front-row seat.

Davis, the Red Sox pinch-runner and backup outfielder, famously hit a Game 7 home run in the World Series last year against the Cubs. That Game 7 proved to be the Cubs’ third straight win over the Indians, completing a comeback after Cleveland held a 3-1 advantage in the Fall Classic.

“They’re thinking, they just want to get it over with,” Davis said Saturday. “You know, I know that’s how we were. [You don’t want it going] the extra games because you never know what can happen. Especially they’re coming here, to our home park, so it’s a matter of: we [the Red Sox] got to take care of tomorrow. 

“We got to go out and do it. We have to just play better than them. We have to want it more than them. If we don’t want it more than them, they’re gonna win, that’s the bottom line. They wanted it more than us up till now. Until we want it more than them, we got to play better. We got to show it.”

Doug Fister has the ball for the Sox in what could be their final game of 2017. He had an interesting little take on the matter.

“Talking with a buddy last night about it, there's nothing to lose, with everything to lose,” Fister said.

Without getting too existential, it stands to reason that the team with a big advantage does all of a sudden acquire a pressure: they are now supposed to win. But Davis felt the pressure remains with the team trailing in the series.

“I think the pressure’s all on the other team, on the team that has to come back — but you still have to win,” Davis said. “I mean it takes a lot to win in this game. You got to do a lot of things to win ball games. You know, No. 1 pitching. No. 2 defense. And no. 3 you got to put some runs together. At least one, you know, if you’re gonna shut ‘em out. But it takes a lot to win.”

Asked if watching the Cubs last year gave him reason to believe in the Sox now, Davis noted the differences in the two teams. 

"Cubs had definitely a different team than we have right now,” Davis said. “I don’t remember how many games they won, they had the personnel to really do that, to pull that off. They had the pitching. They had everything that they needed. We have all those things, but it’s putting it together tomorrow. And that’s the key. Can we put it together tomorrow? If we do, we’ll win.”

Steadiness, unsurprisingly, was what was preached Saturday. The Sox did appear calm and relaxed when the clubhouse was open to the media after Saturday’s workout. There was no big team meeting planned, with the coaching staff striving for normalcy. The Sox do feel they’ve been tested enough times that they’re not in an unfamiliar place.

The Sox have acknowledged the firepower of the Astros isn’t something the Sox can match one-for-one at the plate. Astros manager A.J. Hinch said Saturday that his team isn’t yet looking toward the next round, however.

“We're happy with where we're at because we're in the best position possible coming into this series where we won both games,” Hinch said. “But we have pretty good perspective on this team. I don't see any sense of entitlement. I don't see a team that's starting to look forward to the next series. We're not there yet. That mentality will be entrenched in this team and our guys will respond accordingly. 

“So you want to draw up a 2-0 lead in any five-game series, sign me up. I'm in. It's a tremendous opportunity, but it's only an opportunity that you can move on to the next game and get to the finish line. We do need to play well to beat these guys. We're at their home stadium, it is a tough place to play. Our guys are keeping all that in perspective and go into Game 3 as hungry as ever.”

*  Sox manager John Farrell again left the door open for a potential start for David Price later in the series. “Anything as it relates to who would start in Game 4 on Monday, we'll get to that when we get through tomorrow,” Farrell said. “But we have a couple of different ways we can go with that in terms of the starter for Game 4. … I would anticipate he'll be available tomorrow. So how that impacts going forward, it's too early to tell.”

*  Mookie Betts (left wrist) and Dustin Pedroia (left knee) should be good to go on Sunday. “A hundred percent of what he is right now,” Farrell said. 

*  Farrell said Chris Sale is available in relief in Game 3. (But reasonably, it’s hard to imagine the Sox would actually use him.)

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How Martinez rose from ashes of Astros release to Red Sox stardom

How Martinez rose from ashes of Astros release to Red Sox stardom

Good things come to those who wait. And while it’s hard to knock the results of the Houston Astros’ “process,” a new piece from Sports Illustrated details how J.D. Martinez has them wishing they waited a little longer.

Coming off an age-25 season that saw him hit just .250 with a .650 OPS, Martinez was desperate to change in 2013. After all, with limited speed and a below-average glove, Martinez’s bat was his livelihood.

“J.D., you’re not even a career .700 OPS hitter,” said then-Astros hitting coach John Mallee. “You don’t steal bags. You’re not a Gold Glover. You have to hit… You can make enough money to live off of, at least until you become too expensive to keep around. But that’s it. Unless you change something.”

After studying perennial All-Stars like Miguel Cabrera, Albert Pujols, and Ryan Braun, Martinez realized his entire swing needed an overhaul, and turned to Astros teammate Jason Castro for advice. Martinez’s journey with Castro is a long one, taking him from Houston to California to Venezuela and, finally, to Kissimmee, Florida, home of the Astros’ Spring Training complex.  

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With a new swing in his toolbox, a revamped enthusiasm and energy, and a desperation to prove himself, all Martinez needed was an opportunity. But the Astros didn't oblige. Houston -- coming off a 111-loss season -- released Martinez after just 18 exhibition at-bats, not even seeking anything in return. Martinez couldn't make the worst team in the league.

Instead of sulking, however, Martinez was motivated -- driven to make the Astros' lack of confidence in his adjustments haunt them.

"You guys are going to see me," Martinez told Houston teammates José Altuve and Dallas Keuchel after being released. "Don't worry about it. I'll be good. I promise you."

Martinez caught on with the Detroit Tigers and the rest, as they say, is history. He used his new swing to slug his way to the top of a myriad of offensive categories and now, four years after being released, there is perhaps no more feared slugger in baseball than Martinez, who has two more home runs (37) than his team has losses (35).

Martinez’s road to the top has been long, but serves as a reminder that in a sport increasingly driven by data, the game is played by humans, and not even the most thorough algorithms can compute a human’s drive to succeed.

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