LOS ANGELES — A dugout speech, if some impassioned yelling from Chris Sale qualifies as such, is not the reason the Red Sox are one win away from a championship. Neither is the gathering the Red Sox had after Game 3’s excruciating loss, when manager Alex Cora spoke to the team.
“I wish I could tell you guys all of it, but we had an incredible baseball game last night, one of the best of all-time,” pitching coach Dana LeVangie said less than 24 hours later, after Game 4’s 9-6 win over the Dodgers lasted only nine innings. “Unfortunately, it didn’t turn out in our favor. But he praised everybody in the room. He praised a couple of guys individually, a big-time team gathering that there was at the end of it, a lot of standing ovation, clapping about it.”
Sale may have spiritually taken over for David Ortiz, the intense veteran in perhaps the most intense baseball city who always seemed to find the right words at bleak times. Cora acknowledged that Sale’s outburst, which came after the Dodgers pulled ahead 4-0 in the bottom of the sixth inning on Saturday night, was indeed “a moment.” The lefty ace’s words will always be woven into the fabric of one of the greatest Sox seasons in history.
J.D. Martinez’s seeming unawareness though, pointed to the outsized nature of a couple moments captured on TV.
“I guess it was a big deal,” Martinez said, laughing in the visiting dugout at Dodger Stadium. “I got asked 15 times already. … I walked by, I heard him yelling but everyone yells.
“How’d this go down, did it go on TV or something?” Martinez asked.
Precisely. It appeared, to those of us who attempt to read lips from television clips, that Sale mentioned something about Dodgers starter Rich Hill having only two pitches.
“Oh oh. I think I heard that,” Martinez said. “Everyone’s yelling, everyone’s been hyping everybody up trying to keep the energy positive in here. It’s a tough game. It’s a game of failure and its a game of negativity.”
Now we’re on to something. Because Sale could have easily tried to rile up a group of sleepy bats and found his words fell on deaf ears. But the Red Sox, for a long time, have been able to almost immediately turn their attention to the next moment, rather than the last. Many say they do this, few do so quite as well as this group.
"I've never been on a team that can just get punched right in the face and then come back tomorrow and act like they're totally fine,” Martinez said, poignantly.
Martinez, though, seemed to hone in on what has driven the Sox more than anything else.
The bullpen has been invaluable, a surprise to most everybody save for some on the inside of the organization and the clubhouse.
But in the World Series, on a night when Mitch Moreland hit a pinch-hit three-run homer — crushed, destroyed to right field, along with perhaps the Dodgers’ hopes this season — it was the bench that showed its wares. Steve Pearce has been a greater threat than either Martinez or Mookie Betts.
Rafael Devers comes off the bench with a gigantic pinch hit in the ninth. Just as his third-base counterpart Eduardo Nunez did in Game 1, when he hit a separating blast into the Green Monster seats as a pinch hitter. Eduardo Rodriguez makes a commendable spot start, its glove-slam ending aside.
“The bench has been the key to our entire playoffs, if you look at it,” Martinez said. “I mean, everyone coming off the bench, coming up with big hits. You know, the guys that no one expects, they're the ones that are delivering, it's unreal.”
Unreal is the right word. Speeches and meetings can explain some things, but when the Red Sox look back at this season, the contributions on the field from nearly everyone asked to rise to a big moment will stand out most.
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