Mike Napoli has been one of the big bats in the middle of the Boston lineup this postseason. Credit: Getty Images
After six games against the Tigers in the ALCS and five games against the Cardinals in the World Series, the Red Sox have won games when taking on some of the best starting pitchers the game has to offer -- Max Scherzer twice, Adam Wainwright twice and Justin Verlander once to now find themselves one win away from winning the World Series.
After leading the majors in runs per game in the regular season at 5.27 and beating those elite pitchers this postseason, it would be expected that their offense continued their run production pace from the regular season. But that hasn’t been the case. In the ALCS and World Series, the Sox have averaged just 3.64 runs per game. So, how have they been getting it done?
“The character of our team,” manager John Farrell said. “The one thing that we've seen repeatedly throughout the course of this year is the awareness inside the game, the will to succeed and the desire to compete have been present with this team from day one … The one thing that we tried to establish in spring training, the most important thing is the game tonight and how we put together a game plan to win and I think we're seeing that against top‑flight pitching throughout the season.”
As a team in the ALCS and World Series they are hitting just .204, and not coming through with hits with runners in scoring position as they are batting just .217 (17-for-82) in those situations. Even though they aren’t coming through there, they certainly have been getting clutch hits, particularly clutch home runs.
Against the Tigers, it was David Ortiz’s grand slam in the eighth inning of Game 2, which gave the Red Sox the lead after trailing 5-2 and ignited the team for the remainder of the series. In Game 3 the only run of the game was a solo home run from Mike Napoli off of Verlander. Then, in Game 6, Shane Victorino’s seventh inning grand slam turned a 2-1 deficit into a 5-2 lead and an American League pennant.
The trend of timely home runs continued in the World Series as with the game tied, 1-1, in the sixth inning of Game 4, Jonny Gomes crushed a three-run homer into the Red Sox bullpen at Busch Stadium, proving to be the game-winner in the 4-2 win. Finally, although it wasn’t a home run, 36-year-old David Ross came through with an RBI double in the seventh inning of Game 6, which broke a 1-1 tie and ultimately gave the Red Sox a 3-1 win and a 3-2 series lead.
Coming through with hits when it matters most just goes along with the relentless, never-say-die attitude the Red Sox have had all season long and with that attitude the Sox find themselves just one win away from an improbable worst-to-first World Championship.
Follow Metro Red Sox beat writer Ryan Hannable on Twitter@Hannable84