LOS ANGELES — Look at the names at the top of the Red Sox’s lineup — and statistical leader boards. The degree to which they are not producing makes it something close to an upset that Boston is a win away from another World Series championship.
The Red Sox beat the Dodgers, 9-6, in Game 4 on Saturday night to take a 3-1 lead in the best-of-seven series.
And Mookie Betts and J.D. Martinez each went 0-for-4.
Betts, the likely AL MVP, is batting .211 with a .581 OPS in the series. Martinez, honored Friday with the Hank Aaron Award as the AL’s most outstanding offensive performer, is hitting .214 with a 639 OPS. Each has only one extra-base hit. Between them, they have four RBIs.
What does that tell manager Alex Cora about his club?
“That we're talented, and we don't only rely on two guys,” Cora said, rattling off a lengthy list of Saturday contributors. “That's what it takes. To win this whole thing, it's not easy. It's not easy. And today, that last third of the game was amazing.”
Regarding the last third of the game: The Red Sox trailed 4-0 at the start of the seventh, having scored two runs in their previous 27 innings. Then they scored nine in their next three frames (seven with two outs), receiving significant contributions from all over their lineup.
Pinch hitter Mitch Moreland mashed a three-run homer in the seventh. Steve Pearce tied it with a solo shot in the eighth and provided insurance with a three-run double in the ninth. Rafael Devers, also pinch hitting, broke a 4-4 tie with an RBI single in the ninth.
“They kept fighting,” Cora said. “[Devers] coming off the bench tonight. Yesterday, I pinch hit for him, and today he pinch hits. We loved the matchup and he put a good swing, and he made a great play at third base.”
It was Pearce whose hits loomed largest. When he connected with Kenley Jansen’s first-pitch cutter inside, drilling it to left-center, Jansen arched his back, gritted his teeth and hesitated in turning around, not wanting to see — but already fearing — where the ball would land.
A 12-year major-league veteran, Pearce has specialized in the AL East, playing for every team: Yankees (2012), Orioles (2012-15; 2016), Rays (2016), Blue Jays (2017-18) and Red Sox, who acquired him in a trade with Toronto in June.
He quickly settled into a platoon at first base, playing against lefthanders, whom he crushes (.304/.400/.559 this year, .266/.352/.500 in his career).
“Pearcie, he's a beauty, man,” said Moreland, Pearce’s platoon-mate. “He's came over here and he's done nothing but produce. But he's a great teammate. A good dude. But he fits right into the clubhouse.”
The Red Sox credited Chris Sale — who had been scheduled to start Game 5 but was bumped by David Price, who will go on short rest — with helping them break out of their offensive funk, which consumed them early after an 18-inning and 7-hour, 20-minute marathon Friday night.
Minutes before Moreland’s homer, Sale lashed out in the Red Sox dugout, berating his teammates — but in a way that was perceived as motivational — for not hitting better against Dodgers starter Rich Hill, who shut them out for the first six innings.
“We felt that we had no energy,” Cora said. “Actually none whatsoever.”
To hear the Red Sox tell it, Sale injected it into them.
“At that moment, that was huge because it motivated us,” Devers said through an interpreter. “It scared me a little bit because I had never seen him yell like that and the words that he was saying, I had never heard that come from him before. But, you know, we came out sluggish and that moment helped us get motivated for the rest of the game.”