BOSTON — On baseball’s biggest stage, Ryan Madson has come up small.
Madson, in allowing all five of his inherited runners to score in two World Series appearances, has built a case as the Series’ most influential player. The Red Sox beat the Dodgers, 4-2, in Game 2 on Wednesday and lead the best-of-seven series, two wins to none.
Both came at Madson’s expense after a pair of mid-game breakdowns.
“The ball isn’t going where I want it,” said Madson, pitching in his fourth World Series. “I don’t know if it’s mechanical or physical or emotional. There’s a lot of elements going in there. I’ve just got to regroup and start over again.”
Madson’s damage came in the fifth inning both games, and on Wednesday is was a momentum-crusher for the Dodgers. They led 2-1, when the Red Sox mounted a two-out rally against starter Hyun-Jin Ryu, loading the bases and making it time for Madson.
This was the role he had occupied all month. In seven NLDS/NLCS games, he stranded five of his seven inherited runners and allowed only one run of his own (1.42 ERA), walking one and striking out six. Although Madson faltered in a similar spot Tuesday, Los Angeles manager Dave Roberts didn’t want to go to somebody else or have somebody warming up behind Madson.
“If I had any thought to have [Pedro] Baez or somebody behind him, then he was the wrong guy,” Roberts said. “Madson has been our guy for quite some time, and he’s pitched out of big spots there.
“And I just felt I really liked him against [Steve] Pearce. In that spot, he’s done it time and time again for us, but the last couple of nights it hasn’t worked out.”
Pearce worked an RBI walk — all of the pitches were up — to tie the game. J.D. Martinez dunked a two-run single into right for a Red Sox lead.
“I beat him. He didn’t hit it good,” Madson said. “I beat him, but he’s strong enough to put it in a good spot out there in the outfield. It dropped in.”
It was similar Tuesday in Game 1. Clayton Kershaw put the first two runners of the fifth inning on base, and Madson entered. He walked Pearce (four pitches, all low) to load the bases before Xander Bogaerts (groundout) and Rafael Devers (single) drove in runs, putting the Red Sox back ahead.
Madson thought he learned a lesson from that appearance: Warm up more. His body “didn't feel as gummy as usual,” he said, in the chilly New England weather — temperatures in the 40s — particularly compared to the Dodgers’ Southern California norm.
On Wednesday, Madson enacted that plan but said, “it didn’t matter.” Once he stepped away from the heater next to the bullpen bench, the cold attacked.
After two games, Madson escapes with a 0.00 ERA. But in his fireman role, he has been more like an arsonist.
“It’s kind of a crapshoot with inherited runners,” Madson said. “You can be good at it for a long time and then a bloop hit or a walk like tonight. It’s not automatic, but just being able to be in that situation has been a lot of fun. I learned a little bit of humility tonight.”