New Englanders, including Red Sox fans, can appreciate the sentiment in the famous headline: “Harvard Beats Yale 29-29.” It was from a Harvard Crimson story about a football game that was tied but seemed like a win for one of the sides. If the same student newspaper were to encapsulate the American League Division Series right now, it might very well proclaim, “Red Sox trail Yankees, 1-1.”
The next two games will be at Yankee Stadium, the home team’s bats are hot, the Red Sox bullpen is leaking and the visitors’ rotation is in flux. What’s more, Boston is facing the type of do-or-die pressure it never encountered in its 108-victory regular season.
On the surface, it seems as if one side is clearly behind in the tied series.
Except that the Red Sox are looking beyond the surface, and they insist they are and will be just fine.
“I don’t know what our record is on the road, but I think it’s pretty good,” shortstop Xander Bogaerts said during a news conference on the day off between Games 2 and 3, referring to the team’s 51-30 mark away from Fenway Park. “So we’ll just take that in our advantage and use that going forward in these next few games we’ve got here.”
Manager Alex Cora downplayed the idea of momentum extending from one game to the next. “If that was the case, then [Saturday] night, they would have come out flat and not played the way they did,” he said, referring to the Yankees’ power-fueled 6-2 win. “I think in the playoffs, it’s day by day. It has to do a lot with the guy on the mound who starts off the game.”
But that, too, seems a problem for Boston, which is not going with its best pitching option, Rick Porcello, in Game 3 because Cora had to use him as a tourniquet in relief Friday. Instead, the manager will give the ball to Nathan Eovaldi, who pitched superbly against the Yankees after he was acquired from the Rays but has never been in a postseason game.
Still, the Red Sox are unfazed and confident. A good portion of that attitude is based on having set a franchise record for regular-season victories in winning the AL East title, and perhaps a greater portion is based on Cora’s karma. The first-year manager does not give off a nervous vibe.
“I think the really nice thing about A.C. is he’s not very far removed from playing the game, which is awesome,” reliever Matt Barnes said. “And having won a World Series [as a coach] last year, he knows how to win, and he knows how to manage a team with a bunch of young players on it. He does a really good job of keeping the intensity and the expectation of winning but at the same time keeping it loose and having fun with it. And I think that’s crucial. He doesn’t add any pressure. He trusts us, and he knows that when the lights come on, we’re going to be ready to rock.”
On Sunday, Cora was firm but understanding about David Price’s latest failure (“He’s the first one to admit he’s disappointed”) and was blunt about Eduardo Rodriguez’s failure to cover first (“I just talked to him and told him, be accountable”). The manager did not sound like someone playing from a deficit.
“Nothing changes,” he said. “Like today: regular off day. A good dinner in New York City and come tomorrow and play the way we can play.”