Boston Red Sox

By Matt McCarthy,

To win in October, teams often need major contributions from unexpected players.

The Red Sox have gotten plenty of those already in their seven postseason games. So far, the most impactful performances in October have come from names Red Sox fans would never have expected.

The role players have been better than the All-Stars, and it hasn’t even been close. They have carried the Red Sox to the verge of the pennant.

Soon-to-be American League MVP Mookie Betts hasn’t done that. Nor has Triple Crown-threat J.D. Martinez.

Chris Sale, David Price, and Craig Kimbrel, who combine for roughly $57 million of the Red Sox payroll this year, haven’t been the best pitchers on the team. Instead, Nathan Eovaldi has been one of the best pitchers in all of baseball in the postseason.

Nathan Eovaldi?

Few could have predicted this type of performance from hard-throwing right-hander, who had never pitched before in October and has been a respectable, but average Major League pitcher throughout his career.

A month ago, it looked like Eovaldi wouldn’t even be in the rotation, but Eduardo Rodriguez’s struggles down the stretch and the team’s belief that Eovaldi would be a good matchup against the Yankees propelled him onto baseball’s biggest stage, where he has done nothing but shine.

Credit to the Red Sox for choosing the right pitcher. If this series goes seven, Red Sox fans should feel good about sending Eovaldi to the mound with the season on the line.

Rick Porcello has been a workhorse, repeatedly pitching on short rest in time split between the bullpen and the rotation. No matter where he’s pitched, he’s been excellent.

Oct 14, 2018; Boston, MA, USA; Boston Red Sox starting pitcher Rick Porcello (22) reacts after striking out Houston Astros shortstop Carlos Correa (1) during the eighth inning in game two of the 2018 ALCS playoff baseball series at Fenway Park. Mandatory Credit: Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

Matt Barnes and Ryan Brasier have been reliable and trustworthy options out of a bullpen that had few of those all season long.

Even Joe Kelly has been good. What’s going on here?

Steve Pearce was billed as a lefty-masher, but his performance against righties has been just as good. His homer off Joe Smith in Game 3 of the ALCS positioned the Red Sox for victory, and they might not even be in the ALCS if it weren’t for Pearce’s game-saving stretch in the Bronx.

His defense has been much better than advertised. The Red Sox haven’t missed a beat since Mitch Moreland went down with a hamstring injury.

Brock Holt has a cycle, Christian Vazquez has a home run, even the mostly worthless Ian Kinsler and Eduardo Nunez drove in key runs against the Yankees.

And Jackie Bradley Jr. has won two games in the ALCS with his bat.

Go figure.

Oct 16, 2018; Houston, TX, USA; Boston Red Sox center fielder Jackie Bradley Jr. (19) connects for a grand slam home run in the eighth inning against the Houston Astros in game three of the 2018 ALCS playoff baseball series at Minute Maid Park. Mandatory Credit: Thomas B. Shea-USA TODAY Sports

To win a World Series, unexpected heroes need to step up. Jonny Gomes had the biggest hit of the 2013 Fall Classic. Bobby Kielty’s home run in 2007 propelled the Red Sox to a sweep. There are too many names to list from the 2004 team. Take your pick.

The 2018 Red Sox are now six wins away from a World Series title, almost entirely due to their role players.

It takes all 25, doesn’t it?

You can hear Matt McCarthy on 98.5 The Sports Hub’s own Hardcore Baseball podcast and on various 98.5 The Sports Hub programs. Follow him on Twitter @MattMcCarthy985.