By Matt Dolloff, 985TheSportsHub.com
Rafael Devers may be in the shadow of Eduardo Nunez on Tuesday night. But the Red Sox got the biggest run of their Game 1 win from the younger of their two third basemen, as Devers continued to add what’s becoming a rapidly expanding playoff resume.
Devers turned 22 years old about an hour and a half before this was written, as the clock struck midnight just before Craig Kimbrel closed the door on the Red Sox’ 8-4 win to take Game 1 of the 2018 World Series. Happy birthday, indeed.
He’s still played only 11 postseason games in his career. But what Devers has done with his small sample size has been nothing short of massive. For at least one game, his remarkable playoff rampage has carried over to the Fall Classic.
The precocious cherub of a third baseman is simply a beast in October. He raised his career postseason batting average to .364 on Tuesday at Fenway Park. The box score reads a mere 1-for-2 with an RBI – but that single run is what put the Red Sox up for good.
His full line? .364, three homers, 13 RBIs. In 11 games. The kid has barely had a career, and he’s already accomplished what a lot of hitters can only dream of in October.
Devers’ latest playoff heroics came with two outs in the fifth inning and the Red Sox trying to add to a just-earned 4-3 lead. The way the game was going, you figured at the time that the Red Sox would need every run they could get. As it turns out, Nunez blew it open and the bullpen shut things down. But for his moment, Devers reinforced the belief that he may simply be a clutch hitter who is going to play his best when the lights are the brightest.
The moment in question? Devers turned on a 95-mph fastball from veteran reliever Ryan Madson that landed middle-in, shooting a base hit past second baseman Brian Dozier to scratch across the fifth Red Sox run of the night. The Dodgers would score again in the top of the seventh, which only underlined the importance of Devers’ hit.
Nunez overshadowed the hell out of that RBI single with what a certain sports vulture may describe as an “empty-net goal.” There’s certainly value in Nunez giving the Red Sox a comfortable lead to close the game out. But Devers delivered the run they needed, the run that set in motion Alex Cora’s plans for the rest of the game and will go down as the true game-winner.
Cora’s plans included removing Devers for pinch-hitter Eduardo Nunez in the bottom of the seventh inning. Nunez promptly rewarded the manager with a three-run blast. Cora strikes again. But the way Devers has hit in just about every postseason game of his young career – he’s batting .364 with a homer and eight RBI in seven games this October alone – it would’ve been hard not to be confident that he would’ve driven in the insurance runs anyway.
Not to be outdone here is Andrew Benintendi, who went 4-for-5 with an RBI in his first World Series game. Two of those hits were of the bloop variety, but a hit is a hit. It’s encouraging to see Benintendi’s big-time ALCS performance also carry over.
But the real hero of the night was Devers. Had Nunez come up short, Devers’ RBI would’ve been the last run scored of the night and the one that everyone would be talking about.
It still should be.
Because only 12 games in, this kid is already building quite the postseason resume.
Matt Dolloff is a digital producer for 985TheSportsHub.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Have a news tip, question, or comment for Matt? Follow him on Twitter @mattdolloff or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.