Boston Red Sox

By Matt McCarthy,

The Red Sox now head to Los Angeles with a 2-0 lead in the World Series.

What did we learn about the American and National League champions in the first two games of the Fall Classic?

Alex Cora is managing circles around Dave Roberts:

It seems like every move that Alex Cora makes turns to gold. The same can’t be said for Dodgers manager Dave Roberts, who did not do a good job in the first two games in this series.

Roberts appears to manage based only on the analytics and the numbers. He has benched three of his best five hitters (Cody Bellinger, Joc Pederson, and Max Muncy) with the Red Sox starting left-handers in the first two games. The Sox will happily pitch to the likes of Kike Hernandez instead, who is seemingly 0-for-October but is playing over better players simply because he hits right-handed.

Roberts can be questioned for removing the effective Pedro Baez in Game 1, opting instead for left-hander Alex Wood, who served up a three-run homer to Eduardo Nunez.

Ryan Madson can’t handle it:

Wow, is this guy an absolute puddle or what?

Madson allowed two inherited runners to score in Game 1, before allowing two more inherited runners and one of his own to score in the fifth inning of Game 2. He has been wild, walking Steve Pearce both nights on a combined nine pitches.

Madson complained about the cold conditions after Game 1, saying he couldn’t warm up effectively. Maybe Game 2 was too cold for him, too.

David Price can handle it:

Price delivered his second strong outing of October, earning back-to-back wins as a starting pitcher by holding the Dodgers to two runs over six innings of work.

He has looked like a different pitcher his last two times out; calm, cool, collected. He ran into trouble in the fourth inning of Game 2, but rebounded and got out of the inning. It seems like he wouldn’t have done that in the past.

When asked by Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports what has changed in his last two appearances, Price answered simply: “I have.”

He’s right.

Oct 24, 2018; Boston, MA: Boston Red Sox pitcher David Price throws a pitch against the Los Angeles Dodgers in the first inning in game two of the 2018 World Series at Fenway Park. (Maddie Meyer/Pool Photo via USA TODAY Sports)

Oct 24, 2018; Boston, MA: Boston Red Sox pitcher David Price throws a pitch against the Los Angeles Dodgers in the first inning in game two of the 2018 World Series at Fenway Park. (Maddie Meyer/Pool Photo via USA TODAY Sports)

Joe Kelly is good:

Who is that wearing a Joe Kelly uniform?

Cora has called on Kelly in two high-leverage situations so far in the World Series, and it’s hard to remember a time where Kelly looked more filthy, nasty, and unhittable as he has the last two nights.

Kelly followed up his 1-2-3 sixth inning in Game 1 with what might have been an even better seventh inning in Game 2. He struck out two men, used all three of his pitches effectively, and was hitting triple-digits on the radar gun.

Kelly’s emergence as a reliable bullpen arm has given Cora more relief options than anyone could have imagined a month ago. Look for Kelly to continue to pitch in big spots, especially given his success against lefties this year.

Nathan Eovaldi is a weapon:

I guess Eovaldi was a better acquisition than Zach Britton after all?

The hard-throwing righty helped shut the door in relief in both games at Fenway, making Cora look like a genius again by relying heavily on starting pitchers in a “rover” role in the eighth inning. Eovaldi now has three scoreless innings as a reliever and two victories as a starter this postseason.

It remains to be seen if Eovaldi will start Game 4 after pitching on back-to-back nights out of the bullpen. Cora didn’t rule it out, but also admitted that Eovaldi could pitch in relief again in Game 3 if the Sox are looking at a winnable game.

No matter which role Eovaldi takes on next, Red Sox fans should be extremely confident that he’ll succeed when his number is called upon.

The free agent to-be is making himself more money with each pitch he throws in October.

Craig Kimbrel is back:

Maybe Craig Kimbrel was tipping his pitches after all.

The Red Sox closer has regained his form in the World Series, restoring faith in the masses after teetering on the brink of disaster for the majority of this postseason.

Kimbrel’s command is back, and when he can locate, he’s nearly unhittable.

The Dodgers have found that out the hard way.

Oct 24, 2018; Boston, MA, USA; Boston Red Sox pitcher Craig Kimbrel (46) and catcher Christian Vazquez (7) celebrate after defeating the Los Angeles Dodgers in game two of the 2018 World Series at Fenway Park. Mandatory Credit: Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports

The Red Sox are just the better team:

We know this coming into the series, but it’s been proven in the first two games. Now, the Dodgers are faced with the unenviable task of trying to take four out of five from the best team in baseball, knowing they’ll have to win the series on the road at Fenway Park.

It’s hard to see the Red Sox not closing the door with the way they are playing.

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.

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