World Series Game 2: Somewhere Under the Rainbow

For a second day in Boston the rain came. It stopped three hours before Game 2 of the World Series was set to begin, and when the sun re-emerged it left a brilliant rainbow arcing from the center field end of the Green Monster to the Pesky Pole in Fenway Park.

Only it's the Red Sox so far who seem to have found the pot of gold at the end and the Dodgers who bring the Series to Los Angeles singing "Somewhere over the rainbow ... why can't we?"

On a Game 1 night when Clayton Kershaw and Chris Sale didn't have it, the Dodgers had fewer solutions for stopping the Red Sox's offensive tenacity than the Red Sox had in solving whatever riddles remain in the Dodger bullpen.

In Game 2, the Dodgers seemed to solve one part of David Price without accounting for him finding other parts to work with, and the Red Sox solved Dodger starter Hyun-Jin Ryu just in the nick of time, time enough to beat the Dodgers 4-2 and take a 2-0 Series advantage.

But the Dodgers had better solve the Red Sox's uncanny ability to win when they score first and to change the scoreboard when hitting with two outs. And they'd better quit starting World Series games with a few too many lesser bats in the lineup.

Because if the Dodgers thought trying to win in a Fenway Park that felt more like a refrigerator than a ballpark, they'd better beware that the Red Sox can win in any climate short of that on the North Pole. And nobody's willing to bet against them right now, whether playing the best in their league, the best in the National League, or Santa and his elves.

Not after they solved Price's lately murderous changeup by laying off it just enough to take their first lead of the Series, 2-1 in the top of the fourth, but Price retaliated by retiring the last seven hitters he faced after opening the game allowing no hits through three innings.

Dodger fans have every reason to ask why their four leading home run hitters weren't in the starting lineups of Games 1 and 2, but lesser hitters like Enrique Hernandez were. Manager Dave Roberts has an answer. Here's hoping it satisfies.

"It's hard to have guys that slug like [Joc] Pederson, [Max] Muncy, [Cody] Bellinger on the bench, but this is something that we've done a lot in September and throughout the postseason and it's proven to be successful. And those guys are still getting in games and staying current. When guys are in there, they've just got to be productive."

But they just weren't. The biggest puzzle among the starting absentees may be Muncy. Among left-handed hitters up and down baseball he was fourth only to Christian Yelich, Freddie Freeman, and Robinson Cano in OPS against left-handed pitching.

Roberts wanted to open against two Red Sox left-handers with the complete right-on-left matchup, but what worked against a team of Brewers whose manager went to his bullpen early and often all NLCS long doesn't work against a team of Red Sox whose manager is just as matchup conscious but also uses his starting pitchers more traditionally. By the time the Dodgers' most important bats got into the games, their best chances to bring the Dodgers back to win were past.

The fourth was Price's diciest Game 2 moment but the Dodgers couldn't get more than two regardless of the opportunity. They opened with two base hits (David Freese to the opposite field and Manny Machado up the pipe) and a full count walk (to Chris Taylor) to load the bases with nobody out. Matt Kemp swung on a Price change up, connected, and got a mere sacrifice fly out of it.

Enrique Hernandez struck out swinging, but Yasiel Puig swung on the first pitch, a four-seam fastball, and dumped it into shallow center just beyond the outstretched glove of Red Sox second baseman Ian Kinsler, sending Machado home from second.

Price struck out Dodger catcher Austin Barnes to end the inning at a 2-1 deficit for the Red Sox, then zipped through the fifth and six in order. The first Dodger lead of the Series lasted all of one inning in the interim.

"We had him," said Roberts. "We had him on the ropes. The difference is, they got the big hit when they needed, and we didn't."

The Dodgers shook up their defense for the bottom of the fifth even with Ryu cruising except for the single run pried out of him with two out in the bottom of the second, when Kinsler singled to left to send home Xander Bogaerts (a 1-out double high off the Green Monster). They sent Bellinger out to play center field and moved Hernandez from center to second base, switching Brian Dozier out of the game.

Kinsler grounded out on the first pitch of the fifth, then Jackie Bradley, Jr. popped out behind third base with Machado ambling over behind the pad to take it.

But then Red Sox catcher Christian Vasquez lined one the other way to right for a single. Mookie Betts poked a strike-one roller into center for another single. Andrew Benintendi — whose running ballet-like leap of a catch on the track to rob Dozier of a likely extra base hit in the top of the inning brought down the Fenway house — battled eight pitches before walking to load the pads and nudge Ryu out in favor of Ryan Madson.

And with the Red Sox entering Game 2 having scored a small truckload of two-out postseason runs, first baseman Steve Pearce drew a five pitch walk in which nothing Madson threw him got anywhere close to the zone, and that's allowing for home plate umpire Kerwin Danley squeezing the zone against both sides even tighter than Tim Timmons did behind the plate in Game 1.

The walk nudged Vasquez home. Then, with Puig playing somewhat deep in right field, Martinez lined a softie to right well enough short of Puig but enough to send home Betts and Benintendi with the 4-2 lead. Leaving Madson to allow all five of his inherited runners in the Series so far to score.

Martinez didn't exactly have to grind out his at-bat there, but when asked by Japanese media to explain what grinding it out meant, he gave an explanation that could apply to just about every Red Sox hitter in this postseason.

"If a pitcher goes up there and he's throwing a breaking ball, and it's a breaking ball down and away, or a fastball up and in, a perfect pitcher's pitch, and you're able to just foul it off and stay alive in the at-bat, kinda just keep grinding, keep working through the at-bat, hoping for that mistake that he's going to make. If he doesn't, then you walk. If he does, then you hit the ball, and you have a chance that way. I think that's kinda what I mean by grinding out at-bats."

The Red Sox now have 31 RBIs with two outs this postseason. That's only five short of the record their 2004 (actual or alleged) curse-busters nailed with two outs in that postseason. It's become very tempting to imagine broadcasters for this Series telling listeners and viewers, Two out, nobody on, the Red Sox are threatening.

By the time the Dodger bullpen settled in to keep the Red Sox quiet the rest of Game 2, the Red Sox bullpen did a slightly better job of keeping the Dodgers from even thinking much about closing even a two-run deficit, as Joe Kelly (the seventh), Nathan Eovaldi (the eighths) and Cardiac Craig Kimbrel (the ninth, of course) clamped them down.

Roberts remains phenomenally popular in Boston thanks to the stolen base that began the upending of the Yankees in the 2004 ALCS when the Red Sox were three outs from being swept out of the set. But if he doesn't figure out how to approach the Red Sox right and fast, his name is liable to be mud in Los Angeles, especially with his former Dodger and Red Sox playing teammate Alex Cora out-generaling him every step of the World Series way.

They need especially to solve the Red Sox bullpen, which just about the entire world and three planets outward knew coming in was the club's Achilles heel, right? Well, now. Remove the lone earned run Ryan Brasier has surrendered and the Red Sox pen's World Series ERA so far is ... zero. But the Red Sox starters have outlasted them, too. They couldn't put Sale away on a night they wore him out before they recorded a single fifth inning out, and they couldn't cash in bigger profits in Price's only shaky Game 2 inning.

"We knew we were going to have a good team — good lineup, good chemistry, good energy — but not that good," said Eduardo Nunez, whose pinch-hit 3-run homer put Game 1 far enough out of the Dodgers' reach and who's the only Red Sox to go long in the Series so far. "We can beat you with homers, defense, pitching, base hits, stolen bases. I think we have it all."

That's more than a little something for the Dodgers' effective, confident, but not always on-point Game 3 starter, rookie Walker Buehler, to think about. Hard. Because Buehler's money pitch so far is a wicked slider, but the Red Sox were the best-hitting team in baseball this year against right-handed sliders, and Buehler's slider hits the meat of the strike zone more than all but five pitchers in the Show this year.

The Dodgers may well feel more comfortable in their own less wintry playpen, but they proved themselves too ill-prepared for the Boston weather and other things, some of which shouldn't even be a topic. Well before Game 2, Dodger pitching coach Rick Honeycutt pronounced himself unamused over fans taunting Kershaw while he readied himself in the bullpen to start Game 1. "Brutal," he told Sports Illustrated. "Pretty brutal. What I don't understand is why baseball allows it. You've got the rubber right there and people literally standing over you."

Never mind that Fenway Park is hardly the only ballpark where the bullpens are so close to the fans. (Wrigley Field with its foul-line bullpens, and Angel Stadium with the bullpens right in front of the left field bleachers, are just two examples Honeycutt should know well.) And, incidentally, Dodger Stadium's bullpens sit on either side of the bleachers, the pitching rubbers aren't quite as close to the fans as those in Fenway's bullpens, but fans still have clean enough shots at taunting visiting relievers.

Who's Honeycutt trying to deke? The Fenway bullpen proximity didn't seem to bother Kershaw. "It's a great crowd," he said. "They were very excited about it. Very into it." And that was after the Red Sox beheaded him and the Dodger bullpen in Game 1. Some would think Honeycutt should have had more important matters on his mind. Helping his pitchers solve the Red Sox's rather deep, relentless, and fearless-especially-with-two-outs lineup would seem to be top of the hill.

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