- Previously a Staff Writer at Bleacher Report
Cornell University graduate
The Red Sox offense knew they needed to pick up Chris Sale after the first inning on Friday night.
Their lefty ace — coming off of Tommy John surgery — did not have his best stuff on Friday allowing four hits and allowing five earned runs in an inning pitched. After scoring two runs in the first inning, the Tampa Bay Rays surged back scoring five runs to cap off the top frame.
To let their ace off the hook, Boston followed up the first inning by tying up the franchise postseason record with five homers. The team became the first in postseason history with 20 hits and five homers in a game. On the back of Tanner Houck — who replaced Sale and retired 11 batters in a row — Boston found a way to storm back.
“We started one run at a time and started scoring and scoring until we were able to tie it, and then [Houck] kept them right there,” Hernandez told the media in Tampa Bay.
Hernández led the way by going 5-for-6 with a homer and three doubles, who tied the MLB postseason record with four extra-base hits, who in the process became the fifth-player all-time to pull off the feat, and the first since Albert Pujols in 2011.
Boston needed a mindset adjustment after the roller coaster of a first inning. Cora kept the message simple for the team’s offense.
“Don’t panic,” Cora said.
The panic slowly dissipated. Two innings later Boston chipped away at the lead with two runs, marking a 5-4 score before scoring four more two inning later on the back of homers from Hernandez and JD Martinez. After runs in the 7th, 8th and 9th innings, Boston looked up at the final scoreboard and saw the number 14 next to their team’s runs tally.
Those contributions to the 14-run total came from up and down the lineup. On top of Hernandez’s outburst at the plate, shortstop Xander Bogaerts, outfielder Alex Verdugo and Rafael Devers contributed home runs. Catcher Christian Vázquez reached base three times on three hits while Hunter Renfroe recorded a hit and Kyle Schwarber recorded a walk. With four players recording three hits and a homer, Boston became the team with the most such players in a game in postseason history.
“They took advantage of mistakes,” Rays pitcher Collin McHugh told the media in Tampa Bay.
The offensive outburst represented a bounce back for Boston, who were shut out in Game 1 of the series by a 5-0 margin. The 14 runs represented the most by a team that was shut out in a previous game within that postseason all-time. Boston also became the first team with six players with 2 RBIs in a playoff game since RBI became an official stat. Prior to Friday night, the Rays had been 73-3 on the season with a three-run lead, including the playoffs. Boston’s offense made sure the loss column read four by the end of Friday.
Friday also marked the return of Martinez from a sprained ankle. Cora slotted in Martinez in sixth in the lineup after delaying the lineup card submission in hopes of playing the Red Sox slugger against a tough Rays pitching staff. Martinez made his presence felt by knocking a single to right field and later hitting a three-run homer over the center field wall in the fifth inning that pushed Boston over the top with the game tied at five runs.
Verdugo credited Cora with helping set the tone in the dugout.
“I just remember [Cora] is coming up and down the dugout,” Verdugo said. “It’s all right, we got a whole game, eight more innings.”
After the game on Friday, Rays manager Kevin Cash did not mince words while describing Boston’s offensive performance.
“They kind of put it to us,” Cash said.
The Red Sox win guaranteed that Tampa Bay and Boston will face off for at least two more games, and in the process proving Cora’s optimism correct.
“We’re all happy now,” Verdugo said. “Riding high.”
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