In recent history, the Boston Red Sox have been spoiled with postseason heroes. Remember Dave Roberts, who now manages the Los Angeles Dodgers, when he stole second base during Game 4 of the ALCS? Or David Ortiz, when he hit walk-off home runs in Games 4 and 5 of the 2004 ALCS? And who can forget Big Papi’s Grand Slam in Game 2 of the 2013 ALCS against the Detroit Tigers?
In Game 1 of the 2018 World Series, another unlikely hero would emerge for the Red Sox. Up 5-4 in the bottom of the seventh with two outs and runners on first and second, Red Sox manager Alex Cora decided to pinch hit with Eduardo Nunez. Given the team’s successes with two outs, Nunez would add to this narrative, blasting the ball over the Green Monster for a three-run home run. The Red Sox would take Game 1 over the Dodgers 8-4, largely due to the magic produced at the plate by Nunez.
Eduardo Nunez Becomes Latest World Series Hero
Nunez Overcomes Declining Season with Stellar Postseason
At 31-years old, it appeared that Nunez’s performance was starting to decline. The infielder who is a career .279 hitter with 56 home runs and 289 RBIs has traveled to four different teams in his career. His latest stop is with Boston after a brief stint with the San Francisco Giants.
This past season, Nunez struggled to play up to expectations. He hit .265/.289/.388 with 10 home runs and 44 RBIs. This landed the third baseman a permanent spot on the bench.
But coming in as a pinch hitter, Nunez has a newfound identity on this prolific Red Sox offense. Despite not having the highest batting average, Nunez’s hits have been timely. In the ALDS against the New York Yankees, Nunez recorded an RBI Double. In the ALCS against the Houston Astros, the pinch hitter recorded a hit and got on base with a walk. His solid at-bats in a pinch have impressed Cora thus far in the playoffs, especially given Nunez’s recent injury history.
“Tough off-season for him. We got lucky that he was out there late in the off-season, and we were able to sign him,” said Cora. “And he’s been great. He wasn’t a hundred percent throughout the season. He struggled defensively, we know that, at second, but he always had a positive attitude. And he’s one of the leaders in the clubhouse. For him to show up today and put up a big swing, that’s his first World Series swing, it’s very gratifying to see him do that.”
Nunez’s home run similar Kirk Gibson‘s in 1988 World Series
30 years ago, during the 1988 World Series, postseason history would be made between the Dodgers and Oakland A’s. The Dodgers would pinch hit a hobbled Kirk Gibson. In what would become one of the most iconic moments in World Series history, Gibson hit a walk-off home run off dominant closer Dennis Eckersley, giving the Dodgers a 1-0 series lead.
Nunez hit .182 as a pinch hitter this season. In 44 plate appearances, the infielder only got one extra-base hit. Sometimes, the baseball gods are friendly to a worthy perennial powerhouse. The 108-win Red Sox disposed quickly of the Yankees and Astros, each of whom had over 100 wins. Coming into Game 1, the Dodgers bullpen had a collective 1.30 ERA and 0.96 WHIP this postseason.
But the Red Sox lineup dug deep and made a strong Dodgers bullpen look weak. Just ask Eduardo Nunez, who will be Boston’s favorite citizen leading up to the first pitch of Game 2.
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