BOSTON — Andrew Benintendi’s fifth-inning plate appearance in the Red Sox’s 4-2 win over the Los Angeles Dodgers on Wednesday is unlikely to show up in many postseason highlight montages, but it nonetheless keyed Boston's victory in Game 2 of the World Series.
The lefty-hitting Benintendi does not typically fare well against southpaws, but with two on and two out in the frame, he worked a full count against tiring Dodgers starter Hyun-Jin Ryu and fouled off a pair of good curveballs before taking a fastball well off the plate for ball four.
The walk forced Ryu from the game and extended a two-out rally that did not end before three runs crossed the plate and the Red Sox had established the 4-2 lead that would hold as the game’s final score.
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All the Dodgers needed was one more strike against Benintendi to escape the jam, and the 24-year-old outfielder’s approach and success in the situation highlights a crucial factor in Boston’s 2018 postseason run: The Red Sox score lots of two-out runs.
All four of their runs came with two outs. Nine of their 12 runs to date in the World Series have come with two outs. More than half of the runs they’ve scored this October have come with two outs.
“We just lock it in, and try to be a tough out basically,” Benintendi explained after the game. “Anything to keep the line moving. He threw some good pitches. I was able to get a couple swings off, foul 'em off — and all that was with two outs. It's kind of that next-guy-up mentality.”
The primary reason the Red Sox score a lot of runs with two outs is that the Red Sox score a lot of runs. They had the Majors’ best offense during the regular season, and while they did lead the circuit in two-out runs, they also led in one-out runs. But there are particulars to the Boston offensive attack that foster the two-out rallies.
“Putting the ball in play in those situations is very important,” manager Alex Cora said. “I said it a few days ago, and I'll say it again: We live in an era that .210 (batting average) with 30 home runs and 70 RBI is acceptable — it's a good season — and we don't believe that.
"There's certain situations that a strikeout is not just an out. And we put them in play, and did again tonight, and that's why we won the game.”
The Red Sox struck out in 19.9% of their plate appearances in the regular season, the third lowest mark in the majors. No big-league team fanned less frequently with two outs and runners in scoring position than Boston did in 2018. The Red Sox had the league’s most hits, most walks, and lowest strikeout rate in two-out situations.
Like every team these days, the Red Sox have their share of strikeout-prone hitters, but unlike most, theirs seem to maintain the ability to put the ball in play when it means an opportunity to put runs on the board.
“It's just our approach,” said Mookie Betts. “We don't give away outs, don't give away strikes. It's one of those things where you just have to battle. One thru nine, we all battle. We just grind out at-bats.”
“We grind out at-bats and keep passing it to the next guy,” Steve Pearce said. “Everybody feeds off it, we ride the momentum, and somebody delivers the big hit.”
The Red Sox’s ability to score with two outs now has them two wins shy of a championship. They’ll go for their seventh consecutive postseason win on Friday in Game 3 at Dodger Stadium.
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