Red Sox

Some Red Sox players are doing things reminiscent of past postseason stars

Pedro Martinez was masterful against the Indians in 1999.


COMMENTARY

Playing nine innings while making irresistible comparisons between these resilient Red Sox and memorable players of postseasons past …

1. Nate Eovaldi

Comparison: 2007 Josh Beckett (a slightly lesser version)

Anyone who suggests the Red Sox don’t have an ace hasn’t been paying attention.

Eovaldi finished fifth in the AL in pitching Wins Above Replacement (4.6), trailing only the Blue Jays’ Robbie Ray, the Yankees’ Gerrit Cole, and a pair of White Sox, Lance Lynn and Carlos Rodon. He was fourth in innings pitched (182⅓), eighth in ERA (3.75), and led the league in fewest walks per nine innings (1.7).

In his postseason career, spanning eight appearances and four starts, all with the Red Sox, he has a 1.93 ERA and a 0.80 WHIP, with 32 strikeouts in 32⅔ innings. That WHIP is the seventh-best all-time in the postseason, behind Roy Halladay, 1930s Yankee Monte Pearson, ‘67 Impossible Dreamer Jim Lonborg, and three relievers.

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Eovaldi’s overall postseason stats compare to Beckett’s dominating performance in ‘07, when Beckett allowed four earned runs in 30 innings during the Red Sox’ title run.

2. Kiké Hernández

Comparison: 2013 Shane Victorino

I mean, this is the perfect comp, right? Hernández, like Victorino, is a jolt of electricity as a player, and one who inspires and feeds off the crowd.

The loudest I have ever heard Fenway was in the foundation-rocking moments after Victorino’s don’t-worry-’bout-a-thing grand slam in Game 6 of the 2013 ALCS against the Tigers.

Hernández inspired similarly high decibels with his series-clinching sacrifice fly in the ninth inning Monday night, capping an extraordinary final three games of the series in which he went 9 for 16 (.563) with 2 homers, 3 doubles, and 6 RBIs.

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3. Rafael Devers

Comparison: 2007 Manny Ramirez

One swing, he’ll look hurt and on his way to hopeless. The next, he’s launching a baseball deep into the night sky, and all is right again. And no matter what, it’s impossible to look away.

The circumstances were different, but Devers’s home run that staked the Red Sox to a 3-0 lead in Game 4 reminded me a lot of Manny’s walkoff against Francisco Rodriguez and the Angels in Game 2 of the ‘07 ALDS.

In 493 postseason plate appearances, Ramirez posted a .937 OPS. Devers, through 75 postseason PAs, is right in the neighborhood at .925. Good company, I say.

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4. Christian Vazquez

Comparison: 2013 Jarrod Saltalamacchia

It’s pretty much impossible not to compare his walkoff homer in Game 3 to Carlton Fisk’s home run in Game 6 of the 1975 World Series. On the MLB Network broadcast, play-by-play voice Matt Vasgersian (who seems much more at ease working with John Smoltz than A-Rod, don’t you think?) drew the comparison immediately.

But nothing that’s happened yet this postseason belongs in the conversation with Fisk’s homer, an iconic moment in baseball history. The more apt comparison, at least in terms of magnitude if not hit type, is Saltalamacchia’s winning single off Rick Porcello in the ninth inning of Game 2 of the ‘13 ALCS, an inning after David Ortiz’s tying grand slam.

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5. Kyle Schwarber

Comparison: 2013 Mike Napoli

There are a few things they don’t have in common. Schwarber hits lefty, Napoli swung righty. Schwarber is an adventure at first base, Napoli was deceptively smooth. But there’s much more they do have in common: They’re converted catchers, patient at the plate, can hit the baseball a long, long way, and have a great sense of humor about themselves.

If the Red Sox somehow win two more rounds, Schwarber is the odds-on favorite to be the Red Sox player who roams the streets of Boston shirtless, Napoli-style, during the extended hours of celebration.

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6a and 6b. Nick Pivetta and Tanner Houck

Comparisons: 1999 Pedro Martinez, 2018 Nate Eovaldi

Very specific and hopefully obvious comparisons here. Pivetta (four intense shutout innings in Game 3 against the Rays) and Houck (five one-run innings in Game 2 as the Red Sox rallied from a 5-2 deficit for a 14-6 win) delivered brilliant relief performances reminiscent of Pedro’s transcendent six no-hit innings out of the bullpen in Game 5 of the ‘99 ALDS against the Indians and Eovaldi’s six-inning, 97-pitch, staff-saving effort in Game 3 of the ‘18 World Series. Pretty, pretty good company right there.

7. Hunter Renfroe

Comparison: 2003-04 Trot Nixon

Renfroe, like Nixon, is both a good defensive right fielder and an absolute adventure. He made a hat trick of mistakes during the eighth inning Monday night as the Rays rallied to tie the score at 5, and he was so hyped up that he seemed in dire need of some breathing exercises or maybe some yoga.

But Nixon, who never caught much grief for chasing his tail on Derek Jeter’s hit that got the Yankees’ sickening rally started in the eighth inning of Game 7 in 2003, had a knack for the big hit. Bet ya Renfroe does too at some point.

8. Matt Barnes

Comparison: 2004 Curtis Leskanic

One of the trademarks of all four championship teams is that every player on the active roster ends up having a moment of meaningful contribution along the way. Leskanic (occasionally pronounced “Let’s Panic”) got his by retiring the ever-dangerous Bernie Williams with the bases loaded and two outs in the top of the 11th inning during the history-altering Game 4 of the 2004 ALCS.

He pitched the 12th, too, and earned the win on David Ortiz’s walkoff home run.

Barnes, whose stuff abandoned him after an All-Star first half, is going to have to get an important out along the way. It’s how this always goes.

9. Garrett Whitlock

Comparison: Incomparable

You’re telling me the Red Sox have a Rule 5 pick coming off Tommy John surgery who was plucked from the Yankees after scouts liked what they saw on his Instagram pitching videos … and rather than being the next John Trautwein or Mike Trujillo, he has turned into a true relief ace who most recently got six important outs against the Rays in Game 4 on just 15 pitches? Yeah, man, this is a new one.

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