Eduardo Nunez Hit a Huge Homer, Because Have You Heard of Baseball?
The light-hitting Red Sox utility man blew the doors off Game 1 of the World Series with a three-run home run, because baseball is weird.
Eduardo Nunez hit a pinch-hit three-run home run in the bottom of the 7th inning in Game 1 of the World Series last night, because have you heard of the sport of baseball?
Because of the anything’s-possible waywardness of the sport, managers be managin’. Data is plumbed, matchups are exploited, relievers and pinch-hitters are tossed about willy-nilly in the thrum of the playoffs. And so, with the Boston Red Sox holding a 6–5 lead over the Los Angeles Dodgers late in Game 1, Boston’s Rafael Devers came to the plate against L.A.’s Pedro Baez. Through no fault of Baez, two runners were aboard, and Devers had crushed right-handers in the playoffs. Dodgers manager Dave Roberts brought in lefty Alex Wood to speak to Devers’s splits — Red Sox manager obliged and substituted utility man Nunez.
This is what makes baseball so fun: these extremely thorough, data-based, and micromanaged decisions get made, and then everyone — including the managers who make them — has to watch through splayed fingers how they gruesomely play out.
Everyone involved, it seems, made the “correct,” if small-margined, choice in this inning. Wood is awesome against lefties; Devers is…not awesome against lefties. Alex Cora’s Nunez substitution represented the tiniest silver lining of hope: on the roster, only Devers himself had posted a worse OBP than Nunez’s .297 against left-handed pitching. So there’s your sliver of hope, I guess? On the downside is Nunez’s waning gibbous moon of awfulness, as only Toronto’s Yangervis Solarte stood in Nunez’s way of being the worst third-baseman in the league. Just two of Nunez’s nine over-the-fence variety home runs came off southpaws. This was not a recipe for an Instagrammable October meal — this was spaghetti on the wall.
And on the second pitch, Nunez made lots of Boston-area humans very happy.
Alex Wood was not as happy.
Nunez’s blast gave the Red Sox a four-run lead, which they easily protected to win 8–4. Boston now simply needs to win half of the next six games to win their fourth World Series in fifteen years. They’ll likely face more Dodger-caused troubles than they faced in Game 1; likely they’ll get fewer Nunez bombs as well.
In the season’s first three months, he languished against lefites, hitting .200/.259/.267 with a 40 wRC+; he played woeful defense, and generally set the morose tone against which made his home run more jovial. Since that awful start though, in only 57 plate appearances, Nunez actually managed a .339/.351/.446 with a 114 wRC+ against southpaws. Whatever strange bounces and bobbles happen from here on out, the man once viewed as next-in-line behind Derek Jeter in New York has had his October moment — just for the wrong team.