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Who will be Game 2's Nunez? Watch these 5

October 24, 2018

It'd be tough to come up with much more of an unlikely World Series Game 1 hero than Eduardo Nunez, who launched a three-run homer off Alex Wood in the seventh inning to essentially put the game away for Boston. Seven Red Sox players hit more home runs in 2018

It'd be tough to come up with much more of an unlikely World Series Game 1 hero than Eduardo Nunez, who launched a three-run homer off Alex Wood in the seventh inning to essentially put the game away for Boston. Seven Red Sox players hit more home runs in 2018 than Nunez. He hadn't hit a homer since Sept. 1. And Nunez wouldn't have even been batting in the first place had Wood not been put in the game. And there Nunez was, a career .188 postseason hitter, with the biggest moment of the night.
That's the fun of the World Series, isn't it? It can be anyone breaking through on any given night. Who saw David Freese coming in 2011? Who saw Scott Brosius? Pat Borders? Trying to predict who will be the hero in any individual World Series game is a fool's errand.
So let's be that fool! Heading into Game 2, let's take some pseudo-educated guesses about who the unlikely hero might be. You can see scenarios where it's one of these guys. (Or it might just be Mookie Betts or Manny Machado. The stars have their moments, too.)
:: World Series schedule and results ::
Scott Alexander
Jeff Sullivan from Fangraphs argued that the supposed struggles that the Red Sox have with left-handed pitching are perhaps a bit overstated. But there's no question this particular Dodgers roster is constructed to throw as many left-handers as them as possible: Three of their four starters are lefties, and they've got three lefties in the bullpen. Here's the thing about those bullpen lefties, though: Two of them pitched in Game 1. Julio Urias wasn't bad, throwing a perfect sixth inning before giving up a leadoff double to (lefty) Andrew Benintendi in the seventh, who later scored. And Wood, of course, is the guy who gave up the homer to Nunez on his second pitch. That leaves Alexander as the pitcher who is going to have to get some key outs. If this is a close game, Alexander will be counted on against a Benintendi, Mitch Moreland or Rafael Devers (or Nunez pinch-hitting for him again). Alexander won't be the third lefty out of the 'pen; he'll probably be the first.
Austin Barnes
Barnes and fellow catcher Yasmani Grandal have been maligned by Dodgers fans throughout this postseason, and Barnes hasn't exactly distinguished himself, going 2-for-20 so far this October. (He didn't get a single at-bat in the National League Division Series win over Atlanta.) But with lefty David Price on the mound for Game 2, all those lefties in the Red Sox's bullpen and Los Angeles manager Dave Roberts' eagerness to maximize his platoon advantage at every opportunity, you can expect Barnes to be up at some point in a big spot. At 2-for-20, you cannot say that he is not due.
When in doubt, go with the guy who has been an unlikely hero before. Freese had two hits and a strikeout before being pinch-hit for by Grandal in Game 1, but with Price on the mound, you can probably expect him to be in the lineup. You wonder, after some of the gruff Roberts took for pinch-hitting for him in the first place, if he'll stay in there the whole game this time. Freese is beginning to take on a bit of a late-career Gary Gaetti vibe as he gets older, the grizzled vet coming in as a hired gun for a team trying to win a World Series. (Gaetti famously hit a grand slam off Greg Maddux in the 1996 NL Championship Series.) Freese hit five homers in the famed 2011 postseason, and he has hit four since (two for the Cardinals in '12, one for the Angels in '14 and one for the Dodgers in the NLCS). You've got to think he's got one more big one left in him.
Brock Holt
Holt, quietly, had his best season in 2018, setting career highs in homers, OBP and SLG. But in large part because the Dodgers have so many lefties, he didn't get any at-bats in Game 1. (He struggled in the American League Championship Series, too, going 1-for-9 with three strikeouts.) But eventually, we're going to have a Pedro Baez/Ryan Madson/Kenta Maeda/Dylan Floro moment, and Holt remains the primary left-handed bat on Boston's bench. The Red Sox didn't need to go to him in Game 1, but he'll show in Game 2, either to bait Los Angeles into using another of its left-handers or to face one the Dodgers' right-handers in a key spot. We saw in the AL Division Series against the Yankees, where Holt had the second-most RBIs on the roster, that he's primed to come through.
Thomas Pomeranz
For a game they won by four runs, the Red Sox sure did use a lot of pitchers in Game 1: Seven. (Seven! That is one fewer than the Giants used in Game 2 of the 2014 NLDS, and that game went 18 innings.) Basically, Boston used everyone but Richard Hembree and Pomeranz, which means you're almost certain to see them in Game 2. Pomeranz, in particular, seems set to go in a big spot: Like in Game 1, the Red Sox have a lefty starter, which means the Dodgers will have lefties ready to come off the bench. They got away with Eduardo Rodriguez facing just one batter on Tuesday; one doubts that'll be enough in Game 2. Pomeranz has yet to throw a pitch this postseason. He'll be throwing some big ones on Wednesday.

Will Leitch is a columnist for