BOSTON -- Mookie Betts and J.D. Martinez are the MVP candidates on the Boston Red Sox, but Eduardo Nunez, Andrew Benintendi and Rafael Devers showed in Game 1 of the World Series why the Boston lineup goes much deeper than those two.
Nunez struck the decisive blow in the seventh inning of Boston's 8-4 victory over the Los Angeles Dodgers, coming off the bench to deliver a two-out, three-run home run off Alex Wood to extend a 5-4 lead and give Boston some breathing room in the final two innings.
Nunez's swing was some serious Vladimir Guerrero stuff. After taking a first-pitch curveball below the knees, Wood threw another curve below the knees, and Nunez somehow lined it into the first row above the Green Monster, a 373-foot shot.
He wasn't sure it was going to clear the Monster, though. He thought he had hit it too hard for it to carry over the wall.
"I thought it was going to be a single because the ball [was going] so high, and I know it wasn't a slow ball," he said.
It certainly wasn't a slow ball: The exit velocity of 106.8 mph was the second-hardest-hit ball of the game.
Nunez didn't begin the day thinking he'd turn into a hero in the first World Series game of his career. He came to the ballpark expecting to start against Clayton Kershaw, the Dodgers' lefty ace, but manager Alex Cora instead started Devers, even though that created a lefty-lefty matchup. Nunez then pinch hit for Devers against Wood.
"It's funny. Alex talked to me earlier in the day," Nunez said. "He said, 'Be prepared for something like that. If they bring in a lefty for Devers, you'll pinch hit for him. Make sure you're ready.'
"When [Wood] was warming up in the bullpen, I was ready."
Nunez was ready for Wood's breaking ball, and he noted that he was expecting something inside after watching the previous at-bats against Wood.
"I know he throws a lot of off-speed," Nunez said, adding that with runners on first and second, he knew Wood didn't want to be beaten on a fastball.
Cora knows that every managerial move in the postseason is magnified and dissected. It seems that every decision has worked for him this postseason, however, down to starting Devers and pulling him for Nunez at the right moment.
"I really don't care if they second-guess me," Cora said. "I prepare. We prepare as a group, and you make decisions. And honestly, when I'm done here, I shower, I get in that car, I might get a text [that says], 'Go to the pharmacy, and get some diapers for the kids.'"
Devers, in describing the postseason magic of his manager, said, "To me, he's like a genius."
Meanwhile, before Nunez iced the game, the two youngest players on the Red Sox roster made some playoff history. Benintendi became just the third Red Sox player to register four hits in a World Series game, and Devers drilled an RBI single in the fifth, tying a postseason mark with an RBI in his eighth consecutive start.
The performance from Benintendi, who turned 24 in July, is even more impressive because three of his hits came off Kershaw. He became just the fourth left-handed batter to get three hits off Kershaw in a game, joining Eric Hosmer (2017), Christian Yelich (2015) and Matt Carpenter (2014).
Benintendi said his plan against Kershaw was simple: "Just to get him in the zone and try not to chase. I don't want to say too much. We'll probably face him again. But we swung at strikes for the most part."
Benintendi was involved in all four Red Sox rallies in the first, third, fifth and seventh innings. After Betts led off the bottom of the first with a base hit and stole second, Benintendi lined Kershaw's second pitch, a slider up in the zone, into right field to score Betts. Benintendi took second on Yasiel Puig's ill-advised throw home and scored on Martinez's single.
In the third inning, Benintendi blooped a single into left field. Steve Pearce then forced Benintendi out at second on a ground ball, but Pearce scored on Martinez's double off the center-field wall.
In the fifth, Betts battled Kershaw for a nine-pitch walk, and Benintendi knocked the three-time Cy Young winner from the game by lining Kershaw's first-pitch slider into left-center for a base hit. Betts and Benintendi both came around to score as the Red Sox put up five runs on Kershaw, marking the eighth time in his career that Kershaw has allowed five-plus runs in a postseason start, breaking a tie with Andy Pettitte and Tom Glavine for the most ever.
Finally, against Julio Urias in the seventh, Benintendi blooped a double down the left-field line, and it glanced off the tip of Joc Pederson's glove. He then scored on Nunez's home run. Benintendi joined Jacoby Ellsbury (2007) and Wally Moses (1946) in the four-hit club for the Red Sox in a World Series game.
Devers, who turns 22 on Wednesday, joined Lou Gehrig, Alex Rodriguez and Ryan Howard with an RBI in eight straight postseason starting assignments, going back to the 2017 playoffs. His 13 career postseason RBIs are the second-most for a player before turning 22, one fewer than that of Andruw Jones.