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Red Sox, Dodgers ride strong two-strike approaches to World Series

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It’s no surprise then that both clinching games of the league championship series turned on home runs. In the American League, Rafael Devers hit a 98 mph fastball at the top of the strike zone from Justin Verlander and lofted it into the Crawford Boxes in left field at Houston’s Minute Maid Park, a ball that would have been a home run at just one park in the majors. Right time, right place, and three runs for the Red Sox in a 4-1 Game 5 victory over the Astros.

In the National League Championship Series, the Dodgers, who led the NL and ranked second in the majors with 235 home runs, had spent six games trying to hit home runs without much success. They had hit just three, but managed nonetheless to split those six games. In the finale, Cody Bellinger hit a two-run homer and Yasiel Puig belted a three-run shot and the Dodgers won 5-1 to return to the World Series.

There is little doubt that Boston’s two-strike approach against Houston was a key to winning that series. The Astros had one of the best pitching staffs in history, had struck out the most batters ever with the highest strikeout rate ever. In the regular season, the Astros struck out 28.5 percent of the batters they faced. In the ALCS, that figure was just 19.4 percent. The Red Sox, in fact, struck out at a lower rate than they did in the regular season (19.9 percent), and they were the third-toughest team to strike out in the regular season.nike nfl jerseys cheap china

“I think it’s been a good [approach],” Xander Bogaerts said before Game 5. “Not a lot of home runs. I think if you go big or go home, we would probably go home. … I think the big approach, it’s not the best one against these guys, just try to single, put up good at-bats and get walks and hopefully the next guy can do damage.”4

The Red Sox had 40 hits in the series — 18 with two strikes. In 23 plate appearances with a full count, they hit .364/.696/.455 — drawing 12 walks against just four strikeouts. Some of the key hits in the series came with two strikes. Ian Kinsler had singled on a 2-2 fastball ahead of Devers’ home run in Game 5. In Game 4, Devers’ two-run single in the first came on an 0-2 curveball from Charlie Morton. In the third inning of that game, Bogaerts doubled in a run on a 3-2 pitch. In the seventh, Bogaerts and Steve Pearce both walked on 3-2 pitches from Ryan Pressly and Brock Holt later walked with the bases loaded.

“We live in an era that hitting .210 and 30 home runs and 60 RBIs is becoming acceptable,” Red Sox manager Alex Cora said before Game 5. “We don’t mind strikeouts, but not in certain situations. We want them to put the ball in play. They’ve been having a very humbling approach throughout the series, staying up the middle, fouling off pitches and going the other way, putting the ball in play with two strikes.”

As Cora said, you’re giving yourself a chance if you put the ball in play. That was the case with Devers’ base hit in Game 4. It was just a soft looper into left-center, but he didn’t strike out.cheap nfl nike jerseys from china

“We put together a ton of good at-bats,” Holt said. “That’s kind of how we’ve beat good pitchers this whole year, not necessarily singling them to death, but not trying to go up there every time and hit a three-run homer. Put together a good at-bat, you work a walk, you hit a single, a sac fly, that wears guys down. Then you get the big blow. The more guys you can get on base, the chances are you can get a big blow instead of a solo home run.”

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