HOUSTON -- Despite hitting 21 home runs as a 21-year-old during the regular season, it took an ankle injury to Eduardo Nunez for Rafael Devers to start back-to-back games in the postseason. Nunez jammed his ankle running through first base in ALCS Game 3 on Tuesday, which paved the way for Devers to play in Games 4-5.
Now the Boston Red Sox are going to the 2018 World Series, and it's because Devers was the hero on offense.
Thursday night, Devers clocked a three-run home run against Justin Verlander that proved to be the difference in Boston's Game 5 win over the Houston Astros at Minute Maid Park ( ). Devers turned around a 98.2 mph fastball and dropped it into the Crawford Boxes in left field.
"Devers hit it decent. It's unfortunate that it went out. He put a decent swing on it," said Verlander. "It's not until I get back in here and see the exit velo that I knew it wasn't hit that well. I thought he hit it well ... That's tough. Tough to deal with."
"It was a gut punch," Astros manager A.J. Hinch added. "... That's a little bit of bad luck in the ballpark, and a really good at-bat by Devers. He got the barrel to it, and he's a strong kid. The ball was elevated, and the ball carries to the right part of park, and that's baseball. That's the game."
Devers went 1 for 4 with that three-run home run in Game 5 and he is now 7 for 20 (.350) with seven RBI in six postseason games, four of which are starts. He's driven in five runs in 11 plate appearances since Nunez hurt his ankle. Between this postseason and last postseason, Devers joined a very exclusive club. He is one of only five players with three postseason homers before his 22nd birthday.
Pretty good company, eh? If Devers is going to join the "four postseason homers before his 22nd birthday" club, he's going to have to do it soon. He turns 22 on Wednesday, on the day of Game 2 of the World Series. That game will be played at Fenway Park against either the Brewers or Dodgers.
. Neither Nunez nor Devers is a good defender at third base, but Devers is really bad whereas Nunez is just bad. Nunez is 3 for 16 (.188) with several costly defensive misplays in the postseason. Devers had his own costly misplay in Game 3, remember.
The difference between Nunez and Devers is what you saw in Game 5. It's the offense. Or at least the offensive potential. Devers inside-outed a 98.2 mph fastball for an opposite field three-run home run and there is pretty much no chance Nunez can do that. There's a reason Devers was one of the top prospects in baseball going into last season. It's because he can do things like what he did in Game 5.
It's unclear what the Red Sox will do at third base in the World Series -- the Dodgers have a very left-handed rotation and that could send Devers back to the bench, assuming those two clubs meet -- but Nunez's ankle could make that decision for them. If it does, they are in good hands with Devers. He may be an adventure defensively, but, when he's in the batter's box, he can change a game with one swing, and he did exactly in Game 5 on Thursday.