Be­grudg­ing the grudge

Mo­ti­va­tion there in re­match with Astros

Boston Herald - - RED SOX 2018 - Michael Sil­ver­man Twit­ter: @MikeSil­ver­manBB

Hold­ing grudges is not in the best in­ter­ests for any­one’s long-term health.

But in a post­sea­son base­ball se­ries? The big­ger the chip on the shoul­der, the bet­ter for ev­ery­body.

The power of a grudge is never to be un­der­es­ti­mated, and this Red SoxAstros se­ries con­tains enough edgi­ness to make sure the “mu­tual re­spect” and “two best teams in base­ball” and “Alex Cora loves ev­ery­body on the Astros and vice versa” sto­ry­lines don’t soak us all with syrupy sweet­ness. Start with J.D. Martinez. At the end of spring train­ing in 2014, the Astros ran out of faith and pa­tience with Martinez and re­leased him just af­ter he told them he spent all win­ter re­vamp­ing his swing. They didn’t believe him. The Tigers did and the rest is his­tory — 171 home runs and .958 OPS over his past five sea­sons.

Martinez has said he has got­ten over us­ing the Astros re­lease as mo­ti­va­tional fuel. But he sure didn’t deny that it’s brought him to this stage, mak­ing it eas­ier to use this se­ries as the ul­ti­mate op­por­tu­nity for a big fat “told you so.”

“How much does it drive me? I think my fail­ures in Hous­ton is what made me who I am,” said Martinez yes­ter­day. “I think it’s given me that drive, that drive to keep work­ing, be­cause you never know what can hap­pen type deal. As far as it be­ing Hous­ton, no, re­ally, I mean, I learned a lot from Hous­ton. And you know what, it made me who I am and there’s re­ally no an­i­mos­ity there.

“In a sense they did me a fa­vor by al­low­ing me to leave and go­ing to play on an­other team. And if it wasn’t for that I prob­a­bly wouldn’t be here right now. Who knows where I would have been?”

That’s easy to an­swer. Martinez would be ex­actly where he is now, in Bos­ton, ex­cept in an Astros uni­form and as their DH, if they had known who they had on their hands.

Then there’s Chris Sale. In his post­sea­son de­but last year, Sale pitched like David Price and got pum­meled by the Astros in Game 1 for seven runs and three homers. He re­deemed him­self some­what in Game 4 as a re­liever, and then ac­quit­ted him­self well in this year’s Di­vi­sion Se­ries as a starter and re­liever against the New York Yan­kees. But what about pay­back for Game 1 last year?

“Like I’ve been say­ing the whole time, just keep play­ing the same game, not try­ing to reach for more, not try­ing to be bet­ter than I am,” said Sale. “We shouldn’t play as a team like that ei­ther.”

The Red Sox seem to be a lit­tle touchy about so many in the me­dia doubt­ing their chances af­ter the Yan­kees took Game 2. But what rubbed more salt in their imag­i­nary wounds was when the Yanks’ Aaron Judge walked past the Red Sox club­house at Fen­way Park with a speaker play­ing “New York, New York” af­ter Game 2.

Barely no­ticed the slight was their mantra, but then what song did the Red Sox turn up high at the be­gin­ning of their Di­vi­sion Se­ries clinch­ing party in the Yan­kees club­house? You guessed it.

It’s doubt­ful if the Astros have some­body cheeky enough to do what Judge did, but what song would the Sox play in case of a vic­tory over Hous­ton?

“No songs,” said Mookie Betts, be­fore chang­ing his mind and goad­ing Martinez, telling him “You should know the song.”

Martinez re­mem­bered with a laugh.

“What’s their song, ‘Deep in the Heart of Texas’? I don’t know. Prob­a­bly not.”

Maybe not a song. But mo­ti­va­tion. You find it where you can and you use it. Some­times it works.

“There’s been a few things in the play­offs that I lived through it,” said man­ager Alex Cora. “Cleve­land de­cided (in 2007 ALCS vs. the Sox) to bring (Sox pitcher Josh) Beck­ett’s ex-girl­friend (to sing the na­tional an­them) in Game 5, I think it was. That didn’t work out. And I don’t know about the song. But that’s for the play­ers to talk about. I know they had a great time af­ter we clinched to play the mu­sic. I don’t know. It was funny.

“But I think at the end if you need mo­ti­va­tion at this time, you’re play­ing the wrong sport. You’ve got a chance to win four games and go to the World Se­ries and win eight games and get a ring and, like I joked with them, but it’s true, that check in De­cem­ber is a good one. You know?”

Plain old re­venge for last year’s Di­vi­sion Se­ries should, in the­ory, be more than enough of a grudge.

“It’s what you play for,” said Cora. “Your off­sea­son work­outs and then spring train­ing and then 162 games and you put your­self in a sit­u­a­tion that you ei­ther win 11 games in Oc­to­ber ... and you can say that you play for the best team in base­ball. That’s the only mo­ti­va­tion you need. And our guys are locked in with that. They un­der­stand that.”

STAFF PHOTO BY CHRISTO­PHER EVANS

NO LOOK­ING BACK: J.D. Martinez, who was re­leased by the Astros in 2014, hopes to do dam­age against his for­mer team as the Red Sox DH start­ing tonight.

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