By: Chad Jones
The Red Sox completely outplayed the Astros to capture their fourth American League pennant since the 2004 season. The unthinkable happened throughout the series.
David Price won the clinching game in Houston; shutting down a juggernaut Astros lineup and out-dueling Justin Verlander. Those are facts literally no one, not even Price’s dog Astro, saw coming. It is true he did not face as much pressure because the Sox were up 3-1 and had the luxury of potential Games 6 and 7 at Fenway.
However, nothing can ever be taken for granted against Jose Altuve, George Springer, Alex Bregman, and the rest of the defending World Champs. With Sale’s health in question, and the always palms sweaty, knees weak, arms heavy, feelings that accompany a Game 7, Price and the Sox wanted to end the series in 5. Did Price ever deliver.
He set the tone and looked comfortable on the mound from the gitgo. Price never allowed more than one baserunner in an inning, while the Astros only had one batter reach second off Price. The walks, which had been a major issue for Price in the postseason this year, were nonexistent.
Price gave no Astro a free base in his six scoreless innings. He was keeping Houston off balance throughout, befuddling them with a “Bugs Bunny” changeup. He also avoided his infamous, patented disaster playoff inning that seems to follow him to the mound every October start. Price managed to save his most memorable highlight of the night when he was lifted after the sixth. When Nathan Eovaldi struck out Alex Bregman in the bottom of the eighth, Price was shouting at Bregman to “Post that!”.
He finally came through for the Red Sox in a big time game. He completely out-pitched Verlander, one of the best postseason pitchers of this generation. He deserves a lot of credit for that. Hopefully for the Red Sox and their fans he has that proverbial monkey off his back and will be ready to answer the bell in game 2 of the Fall Classic.
J.D. Martinez and Rafael Devers supplied all the offense Boston needed. Martinez homered with one out in the third, after Verlander thought he struck out Martinez with a slider the previous pitch. 1-0 Boston after two and a half innings. The biggest blow to Houston came off the bat of Devers following a Moreland double and a Kinsler single. With two on, nobody out, Devers smacked a ball into the Crawford Boxes, ballooning Boston’s lead to 4-0. The Red Sox seemed to take all the air out of Houston once Devers crossed the plate. (The Astros video team must have gotten a great look at Dever’s swing).
After Marwin Gonzalez whacked a solo shot into the Crawford Boxes with two outs in the seventh off of Matt Barnes, Game 3 starter Nathan Eovaldi jogged in from the bullpen.
Eovaldi, who had been the Red Sox best pitcher in the postseason, continued his uncanny impersonation of Curt Schilling. After going six innings on Tuesday, Alex Cora asked him to get four outs after just one day of rest. Eovaldi promptly retired four of the five Houston hitters he faced. (The only batter to reach was Springer, who hit .381 in the series)
Kimbrel came on for the save in the ninth with the Sox leading 4-1. He had been shaky if you are being positive, and a near walking disaster that almost ruined the team’s chance to getting to the World Series if you are more negative. Kimbrel looked much more like the Kimbrel Red Sox fans had been used to watching. He struck out Carlos Correa and Marwin Gonzalez in between a Yuli Gurriel walk. He then got Tony Kemp to fly out to deep left field, where Andrew Benintendi had a much easier, less stressful, catch to clinch the 27th out.
This team under Alex Cora never seemed to panic. They outplayed the Astros in every facet; two-out runs, bullpen, starting pitching, role player production, defense, etc. The Astros under A.J. Hinch made a few bonehead plays. Correa missed second base on a potential double play, Kemp was thrown out by Betts with his team down three runs. They looked like the Red Sox in the 2016 and 2017 playoffs. (As we all know, that is far from a complement).
What is amazing is that the Red Sox did not get great production from their three best hitters, or three best pitchers. Betts finished the series batting just .217, but did manage to score five runs. Benintendi hit a mere .208 and struck out seven times. However he made the great catch to win Game 4. Martinez ended the series with a .278 average, 3 RBI and a homer.
Sale pitched just four innings in the entire series. In the four Red Sox wins, the pitching staff got 108 outs with their best pitcher accounting for zero of them. Kimbrel managed to give New England a collective heart attack without ever pitching in a one run game.
David Price ended the series with a nice 3.38 era in 10 2/3 innings. He was very good, but definitely not dominant. So how did the Red Sox manage four straight wins, three in Houston, against the team that knocked them out of the playoffs and went on to win the World Series the year before? They got contributions at vital times from players throughout the 25 man roster.
They won because offensive players stepped up in big spots. Devers, Pearce, Bogaerts, and especially Bradley all had their moments. They won because pitchers like Eovaldi, Barnes, Brasier, and Price got key outs in critical situations. They won because Alex Cora stayed calm and trusted his team that won 108 games. They won because they were the better team and they played like it.
Jackie Bradley Jr. took home the ALCS MVP by mashing two home runs, and driving in nine 2-out runs. His batting average was an unimpressive .200, but he found a way to make all three of his hits count.
The Los Angeles Dodgers beat the Milwaukee Brewers in seven games to advance to their second World Series in a row. They are a very good team that has a lot of great players; Manny Machado, Clayton Kershaw, Justin Turner, to name a few. The Dodgers are a legit team that just last year gave Houston all they could handle in their epic seven game series.
However, can anyone picture this Dodger team beating the 2018 Red Sox? Boston just rolled through two 100-win ball clubs that both have better rosters than the Dodgers.
The Red Sox played nearly perfect baseball on the road, ending with a 5-0 record away from Fenway. Yes, “Anything can happen in a seven game series” and “Anybody can get beaten on any given day.” Please continue spewing remarks from the cliché factory.
There is no way, repeat, no way this Red Sox team loses after exercising their first round demons and knocking out the reigning champs. The Dodgers are a very admirable opponent, but this is not about the Dodgers. This is about the best team in baseball showing why they are the best team in the sport. Could the Dodgers win? Yes they could. Will they win? No, no they will not.
The Red Sox just cleaned the clocks of two great teams that are a lot better than the Dodgers. This Red Sox team is oozing confidence, and they would not fear historically great teams like the ‘98 Yankees or the ‘75 Reds. Boston might as well set the parade route and get the boy’s fingers fitted for rings.