By Jesse Cook (Sports Editor)
Chris Sale fired strike three past a sprawling Manny Machado to clinch the Boston Red Sox’ ninth World Series Championship at around 11:15 Sunday night. Sox catcher Christian Vazquez immediately shot up and leapt into Sale’s arms in front of the mound at Dodger stadium. The score read 5-1 and the series ended 4-1.
The Red Sox played statistically one of the greatest seasons in the history of baseball. Not only did they earn the greatest record in team history at 108 games, but they also beat two other 100-game winners on their way to the World Series and then beat the strongest team coming out of the National League.
Game 5 was not an unexciting game, but Red Sox fans are glad that the Dodgers didn’t take them to an excruciating Game 7 like the Chicago Cubs and Cleveland Indians in 2016 or the Houston Astros and Los Angeles Dodgers last year in 2017
It started on a high note for Beantown. Andrew Benintendi singled up the middle off of LA starter Clayton Kershaw. This minor hit was followed by the game winner, a two-run home run from the World Series MVP, Steve Pearce.
David Freese struck some fear into Boston hearts as he hit David Price’s first pitch over the center field wall, but the Dodgers would not score again for the rest of the game, the series, and the 2018 season
Mookie Betts homered in the sixth inning off of Kershaw to increase the Boston lead from 2-1 to 3-1. That was Betts’ first home run this postseason and his first run batted in this World Series.
J.D. Martinez knocked one out the left field stands the next inning to put Boston up 4-1 and Pearce homered again in the eighth to make it 5-1. That would be the final score.
Both Price and Kershaw pitched seven innings, both struck out five, but Price allowed four fewer hits at three and three fewer runs at one. Joe Kelly pitched the eighth for the Sox and allowed zero runs while Pedro Baez took the hill for LA and allowed the second Pearce homer.
Kenley Jansen dealt to Boston for the top of the ninth and allowed zero runs, but Boston was excited to focus on their defense for the bottom of the inning.
Sale took the hill to face the middle of the LA batting order, Justin Turner, Max Muncy, and Machado. Kelly had struck out the side in the eighth, and Sale followed in suit. He finally caught Machado to end it on a nasty curveball low and inside. Machado had no idea where it was.
What gave Boston the edge over Los Angeles? For one, Alex Cora’s management style was very different from that of Dave Roberts. Cora based his coaching on excitement and encouragement, while Roberts told his players that he didn’t think they had it in them for a specific night. Cora put his struggling players on the field with rightfully placed confidence in them. Players simply felt better under the rookie manager, Cora.
Boston’s offense was also simply better. They needed their top four hitters to step up and they finally did. Home runs from three of the first four batters in the order is exactly what they needed and that won it.
Also, Brock Holt started a few rallies, Eduardo Nunez hustled his heart out, Vazquez and Sandy Leon started to finally hit well, Xander Bogaerts started getting on base again, and Mitch Moreland and Jackie Bradley Jr. remembered how to drive the ball over the fence.
Rafael Devers deserves his own paragraph. He made an incredible play in the field, diving down the third base line, in Game 4 to take a line drive hit away from the jogging Machado and he had important hits to keep runs alive throughout the entire postseason.
This shouldn’t however detract from Price’s masterful performance, dominating with his deceptive breaking pitches. Not to mention that Nathan Eovaldi pitched his heart out in Game 3 and allowed zero runs in his appearances in Games 1 and 2. Craig Kimbrel also stopped tipping his pitches and Sale recovered from whatever stomach condition ailed him during the ALCS versus the Astros.
Price had an incredible rebound from his rocky start in Game 2 of the ALDS at home at Fenway Park against the New York Yankees.
The Fenway crowd opening this Series had some good omens, as well: New England Patriots’ legendary head coach, Bill Belichick, read the thrilling opening monologue and Boston music great James Taylor sung one of the best renditions of the United States’ national anthem sung at a sporting event. Before Game 5, Boston Celtics’ Hall of Famer Larry Bird and Los Angeles Lakers’ Hall of Famer and Dodgers’ co-owner Magic Johnson had an opening debate that resulted in the Boston man, Bird, getting the last word.
Despite the 18 inning Game 3 debacle, the stars aligned for Boston.
After 162 regular season games, 14 postseason games, five games in the World Series, nine innings of Game 5, three outs in the bottom of the ninth, and three strikes on the last batter, Boston was more than ready to take home another trophy.
Congratulations to the 2018 World Series Champions, the Boston Red Sox!