Nine moments that fueled the Red Sox championship season

Mark TownsendYahoo Sports Contributor
Yahoo Sports

The Boston Red Sox were the kings of baseball in 2018. They left no doubt about that Sunday night in Los Angeles by wrapping up the franchise’s fourth World Series championship since 2004.

Boston won a franchise record 108 games during the regular season. Yet some people still thought there were flaws that would prevent them from going all the way. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t one of them.

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When you’re wrong, you tip your cap to those who proved you wrong. The Red Sox did that over and over again. Especially in October. The New York Yankees were no match in the ALDS. Boston won that series in four games. The 2017 World Series champion Houston Astros? Boston took care of them in five games in the ALCS.

By the time they got to the Los Angeles Dodgers in the World Series, there was no stopping the Red Sox. The loss in the marathon Game 3 was only a blip on the radar as Boston rebounded and continued dominating to win the World Series in five games.

The Boston Red Sox celebrated their ninth World Series championship with a Game 5 win against the Los Angeles Dodgers. (AP)
The Boston Red Sox celebrated their ninth World Series championship with a Game 5 win against the Los Angeles Dodgers. (AP)

The biggest moments from Boston’s championship season undoubtedly happened during the postseason. They’re also the freshest in our minds. We’ll certainly touch on several of them here. But we’d also like to celebrate the Red Sox entire brilliant season with an extended look back. So here they are, the nine biggest reasons (to match the franchise’s nine World Series titles), whether they be plays, performances, signings or trades, that fueled the Red Sox championship season.

David Price goes from goat to hero in the postseason

The Red Sox left-hander is proof that narratives can change quickly. Having entered October with a pretty much disastrous postseason history, Price exorcised his demons with a string of excellent outings as a starter and a reliever. Along the way, Price notched his first three career playoff victories after starting 0-9. The biggest came in the World Series clincher, as Price limited the Dodgers to one run over seven innings.

He went from being the guy we uncomfortably joked about finding ways to mess up in October, to being Alex Cora’s go-to man even over Chris Sale. There is no better story than that.

Andrew Benintendi’s incredible catch saves ALCS Game 4

It wasn’t a season saver, but it was one of the most important plays of the entire postseason.

Andrew Benintendi took away at least a game-tying hit from Alex Bregman with his diving catch to end Game 4 of the ALCS. Had the ball skipped past him, then Houston wins, meaning this series would have been guaranteed to go back to Boston. Instead, the Red Sox took a 3-1 series lead, rested up while the Dodgers went to seven games with the Milwaukee Brewers in the NLCS, before winning it all.

The talented outfielder struck again in the World Series too, making a catch that became an instant meme.

J.D. Martinez signing pays off with big season

How did Martinez’s first season in Boston go? How about a near triple crown during the regular season and a home run in the World Series clincher?

Not bad.

Martinez, who signed a five-year, $109 million contract late in the offseason, smashed his career bests in batting average (.330), on-base percentage (.402), RBI (130) and total bases (358). The latter led the entire league. His 43 homers were two off his career mark.

Difference-making power was the reason Boston ultimately brought Martinez in. Difference-making is what they got.

Nathan Eovaldi’s incredible effort in World Series Game 3

The Red Sox lost in 18 innings to the Dodgers on a home run given up by Eovaldi, but his relief outing was so inspiring it brought teammate Rick Porcello to tears.

Eovaldi, who’s had two Tommy John surgeries in his career, was scheduled to start Game 4. Instead, his team needed him in Game 3, so he took the ball for as long as he could while pitching in relief for the third straight game. Though he didn’t win that night, his performance may have helped Boston win Game 4. The longer he went, the more the Dodgers stretched their bullpen. That bullpen crumbled less than 24 hours later.

Here’s hoping Boston, or someone, rewards the free agent-to-be with a nice deal.

Steve Pearce, World Series MVP

Manny Machado was the biggest name to change addresses at the trade deadline this season. He also made the final out of the World Series to end what’s expected to be a short and not overly positive tenure with the Dodgers.

At the same trade deadline, the Red Sox landed Steve Pearce.

We’d say so.

Pearce had a productive finish to the regular season. His finish to the World Series, though, guaranteed he’ll never pay for another meal in Boston. In the series’ final 11 innings, he hit three homers to go along with a bases-clearing double. That he managed to edge out David Price for World Series MVP says all you need to know about his performance.

Jackie Bradley Jr. got hot in October

Though Bradley Jr. is clearly a talented player, especially on defense, the 28-year-old has yet to find any real consistency offensively.

He was consistently productive in October, delivering many of Boston’s biggest postseason hits. He was named ALCS MVP despite having only three hits in the series.

In Game 2 of that series, he hit a bases-clearing double off of Gerrit Cole to give Boston the lead in a 7-5 victory. In Game 3, he broke the game wide open with an eighth-inning grand slam off of Astros reliever Roberto Osuna. Then came the Game 4 heroics, which not only gave Boston the lead, but positioned Bradley Jr. to challenge a Red Sox ALCS record held by David Ortiz. Then in the World Series he smoked a game-tying homer in Game 3.

The postseason is all about surprise heroes. Bradley Jr., like Pearce, fits that description.

Mookie Betts had a quiet postseason, but he’s still the Red Sox MVP. (AP)
Mookie Betts had a quiet postseason, but he’s still the Red Sox MVP. (AP)

Mookie Betts remained awesome

Sure, Betts had a pretty quiet postseason. That was, until his home run in Game 5 of the World Series. But along with Martinez he was the biggest reason Boston dominated the regular season and earned home-field advantage throughout October. Betts won the AL batting title with a .346 average and also led the league with a .640 slugging percentage and 123 runs scored.

What he didn’t contribute offensively during the playoffs, he made up for with a handful of great defensive plays. That includes this brilliant throw. He also did work off the field, providing meals for the homeless after World Series Game 2. We salute all he’s done in 2018.

Chris Sale goes from opening day starter to World Series final out

How rare is that for a pitcher? It’s only happened three times during the divisional era.

In between was another brilliant regular season that should see Sale earn plenty of Cy Young votes. He was 12-4 with 2.11 ERA. He did miss some time due to injury, and he had a couple postseason hiccups. He battled an illness following ALCS Game 1 that seemed to limit his effectiveness the rest of the playoffs. But it was quite fitting to see him back up David Price and take the ball in the ninth inning of the clincher. He ended up striking out Manny Machado to end it.

Franchise record 108 wins

Few teams have stamped their authority on a baseball season like the 2018 Red Sox. The Astros had the championship buzz. Boston squashed that. The Yankees got the headlines after bringing in Giancarlo Stanton. Boston worried about its own business. And they flourished.

From a 21-7 start in April and May that set the stage for 108 wins, to a dominant 11-3 run through the postseason, the Red Sox always controlled their own destiny. By fulfilling that destiny, they belong in a special class. Especially during a time when baseball seems to be evolving not just generationally, or even yearly, but almost daily.

We haven’t mentioned him yet, but team president Dave Dombrowski deserves a lot of credit for putting together a roster not only loaded with talent, but also with unselfish players. Players who were willing to change roles and accept new challenges at the most important times. He also found the perfect man to lead the team in rookie manager Alex Cora. Whatever Cora was selling, the Red Sox were buying in.

Winning 108 games doesn’t happen by accident. Nor does a World Series championship. The Boston Red Sox were the real deal in 2018.

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