Baseball expert and Editor-in-Chief Justin Guglielmetti reports on the 2018 World Series.
Just 15 years ago, the Boston Red Sox labored under the reputation of being one of the most tortured franchises in all of sports. They wasted the careers of numerous all-time greats and suffered an 86-year World Series drought following their trade of Babe Ruth, the best player in baseball history. Now, with their victory over the Los Angeles Dodgers last Saturday, they have officially become the game’s most successful team of the 21st century.
Staff ace Chris Sale took the mound in the bottom of the ninth with his team up 5-1 and quickly struck out the first two batters he faced. When Manny Machado, perhaps the closest thing MLB currently has to a villain, took to the plate, Sale’s jaw clenched and his eyes narrowed.
The odds were already stacked against LA coming back and forcing a Game 6, but seeing Sale’s face up close on the TV removed any doubt. With a devastating slider that started off near the middle of the plate and ended up around Machado’s shins, he struck out the side to give the Sox their fourth World Series ring since 2004, and ninth overall.
Most pundits saw this as a battle between baseball’s best — Boston’s franchise-record 108-win team going up against a Dodgers club that captured its sixth straight NL West crown and second consecutive National League pennant (despite underachieving in the regular season). And though it wasn’t quite a legendary thriller up to the level of the last two World Series, there was still more than enough drama and excitement to be had.
Despite taking the series in five games and outscoring their opponents 29-15, the Red Sox trailed at some point in every game save the deciding one. They hit well in situations with runners in scoring position and two outs as they had all season, and were consistently able to capitalize on shaky performances from the Dodgers’ pitching staff.
The highlight of the series was the epic Game Three, which, at 18 innings and more than 7 hours, was the longest contest in World Series history. Light-hitting center fielder Jackie Bradley, fresh off an MVP performance in the ALCS, tied the game in the eighth with a towering shot off Dodgers closer Kenley Jansen.
The Sox then went up in the 13th, but failed to secure the win in the bottom of the frame when an Ian Kinsler throwing error from second base resulted in an unearned run. Max Muncy mercifully ended the night with a homer to left-center, spoiling an outstanding relief outing from Nathan Eovaldi.
Steve Pearce, a midseason trade acquisition from the Toronto Blue Jays, was named MVP of the series after batting .333/.500/1.167 with three homers and eight RBIs. Pitching stars included Eovaldi and David Price, who shed his reputation as a postseason choker with a 1.98 ERA and .951 WHIP in 13.2 innings.
For the Dodgers, 2011 World Series David Freese gave his best effort, hitting .417/.500/.833, but received little support from the rest of the lineup. Cody Bellinger, the NLCS MVP, was particularly disappointing, accumulating just one hit in 16 at-bats. Clayton Kershaw, still the greatest pitcher of the new millennium, continued his streak of playoff disappointments, racking up an ERA of 7.36 over his two starts and losing the deciding fifth game.
Looking ahead to 2019 and beyond, both organizations face the prospect of losing key components of their pennant-winning teams. Machado and Eovaldi will enter free agency seeking big paydays, and All-Star Red Sox closer Craig Kimbrel has until Nov. 12 to accept or reject Boston’s qualifying offer. Kershaw has already signed a three-year $93 million contract extension with the Dodgers.