The bottom of the ninth inning was a microcosm of the 2018 World Series. The Boston Red Sox put the best they had to offer on the mound in Chris Sale, the lanky southpaw with a slider that cuts like a Benihana chef. The Los Angeles Dodgers, trailing four runs, had the heart of their lineup up to bat, looking for a miracle to take the series back to Boston.
Justin Turner whiffed at a slider in the dirt. Kike Hernandez swung like a six-year old playing tee-ball. And Manny Machado flailed at a frisbee of a pitch for strike three, crumpled down on one knee, and hung his head as Chris Sale embraced his catcher Christian Vasquez.
The Dodgers had an excellent team this year. And the Boston Red Sox made them look impotent.
No matter how you want to look at this series, the Red Sox outplayed the Dodgers. Starting pitching? 3.62 ERA for Boston, 4.34 for Los Angeles. Offense? The Red Sox outpaced LA in batting average, OBP, and slugging. Bullpen? Despite Kimbrel’s wildness, Boston’s relievers posted a 1.40 ERA; the Dodgers imploded for a 5.48 ERA.
The only game the Dodgers managed to win was Game 3. It took a night where Boston’s stars JD Martinez, Mookie Betts, and Xander Bogaerts went a combined 0-for-18, and LITERALLY THE LONGEST GAME IN WORLD SERIES HISTORY, to take down this team.
Fans in Los Angeles will be looking for someone to blame, to find some excuse why they lost this series. But for all Dave Roberts’ (occasionally ill-advised) machinations, all of Yasiel Puig’s hysterics, and all of Manny Machado’s dirty tricks, the Dodgers didn’t stand a chance.
The Red Sox were too good. And in October, when it really mattered, they were unbeatable.
David Price proved his doubters wrong. This postseason he threw 26 innings with an ERA of 3.46, allowing just a .194 batting average to opposing hitters. In the deciding game of the World Series, he threw seven innings, making just one mistake to David Freese in the bottom of the first. He finished the World Series with two wins, a 1.98 ERA, and a smirk on his face as he addressed the press without the monkey on his back.
“I hold all the cards now,” Price said. “And that feels so good. That feels so good. I can’t tell you how good it feels to hold that trump card. And you guys have had it for a long time. You’ve played that card extremely well. But you don’t have it anymore, none of you do, and that feels really good.”
On the other side, Clayton Kershaw is still searching for his trump card. He toed the rubber in the elimination game, and looked decidedly average. He pitched seven innings, allowing four runs on seven hits–three of them home runs. His postseason ERA stands at 4.32. He gave up more runs yesterday than Madison Bumgarner gave up in the entire 2014 World Series. Kershaw’s ERA in elimination games is an abysmal 6.06. Kershaw is heralded as one of the greatest pitchers of his generation–if not of all time–but his legacy will forever be tarnished by his inability to pitch in October.
With the largest payroll in baseball, some small-market fans are jealously accusing Boston of “buying” a World Series. But the heroes of this team weren’t the big-money stars. Andrew Benitendi ($620,000 this year) racked up six hits and six runs on top of outstanding defense in left field. Joe Kelly and Nathan Eovaldi (a combined $5-million) threw fourteen innings in the World Series, giving up just two runs. Journeyman Steve Pearce, acquired from the Blue Jays for a minor prospect and cash, slugged three homers and 8 RBI en route to winning the MVP.
The Dodgers came in banking on their enviable depth to dispatch the Red Sox. But while the Red Sox leaned on their deep roster, the Dodgers used it as a crutch. Dave Roberts didn’t start Max Muncy or Cody Bellinger in either game in Boston, keeping them on the bench for fear of the Red Sox southpaws. In their place Roberts started Brian Dozier, Chris Taylor, and Kike Hernandez–none of them got a hit in Games 1 or 2. Star third baseman Justin Turner and utilityman David Freese played well, but the rest of the Dodgers offense–including blockbuster acquisition Manny Machado–were absent for much of the series.
The World Series displayed two sides of the same coin. One team triumphant in victory, the other shaking their head and wondering what more they can do to finally win the big one.
The 2018 Boston Red Sox have already taken their place in the pantheon of baseball history. They won more games than any other team in Boston’s 117-year history. With the way they scythed through quality opposition in the postseason, they have a claim to be considered among the best baseball teams of all time. Under the leadership of Alex Cora and with a solid young core led by Mookie Betts, Andrew Benitendi, and Xander Bogaerts, Boston is poised to dominate the AL East for years to come.
On the other side of the country, uncertainty reigns. The Dodgers have yet to pick up the extension on Dave Roberts’ contract, and his questionable decision-making this postseason might put his job in peril. Manny Machado is a free agent, and seems likely to depart the sunshine of Southern California. And Clayton Kershaw, the face of the franchise, the most recognizable pitcher of his generation, has yet to decide on his two-year player option. If he leaves, it will mark a break from the last 10 years of baseball history in Los Angeles.
The 2018 Dodgers were a great baseball team, built with the right mix of stars and role players and led by a competent and capable manager. They just had the misfortune of running into the greatest team Boston has ever had.
As Manny Machado fell to his knee next to home plate, and Christian Vasquez raced towards the mound in glee, the obvious became official: the Red Sox, the best team in baseball all season long, have the World Series ring to prove it.