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Red Sox’s Historic Season Ends with World Series Title

MVP+Steve+Pearce.
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Red Sox’s Historic Season Ends with World Series Title

MVP Steve Pearce.

MVP Steve Pearce.

Keith Allison

MVP Steve Pearce.

Keith Allison

Keith Allison

MVP Steve Pearce.

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The Red Sox topped the Dodgers this year four games to one in a World Series that was closer than some of the scores suggested. Coming into the series, there were several intriguing contrasts between the two franchises but also some striking similarities in the rosters. The World Series has never been played in two home parks as far apart from each other as Fenway Park and Dodger Stadium, and the players certainly noticed the thirty-degree temperature difference between Boston and LA. The Red Sox started the season 17-2 and won a franchise record of 108 games, coasting into the postseason with a playoff spot locked up for weeks. Meanwhile, the Dodgers were once 10 games under .500 and needed game 163 to win the division title, and yet the Red Sox run differential was only marginally better than the Dodgers on the year.  Both teams led their leagues in runs scored, with the roster filled with talented young hitters and both had good starting pitchers and bullpens that had performed well in the playoffs but struggled for stretches during the regular season. The two managers, Alex Cora for the Red Sox and Dave Roberts for the Dodgers, were the first people of color to manage against each other in the World Series, as well as also being teammates both on the Dodgers and the Red Sox during their playing careers.

Game 1 featured another intriguing similarity – a matchup of left-handed pitchers Clayton Kershaw and Chris Sale. It was the first World Series game when both starters had once struck out 300 batters in a season, and they are the only active pitchers with more than 1,000 innings pitched and an ERA under 3.00.  But baseball is a sport in which anything can happen, and so perhaps fittingly, both pitchers fizzled, each removed without getting an out in the 5th inning.  In the end, the Red Sox clutch hitting proved decisive in a back and forth game, scoring 6 runs with 2 outs en route to an 8-4 victory. The decisive blow was a 3 run homer by pinch hitter Eduardo Núñez in the 7th inning.

Game 2 was another matchup of lefties, with David Price for the Red Sox taking on Hyun-Jin Ryu for the Dodgers.  Once again, clutch hitting with 2 outs proved the difference for the Red Sox, as they scored three runs after having none on and two out in the 5th inning to take a 4-2 lead they would not relinquish.

Game 3 was a game for the ages – the longest game in World Series history; the Dodgers took an early lead on a Joc Pederson solo home run, and rookie Walker Buehler threw 7 dominant innings before giving way to closer Kenley Jansen.  With 2 outs in the 8th, Jackie Bradley, Jr. continued his torrid postseason run with a solo homer of his own to tie it.  Neither team could push across the go-ahead run in the next few innings, with the key play being Dodgers center fielder Cody Bellinger throwing out Ian Kinsler at the plate in the 10th to save the game for the Dodgers.  Craziness ensued in the 13th, with both teams scoring without hitting it out of the infield.  Brock Holt walked to lead off the inning for the Red Sox, took 2nd on a pitch in the dirt, and scored on a soft grounder that Dodgers pitcher Scott Alexander threw into the outfield.  In the bottom half, Max Muncy also walked to lead off the inning, advanced to 2nd on a foul out that took Núñez into the stands after he made the catch and then scored on a grounder up the middle that Red Sox second baseman Ian Kinsler threw away.  Three more scoreless innings followed before Muncy led off the bottom of the 18th with a walk-off home run to left center field, rendering Nathan Eovaldi’s heroic 97 pitch relief appearance for the Red Sox for naught.

Game 4 remained scoreless for 5 innings before a four-run outburst in the 6th inning capped by a booming Yasiel Puig home run put the Dodgers in line to even up the series.  Rich Hill was dominant, but when the Dodgers turned to their bullpen with one out in the 7th, the dormant Red Sox bats awoke with a fury.  Mitch Moreland hit a 3 run homer with 2 outs in the 7th, and Steve Pearce tied it with a solo shot the next inning.  In the 9th, the Red Sox piled on 5 runs, 4 of them with 2 outs, as the Dodgers bullpen imploded.  The Dodgers came back with a 2 run homer in their half, but it was far too little as a 9-6 victory put the Red Sox a game from the World Championship.

The Red Sox surprised many by going to Price on three days rest instead of Chris Sale to start Game 5, but the gamble paid off, as Price was dominant, pitching into the 8th after allowing a leadoff home run to David Freese.  Clayton Kershaw threw seven strong innings for the Dodgers, but his three mistakes on the day all left the park, as the Red Sox built a 4-1 lead on home runs by Pearce, Mookie Betts, and J.D. Martinez.  A second Pearce home run in the 8th gave the Red Sox their final margin of 5-1.

P earce was a well deserved World Series MVP, with 3 big home runs and 7 RBIs in the final two games, but the biggest difference makers throughout the series were the Red Sox ability to score with 2 outs (18 of their 24 runs came with 2 outs) and the dominance of their bullpen, which allowed only 3 earned runs all series, 2 of which were with a 5 run lead in the 9th inning of Game 4.  Alex Cora managed aggressively all postseason, using starters in relief multiple times and leaning heavily on his most reliable relievers, and those pitchers stepped up with one impressive performance after another.

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