Mookie Bretts and Rafael Devers

Troy Taormina/USA Today Sports

Red Sox heading to World Series after eliminating Astros and they have David Price to thank

John Tomase
October 18, 2018 - 11:29 pm

As the Red Sox barreled to the conclusion of the greatest regular season in franchise history, the words grew to something between an admonition and a threat:

We will ultimately judge you on the playoffs.

The 108 wins. The third straight division title. The stomping of every challenger in the American League. None of it would matter without sealing the deal in October.

The Red Sox now stand four wins away.

On Thursday night, they completed the American League Championship Series in shocking fashion, silencing the defending-champion Houston Astros 4-1 behind an outstanding start from David Price and home runs from J.D. Martinez and Rafael Devers to win the series in five games.

They advance to the World Series to face the winner of Dodgers-Brewers, with Game 1 on Tuesday at Fenway Park, and they will be prohibitive favorites, because they have earned it.

They announced their intentions with a 16-2 start, took control of the American League with a 32-7 run between July and August, and then handled the 100-win Yankees in four games in the Division Series and the 103-win Astros in five games in the ALCS.

Now only the National League representative blocks their path to immortality as the greatest Red Sox team in history and one of the greatest teams, period, of the last 40 years, second only, perhaps, to the 1998 Yankees.

On Thursday, Price delivered the best postseason start of his career to exorcise the demon that had haunted him. Eleven times he had started a playoff game, and 11 times he had failed to earn a win. His last start, in Game 2, marked a first -- Price didn't win, but the Red Sox didn't lose. His previous 10 playoff starts had ended in defeat.

This time, though, Price was tremendous. Pitching on only three days rest, he finally looked like the pitcher who had dominated the American League in July and August. Featuring his best velocity of the year, Price overwhelmed the Astros' right-handed hitters with 96 mph fastballs inside and 87 mph changeups abandoning ship off the outside corner.

He somehow got stronger as the game wore on, and you could see it on the faces of the Astros hitters by about the third inning that their challenge could prove insurmountable.

Martinez gave the Red Sox a 1-0 lead with a solo homer in the third, and Price made it stand until the first two batters reached in the sixth and Devers drove everyone home with an opposite-field homer off Astros ace Justin Verlander into the Crawford boxes at Minute Maid Park.

Price tossed six shutout innings, allowing three hits and no walks while striking out nine. He had one three-ball count all game. He looked like a $217 million pitcher who could start Game 1 of any series and be favored. His redemption provided the perfect capper to a three-game sweep of the Astros in Houston. The same could be said for closer Craig Kimbrel, who finally pitched a clean inning to clinch it.

And so now the Red Sox advance to the World Series, where they can not only claim their fourth title since 2004, but stamp their place in history.

Judge them on the playoffs? You think that scares the Red Sox? Bring it on.