Steve Pearce

Robert Hanashiro/USA Today Sports

They did it! Red Sox finish greatest season in team history with World Series crown

John Tomase
October 28, 2018 - 11:18 pm

LOS ANGELES – The 2004 Red Sox ended the Curse. The 2007 Red Sox proved it wasn’t a fluke. The 2013 Red Sox made Boston strong.

Now comes 2018 and a new designation – the greatest Red Sox team of all.

Baseball’s beasts finished their rampage through the postseason with a 5-1 victory over the Dodgers in Game 5 of the World Series on Sunday to claim their fourth title in the last 14 years, as well as a place in history as the Red Sox squad against which all others will be judged.

Winners of a franchise-record 108 games during the season, the Red Sox added 11 more in the playoffs, knocking off the 100-win Yankees, 103-win Astros, and defending National League champion Dodgers in dominating fashion.

The clincher served as a three-hour greatest hits medley that provided an opportunity for virtually every standout to take a final bow.

Left-hander David Price, maligned as the guy who couldn’t win the big one, ended up winning three of them: Boston’s 100th of the season, the clincher against the Astros in the ALCS, and the World Series finale.

Manager Alex Cora, the maestro who opened the clubhouse lines of communication and then exhibited a magic touch that felt equal parts Red Auerbach, Bill Belichick, and Don Cherry, pushed the right buttons until the last game, his decision to start Price on three day’s rest putting a fitting capper on a run of managerial perfection.

He even predicted that one of his slumping superstars would deliver, which presumed AL MVP Mookie Betts did with his first home run of the postseason, a solo blast off Clayton Kershaw that pushed the lead to 3-1 in the sixth.

Betts’ primary competition in the MVP race might very well be teammate J.D. Martinez, who ended the postseason the way he started it, with a home run of his own that left Kershaw hanging his head in defeat, a posture mirrored by every other team in baseball throughout the season.

The Red Sox owned that lead because a club built around the idea of a different star emerging every night rode a two-run homer from World Series MVP candidate Steve Pearce to a 2-0 lead three batters into the game. Pearce socked another one in the eighth for good measure.

Pearce wouldn’t be here without the foresight of president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski, who earned his postgame champagne shower on the strength of two pivotal transactions. The first was acquiring Pearce to address a deficiency against left-handed pitching in a move that barely registered outside of Boston.

The second was landing indomitable right-hander Nathan Eovaldi, a World Series MVP candidate himself in the wake of six brilliant innings in Game 3. Eovaldi lost that game, but literally moved his teammates to tears in a performance that inspired them to leave it all on the field for the final two games.

The much-maligned bullpen joined the fun, with postseason cyborg Joe Kelly striking out the side in the eighth, punctuated by a 99 mph fastball overmatching Cody Bellinger, and leaving the mound while pounding his chest. Red Sox relievers were supposed to be an Achilles heel, but they instead proved impenetrable.

It fittingly ended with ace Chris Sale taking the mound for the ninth. Sale battled shoulder issues for the final two months, but his impassioned tirade in the dugout during Game 4 sparked an offensive explosion that carried over to the finale. The game was never going to end with anyone else on the mound.

The last two games demonstrated what made the Red Sox an unstoppable force in spring, summer, and finally fall. They attacked, and attacked, and attacked with a relentlessness that bordered on cruelty. They barely let the Dodgers up for air over five games, L.A.’s only victory an 18-inning ultra-marathon.

Whatever momentum the Dodgers believed they possessed early on Saturday morning, it had disintegrated by late Saturday night following Boston’s come-from-behind 9-6 victory.

From there, only the clincher remained. As Sale whiffed Manny Machado to record the final out, the inevitable became permanent, so let it be chiseled in stone: no team in 118 seasons of Red Sox baseball has ever been better than this one.