We all know how it ended. There isn’t much to say that hasn’t already been said, but perhaps it’s all worth saying again. The Boston Red Sox, for the fourth time in the past decade, are World Series champions. From start to finish, this Red Sox team dominated opponents, scoring run after run in every way imaginable. Doubts plagued them. The bullpen, at times, looked like it might keep the team from another title. In the end, however, this team was too good to be denied.
Boston Red Sox 2018 Season Recap
At the Plate
Entire columns could be and have been written about many of the individual members of this offense. Mookie Betts, the eventual MVP, was so good it became almost shocking to see him go a day without a hit. J.D. Martinez, who became the first player to win two silver slugger awards in the same season, proved to be the missing ingredient that the offense needed. Blast after blast earned him the nickname Just Dingers, and his mad scientist approach to hitting made the rest of the team better as well.
In the end, however, it wasn’t all about the home run for the Red Sox. They certainly hit their fair share, though the New York Yankees and even the Oakland A’s outstripped them in that department by a good margin. Even so, the A’s and the Yankees were thrown to early playoff exits, and it was the Red Sox hoisting the trophy in the end, after trouncing the Los Angeles Dodgers in five games.
The key, it turned out, was not the deep ball. The Red Sox scored in every way. They were aggressive. Yes, they had real power on the team, but they were willing and able to find runs however they could. They were rounded, while the Yankees were one-dimensional.
The Red Sox also enjoyed tremendous depth. It’s telling that Boston lost just three games in the postseason despite lackluster performances from their stars. Against the Yankees, Brock Holt achieved the first postseason cycle ever. He didn’t even start the next game. Jackie Bradley Jr., known far more for his glove than his bat, found clutch hit after clutch hit in the ALCS and was named MVP of that series. Utility man Steve Pearce, acquired almost as an afterthought during the season, became the World Series MVP after almost single-handedly demolishing the Dodgers. Betts and Martinez will still get the headlines, and deservedly so, but what really made this Red Sox offense special was the whole that all its part made up.
On the Mound
While much could be said about various pitching performances during the regular season, it was the postseason that provided the defining moments for so many members of the Red Sox staff. The bullpen, in general, endured question after question late in the regular season, and much of that was earned. In the second half, the inconsistencies of stalwarts like Joe Kelly and Matt Barnes seemed destined to be the team’s Achilles heel. Fans and pundits alike expected Dave Dombrowski to shore up his team’s one glaring weakness at the trade deadline, but he declined. At that point, a sense of doom pervaded the fanbase.
How wrong we were.
Throughout October, the bullpen was nothing short of excellent. Kelly returned to his virtually un-hittable form from the first half of the season. His two scoreless innings of relief in game four stymied what might otherwise have turned into a Dodger comeback. In the decisive game five, he relieved David Price and struck out the side before releasing a roar which showed why he was the emotional heart of his unit throughout the season
Yet, Nathan Eovaldi, who began the season and the postseason as a starting pitcher, truly stole the show out of the ‘pen. His incredible, heroic, six-inning, 97-pitch performance in game three of the World Series almost certainly staved off disaster for manager Alex Cora and the rest of the bullpen, and probably saved the series at the same time. Years from now, no one will remember that Eovaldi took the loss in that game. All the will be remembered is what he gave to his team, and what they did for him in the games that followed.
The starters also made their statements of the season in the playoffs. Price finally broke his losing streak, and was masterful en route to winning the final game of the World Series. Chris Sale also turned in the best postseason performances of his career, despite lingering questions about his velocity and the strength of his throwing shoulder. That Sale was on the mound for the final outs of the season after taking the mound for its opening pitches seemed like poetic justice. The fact that he brought Manny Machado to his knees on the final pitch made it all the sweeter.
The Final Point
What we saw from the Red Sox this season was truly special. Rarely is a team so dominant from start to finish. That they won a franchise-record 108 games hardly seemed surprising once they finally got there. It seemed almost like an inevitability. A combination of supreme talent and unbreakable chemistry turned the 2018 Red Sox into a force of nature. Cora, for his part, managed his team superbly. He was experimental and aggressive when he needed to be, and knew how to reach his players. Cora was the perfect leader, and the final defining aspect of this Red Sox team.
The Boston Red Sox probably won’t be quite as good next year, if only because of how hard it would be to match what they accomplished this year. Key faces, like Craig Kimbrel, Kelly, and Eovaldi might not be back, though they are top targets for the Red Sox in the offseason. We should not take for granted what a privilege it was to watch this team play; we might not see anything like it ever again.