Monday, October 29, 2018

World Champion Boston Red Sox!

Having posted twice on the World Series, might we well go for the trifecta. The Red Sox have won again, 4th since 2004, starting this century like they started the last one. This time, maybe they won't sell off Mookie Betts, Andrew Benintendi, Rafael Devers and company to finance a broadway show. It does look like this won't be the last time they hoist the silverware with this lot. It's interesting how much turnover there was between the previous squads - Papi was there for all three, and a bunch of of the 07 team - which had a good young core, like this one - were still around in 2013 (and might have been still around this year, if Pedroia were healthy or the team had resigned Jon Lester like everyone thought they should)... Otherwise, the only 2013 players active in both world series' were Xander Bogearts and Joe Kelly - though he was on the other side then. Workman was around for most of the post-season of both, but not the world series. Jackie Bradley was around the 2013 team, though not in the post-season. But this team - Betts and Benny and Xander and Raffy are all young; Vazquez as well (and he reminded people in the series why he's going to be a premier catcher in the league), Bradley isn't old; JD Martinez can DH for a few years yet. The pitching is all about 30. They can ride that core for a while. They'll have to pay them sooner or later, but they are rich - they ought to find some better young talent to replace the older guys, but that's a problem for the future. This team has a couple more runs it in without major changes - though so do the Yankees, Astros, Dodgers, maybe even the Cubs, never mind if the Indians decide to spend, or the Braves and Phillies and such can keep moving in the right direction. Anyway...

The last couple games were vintage 2018 Red Sox. Game 4 looked scary for a while - great pitching duel that blew up when Vazquez threw a double play ball away, and Puig lost one - but that's not the end of the story. The Sox looked drained by those 18 innings, but so were the Dodgers - and the Sox held all their bullpen guys to an inning each, while a lot of the Dodgers worked a couple. And so Baez and Urias, who'd been the best the Dodgers had had to that point, weren't around at the end of game 4, and it showed. Homers and then cue shot doubles and line drive singles and hustling to beat out a double play and squibs in the infield set up Steve Pearce to gap them, Bogie to get a big hit. The Sox meanwhile had Barnes and Kelly in the pen - and Kimbrel, who made a 5 run lead look all too inadequate - he might have hit his wall, since he'd been very good in the world series.

And game 5 was a perfect masterpiece: Pearce goes bridge in the first, and after Price started the game with a bad pitch, he didn't give them much else. Maybe next year, the Sox should use Price on 3 days rest all year, and let him close between starts - why not? He went 7+ and looked like he could have found a way to the end, and started game 6 as well. He dumped his reputation as a choke artist in the post season, but it's notable that he had always been effective out of the pen in the post-season - for Tampa, for Toronto, for Boston, last year. I always thought, why not accept it? move him to the pen outright, let him pitch 2 innings every day - he seems to thrive on it. Cora said something like that - he wants to be involved in every game - maybe he should be their closer. Though would be be better than Sale? who, in fact, did close it out, as dominatingly as you could ask. Struck out the side - Manny Machado (favored enemy of Sox fans everywhere), down on his knees waving helplessly at a slider. Yes.

And there it was. This post-season looked more tense than it was - it felt like the Dodgers, Astros, even the Yankees, were making the Sox work - but they ended up winning 3-1, 4-1, 4-1, dominating a bunch of those games, with even the nail biters being the work of uncertain relievers (Kimbrel), who still always got the last out. For all the appearance of angst, there was almost never any real drama. I suppose overcoming a 0-4 deficit in the last three innings of game 4 counts - but compared to the 04 or 07 championship comebacks, or the Big Papi grand slam against Detroit in 2013, it was just a nice comeback. That 18 inning game made this series epic - and game 4 was a good one too, though once the Sox started hitting they didn't stop, especially against the second rank of Dodgers relievers... but the 2013 series felt more competitive - you could imagine that team losing. This one - hard to picture, though it was easy to forget it. From day one - they had a nice lead over Tampa, and Joe Kelly gave it all away - then they didn't lose for a month. They could start to look ready to fade, and they'd run off 6 in a row. Mookie would go 0-14 or something, and you'd think - shit, he's choking! - And he'd hit a home run to break a game open. It was a thing to see.

And finally - how gratifying is it to see a game turn on a great starting pitcher? Price in game 5 - though this came after Hill in 4 (and E Rod until the defense and Cora messed up), Buehler, Price in game 2 - Eovaldi at the end of game 3... Granted we got the usual second guessing, including someone at the white house using Trump's account to weigh in on taking out Hill. Yes, the bullpen promptly failed - but if Roberts had left Hill in and he got tagged - what then? It's doubly ironic because Cora made exactly the opposite decision with E Rod in the 6th, with exactly the same results - 3 run bomb! Cora handled his pitchers brilliantly, I think; Roberts stayed closer to the script - though in a way they were both playing the rosters they had. The Dodgers had bullpen depth; the Sox had half a good bullpen, and a bunch of starts with rubber arms and the willingness to use them. The Sox guys did their jobs; the Dodgers did in a couple games, and didn't in the others. And the Sox starters kept them in every single game, better than LA's. So there you have it.

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