The Boston Red Sox are “halfway home” to a World Series Championship, having jumped to a 2-0 lead in games over the Los Angeles Dodgers, which, paradoxically, means that they are now “on the road” for three games in Los Angeles.
The Red Sox have been an amazingly successful road team during these 2018 playoffs, taking two-in-a-row at Yankee Stadium, followed by three-in-a-row in Houston – all played against the two best teams (other than the Red Sox) in baseball this season. Pretty darned impressive so far!
At the moment, there is a confident – and perhaps over-confident – sense that the last baseball game of the season has been played at Fenway Park, and that the Red Sox will win at least two of three games at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles and jubilantly close out one of the most successful seasons in Major League Baseball history.
But this is our Boston Red Sox, and so we don’t count any chickens before they are hatched, nor any victories until they are finally and securely won. In the immortal words of Yogi Berra “It ain’t over till it’s over”.
But let's step back and take a look at how we got here. Game 1 was a pitching matchup for the ages: Clayton Kershaw of Los Angeles versus Chris Sales of Boston, the first time EVER that two pitchers with more than a thousand innings pitched faced each other with lifetime ERAs below 3.00. (Kershaw is at a mind-boggling 2.39 and Sales at an almost-as-mind-boggling 2.89). But the Baseball Gods disdain hubris and so both of these likely future Hall-of-Famers put in remarkably pedestrian performances, with Sales gone after 4 innings and Kershaw exiting shortly thereafter, with each having surrendered at least 3 runs.
The game soon established a basic theme that might be called, with apologies to the “Perils of Pauline,” the “Perils of JD,” highlighting the hitting heroics and base-running pratfalls of Red Sox star JD Martinez.
In the first inning, JD delivered a clutch base hit to drive in the second run and put the Red Sox on the cusp of an early game blowout – only to be picked off first base when the unspeedy JD was trying to get a jump on a 3–2 count (a hit-and-run was almost certainly called) and managed to get himself picked off by the experienced Kershaw. (It may have been Kershaw’s best throw of the night.) The base running blunder killed the rally and the inning, and soon thereafter the Dodgers tied the score at 2-2.
In the third inning, enter again our hitting hero, JD, who promptly clubbed an inside slider off the base of the centerfield wall about 420 feet from home plate and well over the head of the Dodger’s centerfielder. (As an aside, I don’t understand how any catchable ball goes over the head of any outfielder when JD Martinez is at bat. Have they not been watching his season?) This hit drove in a crucial run, and JD should have easily arrived at third base – except that he managed to do a pratfall while rounding second base and barely crawled back, ignominiously, to the bag.
The right way to touch second base is always with your left foot, and at first I thought JD had made the colossal error of touching with his RIGHT foot. The TV replay, however, vindicated JD by showing that he in fact used his left foot – except that he planted it right in the middle of the bag on a rainy and misty night and slipped, losing his balance and probably spraining rather badly his ankle in the process. (Life is full of teaching moments: The corollary to “touch second base with left foot” is to “touch the inside corner with your instep” and do NOT put baseball spikes into the middle of a wet slippery bag.). JD is my choice for this year’s AL MVP (Mookie’s great year notwithstanding) but on that basis he is no Dave Roberts, that’s for sure.
Anyhow, the Red Sox proceeded to pound away on a succession of highly-regarded Dodgers’ pitchers -- special kudos to Rafael Devers and Edwardo Nunez – and handed closer Craig Kimbrel an almost unbelievable 8-4 lead. This was fortunate because during this whole post-season Craig Kimbrel has submitted a performance reminiscent of the old US Army advertising slogan, “Not just a job, an adventure."
Kimbrel was Halloween-Scary in torturing Red Sox fans during the Houston series, but so far in this World Series Kimbrel has taken off his Freddy Krueger costume and is looking like the “regular-season” Kimbrel as opposed to the “post-season” Kimbrel. In Game 1, Kimbrel put down the Dodgers quickly and quietly for the save and the win. (He did equally well the following night, taming the Dodgers a second time while securing a 4-2 victory.)
The next night, Game 2, was another vaunted pitching match up – and this time the starting pitchers decided to show up, with a very credible performance offered by Dodger’s starter Hyun-jin Ryu, topped by an even better performance by Red Sox’s starter David Price.
Until a week ago, David Price was in serious contention for the title of Worst Choker in Baseball Playoff History, having gone eleven playoff starts with a 0-9 record, and virtually all of them in the stinkeroo category to boot. (He did do better in relief role.) But then Price pitched and won the fifth game in Houston in the ALCS, and came back and arguably pitched even better in Game 2 of the World Series, giving up just 3 hits in 6 innings and looking generally dominant, with a pitching repertoire that has somehow has gotten noticeably better in just the past week. Price’s fastball has jumped in velocity, and he somehow begged, borrowed or stolen a nasty sinking change-up that makes him look exactly the kind of guy you would pay $217 Million to be on your team. One more performance like this from Price in these World Series and he may actually end up looking underpaid – something impossible to imagine even a week ago.
Meanwhile, the hitting star for Game 2 was – ta-da -- JD Martinez, who hit a clutch, two-out two-run single to give the Red Sox a 4-2 lead that they never relinquished. After that, the Kelly-Eovaldi-Kimbrel Triumvirate shut down the Dodgers over the last 3 innings for the second night in a row.
So the Red Sox now jet west to Los Angeles, for what will hopefully be the last trip of the season. I personally hold two outstanding seats at Fenway Park for each of World Series Games 6 and 7, and, if the Red Sox come back to Boston, those tickets are probably worth close to $10,000 apiece. But I will happily forego this ascension to wealth for the personal gratification of a 2018 Red Sox World Series Championship won sooner and farther away.
The way the pitching staff matches up right now, it looks like Rick Porcello for Game 3, followed by Eovaldi (a man for all seasons) for Game 4, then Chris Sales in the Game 5 and, if it comes back to Boston, David Price in Game 6.
And, if that sixth game of the World Series comes to pass, though I fervently hope it will not, I and the rest of Fenway Park will be cheering loudly our new home-town hero – David Price. Who could have possibly imagined even two weeks ago?
Belief in destiny: The Price is Right.