These Champs Were Well Worth Rooting For
By Thomas Boswell
Washington Post columnist
LOS ANGELES -- Boston Red Sox owner John Henry stood on a makeshift stage on the first base line at Dodger Stadium and looked out at a huge ballpark that was at least one-third filled with fans of his team that hails from more than 2,600 miles away.
“This shows what unity, diversity and determination can do,” Henry said to the roaring crowd celebrating Boston’s 5-1 Game 5 win over the Los Angeles Dodgers that secured its fourth World Series title in the past 15 seasons. “This is the greatest Red Sox team.”
That will be the question that baseball history tries to answer and that towns all over New England will debate joyously all winter and for years. Just 15 years ago, those winter baseball conversations were muted and depressed as Red Sox fans in six states were, more likely, deciding where their team’s latest choke job stood in their pantheon of pathetic. That is so buried, so sad-old-20th century now.
Now Red Sox fans, their shoulders unburdened, freed by their Series winners in 2004, 2007 and 2013, can travel the country anticipating glory. On Sunday night, they almost took over Dodger Stadium in their moments of maximum joy. And there were plenty.
As is appropriate for appointments with destiny, for nights when a team can leave its lasting image burned in our memories, the Red Sox bludgeoned the Dodgers with four monstrous home runs, three of them off Clayton Kershaw, to stamp a final, decisive victory into every baseball mind.
With two home runs from midseason addition Steve Pearce -- the first a two-run shot into the center field stands in the first inning to set the evening’s tone -- and with seven brilliant innings by left-hander David Price for his second win in this series, the Red Sox created a final game worthy of their historically wonderful 108-win year.
Fittingly, Boston’s two offensive superstars, Mookie Betts and J.D. Martinez, who made only sporadic contributions in this series, both crushed solo homers, too. With each Red Sox blast, Dodger Stadium sounded more and more like Fenway Park as huge swaths of the crowd revealed themselves as Boston fans. Who knew that an 86-year Red Sox title drought suddenly would turn into an embarrassment of October riches, and cheers, for a team full of stalwarts.
“This has been a lifelong journey. And to be here right now is a dream come true. It’s been a magical season,” said Pearce, who only played 50 games for Boston after his June 28 trade from Toronto and ended up being named World Series MVP.
With this victory the Red Sox tied a one-one-and-one bow around a dazzling postseason, beating the 100-win New York Yankees three games to one, the defending champion and 103-win Houston Astros four games to one, and now the Dodgers, who outscored their foes by a whopping 194 runs this season, four games to one as well. That’s an 11-3 October. And few have done it better.
For reference, when praising these Red Sox, remember that such fine champions as the 2017 Astros and 2016 Chicago Cubs lost seven and six games, respectively. No team had lost fewer than five postseason games since the 2009 Yankees (four). The last teams to go 11-3 were the 2008 Phillies and 2007 Red Sox. Who is the last to do better? Go on, win some bar bets. The 2005 Chicago White Sox went 11-1.
These Red Sox will be remembered for their stars. But for those in New England who follow this team like a secular religion, as well as all those who got a dose of them this month, the most remarkable and admirable aspect of this World Series winner was the quality and character, as well as the deep likability, of the entire roster. There didn’t seem to be a bum in the bunch, and the class acts definitely ruled the locker room.
No Red Sox player deviated, at all, from Boston’s sense of interlocking team-ness. Everyone ran out every ball. Eduardo Nunez, limping after a collision with a Dodgers catcher in the 13th inning of Game 3, realized that his team was out of position players and soldiered on, making several good plays and getting two singles while essentially playing on one leg.
In typical Red Sox fashion, Pearce praised Price, who might easily have been MVP.
“He was dominant,” Pearce said. “He’s a bulldog. He competes. And I couldn’t be any happier for him.”
As a final gesture of dominance, almost overkill, the Red Sox followed seven superb one-run innings by Price and a three-strikeout eighth inning by Kelly with the appearance of Sale, who fanned 308 men in 2017 and had a 2.11 ERA this year, as their closer.
Sale was slated to start Game 6. As has been the case all month with one of the truly elite -- and genuinely estimable -- World Series victors, no such game was necessary. So Chris closed the Sale in the ninth. And everybody in Boston and New England, as well as many thousands in Dodger Stadium, danced again.