BOSTON – The Boston Red Sox lead the Los Angeles Dodgers 1-0 in the 2018 World Series, and the time has come for me to accept fate… They are the best team in baseball, and have been all season.
As an avid follower of the American League East, throughout the season I expressed my doubts around the actual strength of first-year Manager Alex Cora’s team. While their 108-54 record was the best in baseball, I couldn’t help but feel it had been tainted somewhat from playing the lowly Baltimore Orioles 19 times, of which they won 16. The Toronto Blue Jays, who also struggled in 2018, accounted for a further 15 Boston wins. Combined, the Red Sox went 31-7 against the weakest two teams in the division, heavily skewing their overall win-loss record.
Meanwhile in Houston, following last year’s World Series success, a strong 103-win season in this year’s far more competitive American League West, and armed with the best rotation in baseball, I couldn’t help but think the Astros were a better team. While entering the postseason with five fewer wins, they won four of seven meetings again the Red Sox throughout the regular season, including two of three on the road in Boston last month. I truly believed they would waltz past the ‘Sox in the ALCS…
However that just didn’t happen. Instead, this Boston team, stacked with firepower all the way down the lineup, kept responding to any challenge they faced. They scored frequently, often nullifying the best the Astros could put up with immediate response. Throughout the five games they were relentless, just as they were in the ALDS where they took care of arch rival the New York Yankees in four games. The hunger to win on display has been, and continues to be, as strong as we’ve seen from any team in quite some time.
Offensively, a handful of stars are hitting above .300 throughout the postseason combined, with J.D. Martinez leading the way. His 1.016 OPS and 11 RBI has ensured the phenomenal regular season he produced wasn’t going to be forgotten come fall. He’s been well supported by Andrew Benintendi who at just 24 years of age continues to blossom into one of the game’s brightest young stars. “Benny”, as he is affectionately known to his teammates, saved his best performance of the postseason for the World Series opener where he went 4-for-5, scoring three runs and knocking another in. Others who continue to produce when called upon include Rafael Devers, Mitch Moreland, and Brock Holt. Holt’s cycle against the Yankees in Game 3 of the ALDS has been yet another memorable highlight in a season which fills a highlights reel tenfold.
On the pitching front, the rotation has worked to a surprisingly mediocre 4.15 ERA, however backed by that explosive offense has done enough to remain in most games and collectively owns a 5-1 record. The best of the bunch has undoubtedly been Nathan Eovaldi, who despite not carrying the fanfare of his rotation pals, has been tremendous with a 1.76 ERA through 15 1/3 innings of work. The bullpen meanwhile has often found itself in challenging situations on multiple occasions, however when required to stand strong, has typically produced the goods. The collective 3.40 ERA won’t position itself in history’s most dominant list, however the 3-1 record and five saves from five opportunities highlights how it’s managed to get the job done. In the postseason of course, that’s all that matters. The incredible, somewhat fairytale-like story of Ryan Brasier continues to develop, with the 31-year-old working to a 1.17 ERA through eight postseason outings. His five-year absence from the Major Leagues is surely now a forgotten thing of the past. He’s been well supported by Matt Barnes and Joe Kelly who have each provided stability when needed most.
In the dugout, a remarkable season for rookie Manager Alex Cora continues to go from strength to strength, with each move he makes proving to be the correct one far more often than not. His latest example, pinch-hitting Eduardo Nunez in the bottom of the seventh inning last night, resulted in a crucial 3-run home run which busted the game wide open and shifted the series’ momentum fair and squarely in the Red Sox’s direction. Now, after already having won 108 of 162 games in the regular season, the Red Sox have won eight of 10 in the postseason, including their last five against teams which are very good in their own right. With 116 wins under their belt, it seems foolish to think they won’t win the three more required to fulfill their destiny and bring a ninth Commissioner’s Trophy to the City of Champions.