By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — There are team wins, and then there are team wins. And this 2018 World Series championship for the Boston Red Sox is a team win.
While it’s a cliche to say the team “got contributions from players one through 25,” the Red Sox came close. Here’s a brief examination of every player who can confidently and rightfully lay claim to being a key contributor to this championship team.
We can start with the man who was on the mound to start the clinching games of both the ALCS and the World Series. Price Gronk-spiked the much-deserved narrative that had dogged him for years, going 3-1 with a 3.46 ERA in the postseason. He pitched six shutout innings in Game 5 of the ALCS in Houston, and he allowed just one run over seven innings in Game 5 of the World Series in Los Angeles.
Price closed out his 2018 campaign allowing just three earned runs over his final 19.2 innings (1.37 ERA).
Joe Kelly entered in the eighth inning of Game 5 with a runner on base and nobody out. He went ahead and struck everybody out.
Those three strikeouts upped Kelly’s postseason tally to 13 punchouts over 11.1 innings. He allowed just eight hits and walked zero batters in that span, serving as a rock-solid lockdown reliever in the late innings.
This was the same Joe Kelly who posted a 9.39 ERA in his final 11 outings in the regular season. Nobody went through a more dramatic turnaround.
By now you know the story, but here’s the short one: the 31-year-old right-hander spent last season playing in Japan. He signed with the Red Sox very late in the offseason. He didn’t make Boston’s big league roster until July. He pitched excellently in the regular season, and he kept it going through the postseason.
He pitched 8.2 innings in the postseason, allowing just one run and recording a team-high five holds.
Whenever a big-name, big-money free agent signs with the Red Sox, the question gets asked: How can he handle the pressure of playing in Boston?
That was never a problem for Martinez, who delivered an MVP-caliber regular season and carried it through in the playoffs. He hit a clean .300 with 10 walks and a .923 OPS in the postseason, belting three home runs and two doubles, all while leading the team with 14 RBIs.
Martinez homered in his first postseason at-bat, a three-run shot in the first inning of Game 1 vs. the Yankees.
And Martinez homered in his penultimate postseason at-bat, a solo job off Clayton Kershaw that officially killed the Dodgers’ spirits in Game 5 of the World Series.
He also delivered the game-winning two-RBI single in Game 2 of the World Series, and he broke a scoreless tie by homering off Justin Verlander in Game 5 of the ALCS.
He didn’t have the greatest postseason overall, but he delivered one of the biggest hits of October.
That hit came in the bottom of the seventh inning in Game 1 of the World Series. He entered as a pinch hitter to face left-hander Alex Wood, with two on and two outs in a game the Red Sox narrowly led by just one run. Nunez stayed on a low-and-inside breaking ball, shooting a laser over the Green Monster to send Fenway Park into delirium.
That three-run bomb may not have technically plated the winning run, but it sunk the dagger into the Dodgers in Game 1.
Nunez also survived what appeared to be several life-threatening injuries during the 18-inning affair in Game 3 of the World Series.
The third baseman turned 22 years old in the middle of the World Series, but you’d never know he was just a kid with the way he carried himself in the top of the ninth inning of Game 4 of the World Series.
Devers was calm as can be, with the go-ahead run standing out on second base. And after getting ahead 2-0 on Dylan Floro, Devers clubbed a single up the middle to score Brock Holt. After trailing all night, the Red Sox finally led.
That marked the second consecutive series-clinching win that Devers delivered a huge hit, as he hit a three-run home run over the fence in left field off Justin Verlander in Game 5 of the ALCS.
Devers had a steady postseason, hitting .294, and he drove in what proved to be the winning run in Game 1 of the World Series.
This guy. What can you even say about this guy?
Nathan Eovaldi was the embodiment of how the postseason can take an otherwise ordinary player and lift him to previously unimagined levels.
Eovaldi pitched six times this postseason. He threw 22.1 innings. He allowed four earned runs, for a 1.61 ERA, and he allowed just 15 hits and three walks, for a 0.806 WHIP.
Coming off a Red Sox loss in the ALDS, Eovaldi allowed just one run over seven innings in a win over the Yankees.
Eovaldi got the ball for Game 3 of the ALCS, and he allowed just two runs over six innings.
Then Eovaldi became Mr. Relief. He earned a hold in Game 5 against Houston, allowing just one hit in 1.1 innings. He pitched a scoreless eighth in Game 1 of the World Series. He pitched a scoreless eighth in Game 2 of the World Series.
And then he pitched six innings of Game 3, the longest game in World Series history. Though he eventually took the loss by serving up a walk-off home run to Max Muncy in the 18th inning, his workhorse performance inspired his teammates and served as the perfect image of the mentality of the Boston bullpen in this postseason.
Betts went through a pronounced slump when the World Series shifted to Los Angeles, going 0-for-13 from Game 3 through the middle of Game 5.
But he ended that slump with a solo homer in the sixth inning on Sunday night, to give Boston some breathing room with a 3-1 lead.
Betts also kicked off the World Series with the perfect picture of aggression. He led off the first inning of Game 1 with a single off Clayton Kershaw. He then stole second base on the next pitch. He came around to score on the pitch after that to give Boston a 1-0 lead. They didn’t trail all night.
Betts did something similar in Game 2 of the ALCS, hitting a double to lead off the first and then coming around to score to give Boston an early lead. He went 2-for-4 with two doubles and a walk in that win.
Betts also made a truly unbelievable throw to nab Tony Kemp to start the bottom of the eighth of Game 4 in Houston. That was the same game where Betts’ effort put him in position to rob a home run — a play that led to a controversial fan interference call. Betts made a catch on a near-identical fly ball the next night.
Betts was not an MVP in the postseason the same way he was in the regular season. But his bursts were significant.
A man acquired by the Red Sox for a minor league infielder, Steve Pearce ended up being the World Series MVP. What a world.
Pearce ended up leading the Red Sox in postseason home runs with four, three of which came in the final two games of the year. His solo home run in the eighth inning completed a four-run comeback to tie that game, and his two-run shot in the first inning of Game 5 provided all the runs Boston would need in the clinching game. Pearce tacked on a solo bomb in the eighth inning, just for good measure.
Pearce also broke a 2-2 tie in Game 3 of the ALCS with a solo homer in the sixth inning.
Holt of course hit for the cycle in Game 3 against the Yankees in the ALDS, part of his five-RBI night. But he also had some huge plate appearances in Game 4 of the World Series.
With the Sox down 4-0 in the seventh, he walked on four pitches and later came around to score on Mitch Moreland’s pinch-hit home run.
Holt then hit a one-out double in the ninth, and then scored the go-ahead run on Devers’ single.
Jackie Bradley Jr.
The light-hitting defensive wizard timed his postseason hits well. He had just three hits in the ALCS, but he earned series MVP honors for the impact of those hits — a three-run double in Game 2, a late grand slam in Game 3, and a go-ahead two-run homer in Game 4.
Bradley also hit the solo homer in Game 3 of the World Series that ultimately sent that game into extra innings.
Despite batting just .200 in the postseason, Bradley ranked third on the team with 10 RBIs.
Mitch Moreland stepped in as a pinch hitter in Game 4 of the World Series, and he promptly hit a baseball to the moon.
Just watch it.
That was a comical blast.
Despite being hampered by a hamstring issue, Moreland had an excellent postseason, batting .294 with an .898 OPS,
Benintendi drove in the opening runs of both the ALCS and World Series, and was tied for the team lead with four doubles.
But forget about the bat. The diving catch he made to end Game 4 of the ALCS should live on in Red Sox lore forever.
Had he missed it, the Red Sox probably lose that game, and the series is tied. But he didn’t miss it. And we know how the rest of the series and the postseason played out.
Then in the World Series, he went full Michael Jordan on Brian Dozier:
After an outstanding regular season, Bogaerts didn’t have great overall numbers in the postseason (.224/.303/.310), but he came through with some big hits. That included a pair of RBI hits in the Game 4 win in Houston, the second of which tied the game at 4-4 in the fifth. He drove in a go-ahead run in the fifth inning of Game 1 of the World Series, a hit that was followed up by Rafael Devers singling home another run.
There were two versions of Matt Barnes in the regular season. The good Matt Barnes was dominant from April through July. The bad Matt Barnes was dreadful from August through September.
That good Matt Barnes showed up for the playoffs.
Barnes pitched 10 times, picking up three holds and two wins while posting a 1.04 ERA while striking out nine batters. He struck out four batters over 2.1 innings during the World Series.
The closer may not have been at his peak in October, but the bottom line is that Kimbrel finished out eight of the Red Sox’ 11 victories this postseason. He recorded six saves along the way, striking out 10 batters over 10.2 innings.
Kimbrel also seemed to have solved some of the issues that plagued him in the ALCS when he allowed just one hit and one walk in three appearances in the first three games of the World Series.
It was far from a dominant showing for Kimbrel, but the final outs of any game are never easy to get. Kimbrel took on that task eight times.
Just like Kimbrel, Chris Sale was not at all his All-Star self in this postseason. He did not give the Red Sox what some people might have expected him to bring.
He earned a win in Game 1 of the ALDS against the Yankees, going 5.2 innings. He pitched a 1-2-3 eighth inning in the clinching game of the ALDS. And though his World Series Game 1 start was underwhelming, he did outperform Clayton Kershaw on that night.
While it was a somewhat disappointing end to the year on a season where Sale seemed on track to win the Cy Young in late July, it was fitting that he was on the mound to close out the clinching game of the World Series, striking out the side to close out the most important win of the year.
His first career postseason started ended poorly, as he served up a three-run tater to Yasiel Puig that blew open a close game. But prior to that, Rodriguez was excellent, and manager Alex Cora admitted that he stuck with Rodriguez too long.
Rodriguez’s postseason also began with a rough outing, but in between his first and final appearance, he struck out four batters and allowed just two walks and no hits over 2.2 innings of relief. And while the final line looked bad in Game 4 of the World Series, Rodriguez stepped in and pitched into the sixth inning of a game the Red Sox eventually won.
This was the first year Alex Cora had ever been a manager at any level of baseball. You’d never know it, based on his demeanor and his decision-making.
While there’s always a certain amount of luck involved in any managerial decision working out, Cora’s run of success was too consistent to be chalked up to coincidence. He had the pulse of his team, and he pumped each player with confidence every day, from February through October. Ultimately, that’s all you can hope to get out of your manager, and Cora managed to give the Red Sox much more.