By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — You could be forgiven if the entirety of the Red Sox’ run to the World Series sits in your memory bank largely as a blur.
All of those late nights combined with the sheer dominance out of Boston’s baseball team (plus whatever you may or may not have been consuming during and after some of those games) could have easily led to some forgotten moments from that incredible run. By the time Chris Sale was on the mound to finish off the Dodgers, the ALDS against the Yankees already felt like ancient history.
So, with the Red Sox set to parade through the streets of Boston, here’s a helpful guide to navigating the most important moments that guided the Red Sox to their fourth World Series title since 2004.
J.D. Martinez’s 3-Run HR Against New York
The playoffs began with a bang, as J.D. Martinez launched a three-run homer off J.A. Happ in the first inning of Game 1 of the ALDS. A tone had been set early.
Mookie Betts Fan Interference
It was a controversial play, but it really shouldn’t have been. Mookie Betts was going to catch the ball (for further proof, see the next night when he caught a nearly identical fly ball) early in Game 4 to rob Jose Altuve of a two-run home run. Betts was interfered with while making the catch. While no definitive angle shows whether Betts reached into the crowd, there’s enough evidence to show that the fans were indeed reaching over the wall.
It brought out the worst in everybody, and it inspired some very bad sports takes (“he mistimed the closing of his glove” was the very worst), but all of that overlooked the fact that Betts was there. Had Betts not made the effort and had the necessary skill to rob home runs, it wouldn’t have even been an issue. Credit to Betts for making it one.
Brock Holt/Rafael Devers In World Series Game 4
The Red Sox had an incredible comeback late in Game 4, erasing a 4-0 deficit in the seventh and eighth innings. But it would have been meaningless without a win. That’s where Brock Holt entered, slapping a two-strike double down the third-base line with one out in the ninth. Rafael Devers then entered as a pinch hitter and sent a single up the middle, scoring Holt and giving the Red Sox their first lead of the entire game. It ended up kicking off a five-run inning, and the Red Sox would win, 9-6.
Craig Kimbrel had some problems in the playoffs, but he never took a loss or a blown save. That’s in part thanks to the play of Mookie Betts, who made a truly unbelievable throw to nab Tony Kemp at second base in the eighth inning of Game 4. Kimbrel ended up allowing the next two batters to reach base, one via double, but the damage remained minimal, thanks to Betts.
Betts’ Tone-Setting Start To World Series
Speaking of Betts, he had a rough World Series overall. But he sent a loud and clear message to start Game 1 about how the Red Sox were going to treat the World Series.
Facing Clayton Kershaw at Fenway, Betts led off with a single. On the very next pitch, he took off and stole second. And on the pitch after that, he came around to score on a single by Andrew Benintendi — who himself would score shortly thereafter on a J.D. Martinez single.
The single and the steal showed that the Red Sox were not intimidated by the Hall of Famer on the mound, and that they were going to play an aggressive style of baseball.
Brock Holt Hit For The Cycle
A lot of things went right for the Red Sox in the postseason. Brock Holt facing a position player on the mound when he needed a home run to complete the first postseason cycle would qualify as one of them.
The Red Sox may not have needed a cycle, per se, out of Holt in their 16-1 win in Game 3 of the ALDS. But Holt’s 4-for-6 night with five RBIs was huge.
Alex Cora Getting The Heave-Ho
People forget, but things looked grim after Game 1 of the ALCS. The Red Sox lost, and they lost ugly. Chris Sale was ineffective, the defense was sloppy. And the manager got himself ejected for arguing balls and strikes. Only an optimist’s optimist felt good about Boston’s chances after that one. (Oh, hello!)
While Cora said it was “embarrassing” to have to watch his first ALCS game as a manager in his office, the outburst was a display of how vehemently he has the backs of his players. They responded by winning the next six games and winning eight of the following nine.
The Red Sox probably would have beaten the Yankees, and they probably would have won the World Series, even if Aaron Judge never blared Frank Sinatra’s “New York, New York” from a speaker while walking triumphantly out of Fenway Park in Game 2. But we’ll never know that for sure. What we do know is that Judge did play the jam, and that the Red Sox clearly took it personally, as evidenced by their blasting of the song after every series-clinching victory.
Steve Pearce Surviving His Dugout Flip
In baseball, and especially in the playoffs, the opposing dugout is never going to help you. Steve Pearce learned that in a rough way when he completely upended himself on the dugout rail while trying to make a catch in Houston. He flipped over and fell headfirst into the dugout … but he somehow survived unscathed. It’s a good thing he did, as he now has a World Series MVP in his cupboard.
Steve Pearce First-Inning HR In Clinching Game Of World Series
This was obviously a fairly huge moment, as Pearce gave the Sox an early 2-0 lead in Game 5 in Los Angeles, putting the Dodgers on their heels from the jump.
“Get Back In The Box”
The resurgence and even dominance of the Boston bullpen was a driving story in this postseason, and little-known righty Ryan Brasier was a key component of that. The effectiveness of Brasier and the rest of the ‘pen was reflected in the stats, sure, but it was also evident from Brasier’s treatment of Gary Sanchez during the ALCS.
Brasier impolitely told Sanchez to “get back in the box” and then struck him out, staring him down on his way off the mound. It was a pretty telling moment for how that bullpen was going to carry itself in October.
Devers Vs. Verlander
Justin Verlander is a seven-time All-Star, a Cy Young winner, an ALCS MVP, and an MVP. The man’s got a resume.
Rafael Devers, on the night of Oct. 18, was just a 21-year-old carrying a big bat.
One would think that the distinct advantage in this meeting would favor Verlander. And it did — for two at-bats at least.
But when Devers strode to the plate in the sixth inning of Game 5 in Houston with the Red Sox leading 1-0, he didn’t wait around. Devers got a high 98 mph fastball on the first pitch of his at-bat, and he liked what he saw. Devers barreled it up and sent it into left-center field. With some help from the unique dimensions of the Crawford Boxes in left field, he got himself a three-run home run.
With David Price dealing that night, and with Eovaldi and Kimbrel on the back end, that provided the necessary offense for the series-clinching victory.
Nathan Eovaldi’s Marathon Relief Outing
Speaking of the bullpen, Nathan Eovaldi provided the most inspiring performance, and he did it while taking a loss.
He entered Game 3 against the Dodgers in the bottom of the 12th, pitching a 1-2-3 frame. He was then staked to a lead and should have gotten the win, but an Ian Kinsler throwing error (after an ill-advised cannonball into the front row by Eduardo Nunez) allowed the tying run to score.
Eovaldi persisted, though, getting out of the 13th inning, and then the 14th inning, and then the 15th inning.
And then the 16th.
The 17th, too.
Ultimately, he served up the walk-off home run to Max Muncy in the 18th, and the Red Sox lost the game. But that effort, during which he threw every single one of his 97 pitches with max effort, was flat-out inspiring to the rest of his team. Rick Porcello said he cried after the game while thinking about it. Every starter and every reliever declared themselves available at any point in any game from that point forward.
It was a losing effort, technically, but it was that attitude that helped drive the Red Sox to a championship.
10. Eovaldi Vs. Bregman
Nathan Eovaldi’s six-inning relief stint in Game 3 of the World Series has become the stuff of legend, but it didn’t come in a win. And arguably, what he did to help close out the ALCS was even more impressive.
That effort began in Game 3, before which Alex Bregman basically taunted the right-hander by sharing a series of videos that showed the Astros lighting up Eovaldi for three straight home runs earlier in the season. Bregman shared the caption, “Lil pregame video work.”
Eovaldi then went out and pitched six innings in Game 3, earning the win while allowing two runs. It was a good, not great start.
But Eovaldi was called upon in a big spot in Game 5 out of the bullpen. Matt Barnes allowed a solo home run in the seventh, giving the Astros their first run of the game and cutting Boston’s lead to 4-1. Barnes then walked the next batter, putting the tying run on deck. Alex Cora called for Eovaldi.
Eovaldi promptly got Josh Reddick to fly out to end the inning, and Eovaldi was then asked to pitch the eighth. He retired Brian McCann to start the inning, which set up an Eovaldi-Bregman showdown. On a 2-2 pitch, Eovaldi reared back and unleashed his fastest pitch of the season, a 101.6 mph heater that painted the corner.
Bregman whiffed. For Eovaldi, who downplayed and dismissed any impact of the social media posts, it was the ultimate response.
9. Kelly And Sale’s Closeout Of World Series
Strange things can happen late in baseball games. Joe Kelly and Chris Sale made sure that no such tomfoolery haunted their World Series dreams.
Entering for David Price with a runner on base in the eighth inning of Game 5. Matt Kemp entered as a pinch hitter; Kelly struck him out. Joc Pederson entered as a pinch hitter; Kelly struck him out, too. Then Cody Bellinger entered as a pinch hitter, and wouldn’t you know it, Kelly struck him out. Sixteen pitches, 10 strikes, three outs.
With a 5-1 lead intact for the ninth, Chris Sale (who was supposed to start Game 5 but got pushed back to Game 6, if needed) entered in relief for the second time this postseason — both coming in clinching scenarios.
Sale struck Justin Turner out on three pitches before striking out Enrique Hernandez. Up stepped Manny Machado, who flailed helplessly at a 1-2 breaking ball, falling to a knee while swinging through strike three.
The lead and the game and the series were all pretty much wrapped up when Kelly entered, but that was an emphatic way to end the season and secure a championship for one of the best teams to ever compete in Major League Baseball.
8. JBJ ALCS Game 4 Go-Ahead Dinger
Jackie Bradley hit a grand slam in Game 3 in Houston. Everyone loves a good old-fashioned salami. But that granny came when the Red Sox were already leading 4-2 in the eighth inning. It cemented a victory, but the Red Sox likely would have won it anyway. Steve Pearce was the player with the bigger home run in that game.
But the following night, in Game 4, JBJ hit a much-needed home run. It came in the sixth, with one on and two out, and with the Astros leading 5-4. Bradley jumped on a first-pitch changeup and ripped it down the line for a go-ahead two-run homer. A 5-4 deficit turned into a 6-5 lead, and Boston would not trail for the remainder of the game.
7. Eduardo Nunez’s Pinch-Hit Homer
Nobody had a wilder roller coaster of a postseason than Eduardo Nunez. From making clutch plays, to suffering a series of injuries that appeared to be life-threatening, Nunez was a busy man.
But he was not a busy man for Game 1 of the World Series, when he surprisingly didn’t make the starting lineup, despite lefty Clayton Kershaw on the mound. Alex Cora decided to start Rafael Devers (who ended up driving in a key run in the fifth inning) while telling Nunez to be ready to pinch-hit in a big spot against a lefty.
That spot came in the seventh inning. Nunez was ready.
With the Sox leading by a run, Nunez entered to hit for Devers against reliever Alex Wood. Nunez was sitting on Wood’s slider, got one down and in on a 1-0 count, and he absolutely clubbed it. The only question was whether his shot to left had enough height to clear the 37-foot wall. It did, buzzing into the base of the light tower for a three-run homer that turned a 5-4 lead into an 8-4 romp. Given some of the struggles Craig Kimbrel displayed throughout the postseason, this homer helped eliminate any and all stress from creeping in late in this World Series opener.
6. Eduardo Nunez’s ALDS-Sealing Play
Eduardo Nunez’s defense was not always perfect in the postseason. He flubbed an easy double play in Game 1 of the ALCS, failed to get leather on a hot shot in the same game, and he went tumbling into the L.A. crowd in Game 3 of the World Series, thereby allowing the tying run to take second base in the 13th inning. Not perfect.
But the play Nunez made to close out the ALDS was nothing short of spectacular.
It came amid a Craig Kimbrel meltdown. Boston entered the bottom of the ninth with a 4-1 lead and a chance to end the series in the Bronx. But Kimbrel couldn’t find the plate. He walked Aaron Judge on four pitches and allowed a single to Didi Gregorius before getting Giancarlo Stanton to flail at a breaking ball for strike three. With one out, though, Kimbrel couldn’t settle down.
Luke Voit reached on a four-pitch walk, before Kimbrel hit Neil Walker with the first pitch of his at-bat to allow a run to cross the plate.
With the tying run on second and the winning run at first, Kimbrel had to face the dangerous Gary Sanchez. Kimbrel was able to survive, barely, but he did allow a sacrifice fly to cut Boston’s lead to just one run.
That brought up Gleyber Torres. Reaching base would have loaded the bases, and a base hit would have tied it. And when Torres sent a 1-2 pitch rolling toward third base, it looked like trouble. A lot of trouble.
But Nunez got a great break on the ball, charged to the infield grass, fielded it and quickly threw on to first base. Steve Pearce made a tremendous stretch, and it was good enough to nab Torres by a hair.
The play was reviewed, but the call was confirmed. The Red Sox survived, avoiding having to play a do-or-die elimination game back at Fenway in the first round of the playoffs. What a different story that could have been.
5. JBJ’s Three-Run Double
The MVP of the ALCS had just three hits for the entire series, but he really chose the right time to come through. The first of those three hits was perhaps the biggest. It came in the bottom of the third inning, with Boston trailing 4-2 in the game and 1-0 in the series. David Price was awfully shaky to start this game, and worry was starting to creep in to Fenway Park as the defending champs asserted themselves.
But with Rafael Devers on first, Steve Pearce on second and Xander Bogaerts on third, Jackie Bradley sent a towering fly ball into left field, getting enough on it to scrape the wall. A fortuitous bounce and roll up on the padding of the wall in foul ground allowed Devers to come all the way around from first base, making it a three-run double. That hit gave the Red Sox a 5-4 lead, a lead which the Red Sox would not relinquish for the rest of the night. Boston didn’t lose a game in the series after that game-changing hit from Bradley.
4. 2-Out, 2-Strike Rally In World Series Game 2
The Red Sox’ postseason was defined largely by how well the team delivered with two outs. As a team, the Red Sox batted .420 and drove in 38 runs when they came to bat with two outs and runners in scoring position. And such a situation is what won them Game 2 of the World Series.
The Red Sox trailed in that game, 2-1, after a shaky fourth inning by David Price, and Dodgers starter Hyun-Jin Ryu had settled into a groove. He was on the verge of getting through a 1-2-3 fifth, as he had Christian Vazquez at the plate with nobody on, two outs, and two strikes.
Vazquez then deposited a single into right field. Mookie Betts followed with a single of his own. Ryu then engaged in a battle with Andrew Benintendi, an at-bat that included three mound visits and lasted seven-and-a-half minutes.
With the bases loaded, Ryan Madson entered in relief. He walked Steve Pearce on five pitches, which scored the tying run and set the stage for J.D. Martinez.
The Red Sox’ most reliable RBI man didn’t wait around, putting an inside-out swing on Madson’s second pitch and shooting it into right field. Betts and Benintendi came around to score, giving the Red Sox a 4-2 lead — a lead which would hold for the remainder of the game.
3. David Price’s Game 5 Start
You’ll always be able to say whatever you want about David Price, but he’ll always be able to say he pitched seven masterful innings in the clinching game of a World Series.
Outside of his first pitch of the evening — which David Freese hit for a solo home run — Price was nearly perfect in the biggest game of the year and the biggest game of his life. He allowed just two hits after that, one of which was a routine fly ball which J.D. Martinez lost in the L.A. twilight. Price struck out five batters and sent down 14 consecutive Dodgers hitters, recording 1-2-3 innings from the fourth through the seventh innings.
It was, quite simply, a brilliant performance, one that perfectly capped off what was a postseason of redemption for Price.
2. Mitch Moreland/Steve Pearce Late Homers, World Series Game 4
The Red Sox lost Game 3 of the World Series in 18 innings, and they were in a very bad spot in Game 4. Dodgers starter Rich Hill was dealing, nearly unhittable through six innings and cruising along at just 82 pitches with a 4-0 lead entering the seventh inning. The Sox were staring down the barrel of a 2-2 series tie, with a critically important Game 5 on the horizon. The risk of the Red Sox returning to Fenway in a 3-2 series hole was very real.
But then, everything changed. And quickly. Xander Bogaerts walked, and Eduardo Nunez struck out, thus ending the night for Hill. Dave Roberts called upon Scott Alexander to face Brock Holt, but Alexander failed. He walked Holt on four pitches.
That prompted Roberts to call upon Ryan Madson, despite the righty’s disastrous appearances in Games 1 and 2, when he allowed all five of his inherited runners to cross the plate. Madson got Bradley to pop out, but then he had to face pinch hitter Mitch Moreland.
To say that Moreland demolished the first pitch from Madson would be a massive understatement, as Moreland sent this ball into orbit. When it finally came down, a 4-0 deficit had been cut to just one run. And the Red Sox had life.
Steve Pearce was clearly inspired, as he came to bat after a shutdown inning from Joe Kelly and likewise launched another homer, this one to tie the game. Pearce clobbered a first pitch from Dodgers closer Kenley Jansen, and the wind had been completely taken out of the Dodgers’ sails.
These home runs worked to not only turn around Game 4, but the entire series. The Red Sox took a 3-1 lead with the eventual win, and the Dodgers appeared to be completely dispirited by this swing of momentum. After the Moreland home run, in fact, the Dodgers batted .186 with a .239 on-base percentage for the remaining 12 innings in the World Series. Those two home runs served as the knockout blow.
1. Andrew Benintendi’s Catch
No, not that one — though the Air Jordan grab was pretty special — but the one the 24-year-old made to record the final out of a tense Game 4 in Houston. It’s not at all an overstatement to say that this catch changed the entirety complexion of Boston’s postseason.
That is to say — had Benintendi misjudged this ball, had he missed the catch, and had he allowed the sinking line drive to get past him, then the Astros would have almost certainly scored the winning run on this play. Doing that would have tied the series at 2-2, would have breathed life and confidence into the Astros and the home crowd, and would have made for a very stressful Game 5 the following night.
But all of that worrying was proven quickly to be a moot point, as Benintendi confidently tracked the ball off the bat of Alex Bregman, broke in and to his right, and gloved the ball while diving in the direction of third base. Everything about the play was incredible: the read, the decisiveness, the bold decision to go into a dive, the execution, and the primal roar that Benintendi unleashed upon popping to his feet.
The catch saved Craig Kimbrel from a potential nightmare outing, and it secured a 3-1 series lead against the defending champions. It was the embodiment of what the 2018 postseason run was all about.