A remarkable Red Sox season closed on Sunday with a 10-2 win over the Yankees on a sparkling Sunday afternoon at Fenway.
With little left to the play for, the Sox had dropped the first two games of the final set of the season, a series many of us earlier in 2018 expected would have far more significance than turned out to be. There was some palpable frustration around Red Sox Nation that abated a bit with Sunday’s decisive victory.
With the win Boston escaped what would have been its first four-game losing streak of 2018. Only the Red Sox avoided a four-game skid this season. Only twice before had a Boston team gone the whole season without losing four in a row (also the World Champion seasons of 1903 and 2013).
New York’s 100th win of the season came on Saturday making 2018 the first time that both the Red Sox and Yankees have won 100+ games in a season.
Most Red Sox Wins Ever
The Red Sox’ 108-54 record was the best in the majors for 2018, assuring the club home field advantage throughout the postseason. It was the most wins in the 118-year history of the franchise. This year’s Sox team is just the 12th baseball team since 1900 to win as many as 108 games and the first since the Mariners had 116 wins in 2001.
Boston’s .675 win percentage in 2018 was the fourth-best in club history and Boston’s best since 1946 (also .675 at 104-50).
On their way to a 10th division title, the Red Sox dominated American League East competition in 2018. In the end, Boston won the division by 8.0 games, their broadest margin of victory for a division title in club history.
Of the 186 days of the major league season (March 29-September 30), the Red Sox began 141 of those (75.8%) alone in first place and another seven days in a tie for first.
In the last offseason the Yankees got Giancarlo Stanton. The Red Sox waited but finally landed J.D. Martinez. Who made out better? For Boston, the answer is clear: Martinez singlehandedly revitalized the Sox offense in 2018, both by his own contributions and with what he did to boost the performance other Sox players.
With an exclamation point in Game No. 162, Martinez recorded his major league-best 59th multi-hit game, including his 43rd home run. The home run tally, the second-most overall in the majors, was the most in a single season for the Sox since David Ortiz belted 54 round trippers in 2006.
Martinez’ 43 home runs were the most-ever HRs by a first-year Sox player, besting the 42 by Dick Stuart in 1963. Martinez’ career-high 130 RBI were the most by any Boston player since Big Papi’s 136 RBI in 2006 and the fourth-most by a Boston hitter in his first season with the club after Ted Williams (145 in 1939), Jimmie Foxx (143 in 1936), and Vern Stephens (137 in 1948).
A Breakout Betts Season
And yet as big as Martinez was this season, most fans will likely connect 2018 with the superlative work of Mookie Betts, who won his first major league batting title by ending the season at .346, the highest by a Boston hitter since Manny Ramírez in 2002 (.349). The last Red Sox hitter to lead the majors outright in AVG was Wade Boggs in 1988 (.366).
Betts edged out Martinez (.330) for the batting title marking the first season since 1942 in which the Sox have featured the top two hitters by AVG (Williams, .356 and Johnny Pesky, .331).
Again and again in 2018 the record books were re-written by Mookie Betts. His 129 runs scored were the most by a Red Sox hitter at the age of 25 or younger since Ted Williams in 1942 (141) and the most by a Sox hitter since Dom DiMaggio in 1950 (131). He joined Ted Williams and Jimmie Foxx as the only Sox hitters ever to finish with a .340+ AVG and 80+ extra-base hits. And according to Elias, Betts became the first player ever to win a batting title while also recording 30+ home runs and 30+ stolen bases.
Not to be lost among the brightest stars, Xander Bogaerts enjoyed a standout 2018 season with career-highs for doubles (45), extra-base hits (71), home runs (23) and RBI (103). Bogaerts also recorded a career best .522 slugging percentage and .883 OPS. Consistent Bogaerts averaged an RBI ever 4.98 at-bats and a home run in every 22.3 at-bats this season, both career-best rates.
“I knew he was good, but to see it on a daily basis…is eye-opening,” rookie manager Alex Cora said after the game. “From Day One in Spring Training…he put the work [in], he’s a good student of the game.”
Cora finished the regular season with the second-most wins for any individual as a first-year manager, trailing only Ralph Houk and the 1961 Yankees (109-53).