Call it a Feel Good Series: Not only did the Red Sox win their 14th American League pennant on Thursday, but they did it decisively with a three-game road sweep of the Astros and with the help of some unsung heroes.
David Price: “Special Day”
On paper, David Price versus Houston’s ace, Justin Verlander, did not seem like a favorable match for Boston. In fact, Price was masterful over six shutout innings, allowing three hits but no walks and striking out a postseason career high nine Astros. In so doing, Price became the just the seventh Red Sox pitcher with six or more shutout innings in a postseason potential clinching game and the first since Jon Lester on October 6, 2008 in ALDS Game 4 versus the Angels.
Price joined three other Boston pitchers in the club’s postseason history with six shutout innings and no walks in a postseason game (also John Lackey in 2013, Josh Beckett in 2007 and Ray Collins in 1912), but Price is the only one of the four to reach nine strikeouts in such an outing.
Price, understandably emotional after the game, called Thursday “one of the most special days I’ve ever had on the baseball field.”
The start for Price was all the more remarkable coming on just three days rest and as a fill-in for Chris Sale. The last time a pitcher in an ALCS worked 6.0 or more shutout innings on three-or-fewer days was the Orioles Mike Mussina in Game 6 of the 1997 ALCS against the Indians.
Matt Barnes, Nathan Eovaldi and Craig Kimbrel provided 3.0 innings of relief, the only blemish coming with a solo home run by Marwin Gonzalez in the seventh inning off Barnes.
Red Sox Nation, no doubt troubled by Kimbrel’s effective albeit terrifying two innings of work the night before, watched him finish the series with two strikeouts and a walk. After the game came word that former Sox closer Eric Gagne had texted manager Alex Cora following Game 4 to alert him that Kimbrel was tipping his pitches. Changes were made and Kimbrel’s effectiveness was boosted.
Kimbrel became the ninth pitcher in ALCS history with three saves in one series. Only Hall of Famer Dennis Eckersley (1988 with the Athletics) and Greg Holland (2014 with the Royals) have had more such saves (four each).
Red Sox relievers held the Astros to eight earned runs over 18.0 relief innings (4.00 ERA), including four runs in a tough 0.1 IP by Brandon Workman. Discounting Workman’s appearance the bullpen ERA was 2.05 during the series.
Jackie Bradley: MVP
Boston got Game 5 home runs from J.D. Martinez and Rafael Devers but after the game it was Jackie Bradley, Jr. who earned MVP honors. Bradley batted 3-for-15 (.200) in the series but none the less drove in nine runs with two home runs and a double while drawing four walks and scoring three runs.
“Speechless. It’s amazing,” Bradley said in a postgame interview. “I have amazing teammates, amazing staff. Everybody’s such a blessing.”
Bradley’s nine RBI were fully a third of the Red Sox’ 27 RBI during the series. Bradley joins Koji Uehara (2013), Josh Beckett (2007), David Ortiz (2004) and Marty Barrett (1986) as the only ALCS MVPs in club history.
For Bradley, 2018 certainly had its ups and downs. “It’s a lot of work. It doesn’t come easy,” Bradley conceded. “I want to continue to work, perfect my craft and hopefully keep on winning.”
The Red Sox home runs were the first allowed by Verlander in an ALCS game since Mike Napoli helped Boston beat the Tigers in 2013 ALCS Game 3. Verlander had gone three straight ALCS starts without allowing a homer and had worked a total of 25.0 straight complete innings without a home run in ALCS play.
The Red Sox now have the luxury of some rest before facing the winner of the NLCS starting Tuesday, October 23, in the World Series at Fenway Park.
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