After dispatching the Yankees in four games and the Astros in five, the Red Sox are onto the World Series, where they’ll face the Dodgers starting Tuesday night.
Here’s what the Red Sox have had to say as they’ve progressed throughout the playoffs.
“This is going to be a dogfight. We all know it.”
With the Red Sox and Yankees set to meet in the playoffs for the first time since 2004, manager Alex Cora named Chris Sale his Game 1 starter. In addition to his prowess as the Red Sox’ unquestioned ace, Sale had success against the Yankees, in particular, during the regular season.
He finished 2-0 with a 0.69 against New York this year, and his teammates were confident he would deliver in the playoffs despite his past postseason woes.
“He’s still Chris Sale. He’s been waiting for this game,” catcher Sandy Leon told reporters. “He treats regular games like playoff games. I know he’ll be ready for this.”
In the end, Sale didn’t dominate, but he did enough to guide the Red Sox to victory. He allowed two earned runs in 5 1/3 innings, and the bullpen held on to give Boston a 1-0 series edge.
The Red Sox dropped Game 2 at home, as David Price struggled mightily in a short start. Xander Bogaerts homered for the Red Sox, but it was nothing compared to the power surge that came from Aaron Judge and Gary Sanchez.
Said Rick Porcello: “Did anybody honestly expect it to be a wipeout series? This is going to be a dogfight. We all know it.”
“A lot of guys doubted us.”
After that Game 2 Yankees win, Aaron Judge blasted “New York, New York” as he waltzed past the Red Sox clubhouse. With the series heading back to the Bronx, Game 3 figured to be tight, but the Red Sox had other ideas.
“A lot of guys doubted us,” Bogaerts said. “I turned on the TV and everything is like, Yankees in four. I’m like, what is going on? How can we have 108 wins, and they’re like, the Yankees are going to win in four? I don’t understand.”
The Red Sox needed a lift, and they got one from just about everyone. Mookie Betts, Andrew Benintendi, Bogaerts, Rafael Devers, and Christian Vazquez all finished with two or more hits, but it was Brock Holt who delivered the most devastating blow to the Yankees.
Needing just a home run to complete the first cycle in MLB playoff history, Holt did exactly that. He admitted afterward that hitting a blast was on his mind, and he came through in the biggest way imaginable.
Holt said he went up in the ninth trying to homer. Moved up in the box and let it fly. Said it was the first time in his career he was trying to hit a homer.
— Pete Abraham (@PeteAbe) October 9, 2018
“Whenever you say first player ever to do something, I mean, that’s crazy to even think about,” he said. “I’m glad that my wife and little boy were here to watch it. So I can’t wait to get to them and give them a big hug. Tonight is something I’ll remember for a long, long time.”
Nathan Eovaldi shined on the mound as well, and the Red Sox took a 2-1 series lead.
Game 4, however, came down to the very end. Closer Craig Kimbrel, who has had a flair for the dramatics this postseason, gave the Yankees life, but he eventually earned the save. The Red Sox earned the last laugh, as they played “New York, New York” while celebrating their trip to the ALCS.
“It’s nice to get past the first round, for sure, absolutely,” Porcello said. “I think we’ve been a good enough ballclub to do so the last three years, but this year we finally broke through.”
— J.D. Martinez (@JDMartinez14) October 10, 2018
“In a sense, they did me a favor.”
Despite their impressive performance against the Yankees in the ALDS, many experts still believed the Red Sox would lose to the defending World Series champion Astros. Boasting the best ERA in baseball and a dangerous lineup from top to bottom, Houston came in with swagger and experience.
Sale, who changed his personal postseason narrative after excelling as both a starter and a reliever in the Yankees series, spoke freely about how his failures in the past have helped him succeed this year. He reflected on the Red Sox’ early exit from the playoffs a season ago and what it taught him about himself.
“Going through that made me better for this situation here and hopefully going forward,” Sale said.
There were many intriguing storylines heading into the matchup between the two juggernauts, and perhaps the most noteworthy was that of J.D. Martinez. Martinez, who used to play for the Astros, was eager to contribute in the ALCS, but he made it clear he didn’t hold a grudge.
“I learned a lot from Houston. And you know what? It made me who I am and there’s really no animosity there,” Martinez said. “In a sense, they did me a favor by allowing me to leave and going to play on another team.”
“If it’s baby steps, it’s baby steps.”
The Red Sox struggled in Game 1, falling 7-2 to Justin Verlander and the Astros, but they bounced back in Game 2. Price didn’t earn his first playoff win, but his team won his start for the first time ever in the playoffs.
“If it’s baby steps, it’s baby steps,” Price said. ” … You can ask any of my teammates for the 10 years I’ve been in the big leagues — or coaches or anybody that’s been around me. All I want to do is win. I expect myself to be great in big moments.”
Price: ‘We won. That’s my first team win as a starter. If it’s baby steps it’s baby steps, but I’m very happy we won.’
— Alex Speier (@alexspeier) October 15, 2018
David Price: "It wasn't the line I dreamed up to have tonight. But our offense, our defense, everybody rallied together. That's what we've done all year. Whenever starters needed to be picked up, they picked us up and vice versa. So that was big."
— Christopher Smith (@SmittyOnMLB) October 15, 2018
Q: Do you think the Houston Astros are the toughest team to face in baseball?
Brock Holt: “Besides the Boston Red Sox, but we can’t play them.”
— Jen McCaffrey (@jcmccaffrey) October 15, 2018
“If he wants to run his mouth now, we’ll see who is talking at the end of the series.”
The Red Sox had enough reasons to get up for Game 3, but Astros slugger Alex Bregman gave them one more. He trolled Eovaldi on Instagram, showing Eovaldi surrender a series of home runs to the Astros when Eovaldi was on the Rays.
“Wow. I don’t know why he would do that,” Red Sox first baseman Steve Pearce said. “We do our talking on the field. If he wants to run his mouth now, we’ll see who is talking at the end of the series. I don’t think he needs to run his mouth. He’s one of the best players in the game. If that’s his personality, that’s his personality. Nothing against the guy. If that’s how he has to motivate himself, whatever.”
Just like they did when the series was 1-1 heading to New York, the Red Sox responded to a little tomfoolery with a dominant performance. Eovaldi, of course, didn’t give up any home runs this time around in six sharp innings. They also got some help from Jackie Bradley Jr.
“I want to fail less.”
Bradley, who would go on to earn ALCS MVP honors, belted a grand slam in Game 3 to help the Red Sox take a 2-1 series edge. He only had three hits in the series, but they came with nine RBIs, which was more than enough to fuel the Red Sox.
“Happened to come up in some big opportunities and big moments, and I was able to cash in on those moments,” he said at the end of the series.
— Jackie Bradley Jr. (@JackieBradleyJr) October 17, 2018
“I just don’t want to fail a lot. I want to fail less,” he said. “I want to be more consistent than I have been. So I’m just continuously working as hard as I can to continuously get better — and fail less.”
“I was pretty positive that ball was going in my glove.”
Game 4 featured plenty of drama, starting with Betts’s controversial near-catch that was called an out in right field due to fan interference.
“I was pretty positive that ball was going in my glove,” Betts said. “But as I jumped and went over, reached my hand up, I felt like somebody was kind of pushing my glove out of the way or something.”
Later on, Betts threw out Tony Kemp at second base, which helped the Red Sox preserve their lead and drew plenty of praise from his teammates.
“He’s fast,” Bradley said. “There’s not many times a fast guy’s going to hit it down the line and he’s not going to get extra bases. We’ve got a special outfielder out there. And that was a tremendous play.”
The excitement in the outfield continued all the way to the very end of the night.
“At that point, it’s do-or-die, so glad I caught it.”
With the game on the line, the left fielder Benintendi dove to make a game-winning catch to put the Red Sox ahead 3-1 in the series. Had he missed it, the entire complexion of the ALCS would have changed.
“I thought I got a good jump on it,” Benintendi said after the game. “It wasn’t hit that hard and I think it got in a little bit so, I don’t know, I thought I could catch it and timed it up well and, I mean, at that point it’s do-or-die, so glad I caught it.”
Red Sox broadcaster Joe Castiglione was so impressed that he literally fell out of his chair. His teammates were awestruck as well.
“I gave him a kiss after the game, right on the cheek,” Holt said. “I said thank you.”
“He’s worth every penny.”
The Red Sox, despite Sale’s absence, finished off the Astros in Game 5, as Price was electric in by far the best start of his postseason career.
“I’m so proud of him,” Betts said. “He’s proved everybody wrong. He’s a great pitcher. He’s worth every penny, and I love him to death.”
“Honestly, I mean, I found something in the bullpen last night, and it kind of carried over to today,” Price said.
Price atoned for his past struggles and pitched the Red Sox to the World Series.
“That’s the second time I’ve done that in my career,” Price said, “and the last time was against these guys. To be able to do it for Boston, that means a lot to me.”
“I have irritation from a belly-button ring.”
Game 1 of the World Series between the Red Sox and Dodgers starts Tuesday night at 8:09 p.m. at Fenway Park. Sale, who will take the mound for Boston, recently told reporters the reason he missed a start against Houston was due to an infection from his belly-button ring.
Sale, presumably, does not have a belly-button ring, but he figured he’d take the chance to joke around and lighten the mood.
“I have irritation from a belly-button ring,” Sale said at Fenway Park Saturday. “Just kind of constantly taking it in and out, causing irritation, got a rash down there, so I had to take care of that. Doctors, nurses over at MGH were awesome, so things happen and you handle them and you keep moving forward.”
Antics aside, it appears Sale is ready for yet another massive start, this one on the grandest stage of all.