What a night that was. The Red Sox, after dropping the first game of this series at home, won the next for including three in three days on the road against the defending champs. If you’re not impressed with this team yet, well, it’s long past time for you to find a new hobby. After a wild, instant-classic in Game 4, the Red Sox had a much more straight-forward victory in Game 5 to punch their ticket to their first World Series since 2013 and their fourth in the last 15 years. Here are some thoughts I can’t get out of my head after this win.
- I’m going to have more on this in a bit, so I won’t go too deep into it right now, but I can’t write this without starting with David Price. This is a performance that should and will be remembered by Red Sox fans for a long time. Given his history, the circumstances of the start and just the sheer talent on the other side, the utter dominance he showed in six innings on Thursday was absolutely incredible. There was this real sense of relaxation and relief around the Red Sox lefty in his postgame interviews, and it’s impossible not to be thrilled for this guy who has gone through so much in his Red Sox tenure.
- Happy birthday to Alex Cora. The Red Sox manager celebrated his 43rd birthday on Thursday, and the Red Sox gifted him a pair of wins in the span of the entire day as well as a champagne celebration. Not a bad way to ring in your latest year on this planet. Birthdays aside, it’s hard to overstate Cora’s effect on this team. Watching the postgame interviews and listening to all of the different players on the roster, their words about Cora stood out the most to me. Players play the game, and at the end of the day they have the biggest impact on games, but Cora was the perfect addition for this roster. His connection with every player on the roster has become crystal clear, and the amount of trust these guys have in their leader is undeniable. I think it’s fair to say the Red Sox probably aren’t here, at least in this fashion, if they had anyone but Cora at the helm.
- Like with Price, I’ll have a little bit more on this later so I won’t go too deep, but we have to mention that Jackie Bradley Jr. won the ALCS MVP. I couldn’t be happier for him, and he absolutely deserves it even with just three hits in the series. For one thing, he drew four walks as well and had a .400 OBP. Additionally, he had a 0.71 WPA in this series, blowing away George Springer’s second-place 0.46 mark. Next closest on the Red Sox was Ryan Brasier at 0.39. This was Bradley’s series.
- Craig Kimbrel came right back out on Thursday to close out the series and the pennant, and frankly that shocked me. It’s not just that he’s been so bad in this postseason, but also that he worked so much on Wednesday that I figured it was a given that he had the night off. However, after the game, Cora said that his closer had been tipping pitches for the last couple weeks and they solved it. They wanted him to get right back on the mound after figuring it out. Kimbrel looked a lot better in this outing, and I believe they did fix something. That being said, to put it all on tipping pitches is just blowing smoke. That was probably part of it, and the psychological effect of “solving” your issue is legitimate, but Kimbrel’s control was way off during this stretch. Tipping pitches or no, it doesn’t matter if you’re not close to the zone. That being said, even if one outing doesn’t give me full confidence in Kimbrel again, he certainly looked much closer to himself in this outing.
- We’ve been saying this same thing all postseason, but credit where it’s due to Cora for pulling the right strings in the lineup. Specifically, a lot of people (myself included) were confused about Ian Kinsler getting the start at second base, but it paid off. The veteran had two hits in this game, including a double, he scored a run and his ability to avoid strikeouts helped lead to an Alex Bregman error as well. I know I’m not actually going to keep this up, but I really need to stop doubting Cora’s lineup decisions.
- Along these same lines, it was great to see Mitch Moreland back in the lineup and contributing. This wasn’t one I second-guessed so much as one that I was just surprised by. I was not aware that Moreland was ready to play a full game again, but he came up big with two hits of his own including a double. Moreland actually played in every game and, despite not starting until the final game, tied for second in WPA among Red Sox position players. That’s pretty unbelievable, but he did come through in just about every spot.
- How have I gone this far without talking about Nathan Eovaldi. It’s going to be at least a little overshadowed due to Price’s performance, but Eovaldi’s night was almost as impressive. Pitching in the role most envisioned for him just a couple months ago, he was blazing out of the bullpen with his best stuff. He came in with a runner on, quickly ended that inning then got three more outs with relative ease. The fact that he pitched so well while pumping 102 mph heat just two days after throwing 90+ pitches over six innings is absurd.
- It was great to see J.D. Martinez go deep in this game for his first homer since the first inning of the first game of the ALDS. There will be some talk about how he should have struck out on the pitch before the homer (and he should have), but Justin Verlander still has to make a good pitch after that. Bad calls happen, and Martinez still won the battle.
- I mentioned above how the way players talked about Cora in the postgame celebration was eye-opening. The same goes for how they talked about Rafael Devers. It’s easy to forget just how young Devers is, and he’s not going to turn 22 until the middle of the World Series. And yet, as so many players pointed out, nothing effects him. He’s been in and out of the lineup all postseason, he’s been healthy and hurt all regular season and has been up and down. And yet, you wouldn’t now it watching him. He had a huge home run in this game, and was the one tied with Moreland for second in WPA among Sox position players. There were very real growing pains for Devers this year, and he’s certainly not a perfect player. All things considered, though, it’s been a hell of a year for him.
- The Red Sox are 5-0 on the road in this postseason against a pair of 100+ win teams. That says everything about how great and resilient this team is.
- We end with Alex Bregman. He has become the enemy on this Astros roster, and I totally get it. He plays with this cocky swagger, and he carried it with him off the field. That’s exactly the kind of player who opposing fan base’s grow to dislike, and it’s entirely understandable. I love it, though, and I wish more players were like him. His battles against the Red Sox moving forward are going to be fun.
- Along those same lines, the Red Sox certainly noticed his now-infamous Instagram video. Thursday was filled with a little bit of payback for the Astros star. First, he tried to intimidate Andrew Benintendi after the outfielder robbed him of a game-winning hit on Wednesday. Benintendi just laughed.
Then, during the game after Bregman struck out against Eovaldi, Price suggested a new Instagram post.
Finally, the Red Sox twitter account had some fun with a video of their own.
This is all just so good.