During the regular season, fairly or unfairly, the Red Sox always seemed carried by their stars to a disproportionate extent. Granted, there’s no way a team wins 108 games over the grind that is MLB’s regular season based solely on their star power, but the stars were always the biggest focus. On offense it was Mookie Betts and J.D. Martinez, with some help from the second-tier guys like Xander Bogaerts and Andrew Benintendi. On the mound, it was the Big Three of Chris Sale, David Price and Craig Kimbrel. Obviously there was help from others from time to time, but the main source of their success seemed to come from the big guns.
So, with that in mind, if you had told me before the postseason started that all of those big names were going to see their performances range from inconsistent to bad — you can probably exclude Price from this, though he was pretty bad for the first half of this postseason — after I scolded you for pretending to be from the future I’d say the Red Sox would be knocked out early. The depth was fine, but not enough to make up for disappointment from just about every star.
Well, silly me, right? As you may have heard, the Red Sox are one win away from winning the whole damned thing, and that’s with the stars’ performances ranging from inconsistent to straight-up bad. Mookie Betts has had some moments this October, but he’s been awful this series and mostly inconsistent all month. The same goes for Martinez and Bogaerts, though they’ve been a little better earlier in the postseason. Benintendi has been the best of this group, but even he hasn’t really shone at the plate. On the mound, Price has been electric of late but seemed on his way out of the rotation at the start of the month. Sale has flashed his typical stuff, but he’s still not exactly right. Kimbrel has had a couple of good outings but other than that he’s been a disaster waiting to happen. And they’re still here.
The reason they’re here? The role players have taken over. The depth that seemed fine but like nothing special during the regular season has been anything but in this postseason. I’m not going to go deep on everyone who’s stepped up — we all have been watching these games and I don’t want to be here all day — but everyone has had their moments. On offense:
- Steve Pearce has obviously had some clutch swings and shockingly great plays in the field.
- Mitch Moreland had the cutch home run to catapult Saturday’s win, and had huge pinch hitting appearances throughout the ALCS.
- Rafael Devers is growing up before our eyes and is utterly unaffected by the moment.
- Brock Holt hit for the damn cycle.
- Eduardo Núñez had the big home run in Game One and gave his life in Game Three.
- Christian Vazquez has had some of the best at bats this team has put up lately and is making pitchers show off their arsenal even as the top of the lineup fails to do so.
- Jackie Bradley Jr. really doesn’t have that many hits in this postseason, but every time he gets one it seems to come at the most important moment imaginable.
It hasn’t just been the offense, either. Go back to September, and remember the conversation around this team. It all centered around one thing: The bullpen. That was going to be the downfall of this team. They had no bridge from the rotation to Kimbrel. Well, that’s been the biggest strength on this roster in the postseason.
- Nathan Eovaldi had the performance of a lifetime in the Game Three loss and has arguably been the MVP of the postseason.
- Joe Kelly has turned all expectations on his head and has been lights out every time he’s gotten the call.
- Matt Barnes and Ryan Brasier haven’t always been perfect, but they’ve gotten the job done whenever they’ve had to and have pitched in some huge situations.
- Rick Porcello has been mostly solid in the rotation, and early in these playoffs he was playing the Eovaldi role as the eighth inning guy to start off series.
There’s really not much more to say. The Red Sox don’t get where they are without their stars. They don’t win 108 games without some of the best players on the planet playing the best baseball of their lives. They don’t win the division without the best one-two punch in any lineup in baseball. They (probably) don’t make the World Series without winning the division. It’s okay to be frustrated with their performances of late, but their seasons put Boston in the position to win a championship. The story of October, however, is everyone else. It’s been a complete takeover the roster, and it has Boston on the cusp of another parade.