David Price and the Boston Red Sox Won the World Series, and Did the Improbable
Boston defeated Los Angeles 5–1 to win their fourth World Series in fifteen years, and their pitching staff — postseason goats, Tommy John veterans, and DL-junkies alike — pitched like Cy Young reincarnate.
In a season where pitch counts and innings limits are the talk of baseball, the arm of David Price just flung the Boston Red Sox into baseball history. The maligned lefty twirled another seven inning masterpiece, silencing the Dodgers on the way to Boston’s 5–1 win to clinch the World Series. Price pitched or warmed up in each of the last four games of the series, championing a whole cadre of eager Boston pitchers that yielded just three runs per game to the National League’s highest scoring offense.
The Red Sox were relentless — Price jumping ahead of batters then rolling his devilish change, Joe Kelly sneering fastballs, Chris freakin’ Sale pumping gas for the proverbial save. After World Series gnat David Freese whalloped Price’s first pitch of the game for a home run, Boston pitchers allowed just two hits the rest of the game, one of those a lost-and-found fly ball JD Martinez couldn’t see. Each of the last six Dodger hitters struck out.
We know now what makes a great pitcher in 2018: velocity, limiting walks, missing bats. Every manager prizes their pitchers’ health and ability to throw with max effort. Pitch counts aren’t some nebulous, arbitrary thing, as John Smoltz would have you believe — in order for the human arm to perform at its best, particularly when executing and repeating such an insane, ligament-agnostic movement, it needs to be healthy, rested, and fresh.
The throwing limbs attached to the trunks of Red Sox pitchers would not be the first choice if one were looking to update the Wikipedia entry for health. Price pitched just 74 ⅔ innings last year, but is apparently a medical marvel. Game 3’s tear-jerking relief hero Nathan Eovaldi is no stranger to surgery. Price himself started Game 5 on short rest because ace Chris Sale’s shoulder is still balky.
You don’t have to do shots of 100-proof Analytics Kool-Aid to suggest that what Boston’s beleaguered pitchers just did — stifle the NL’s best offense and strike out 45 Dodgers in five games — was improbable. Price threw 13 ⅔ innings to the tune of a 1.98 ERA. Eovaldi, who missed the entire 2017 season, pitched eight innings and gave up one measly run, the middle-of-the-night Max Muncy homer in Game 3. Joe Kelly, who possessed a 4.39 ERA this year, pitched in every last game and struck out ten Dodgers with no walks. Guys were apparently lining up outside of Alex Cora’s office to pitch throughout the World Series. It’s admirable as hell — but it definitely doesn’t mean it should work.
And yet, it worked. Like, spectacularly. Like, maybe-crumbled-this-version-of-the-Dodgers-forever worked. L.A.’s own rubber-armed, six-foot-four magnet for empathy Clayton Kershaw keeps doing the best he can with his left appendage. He’s thrown 63 innings over the last two postseasons (!) alone, and has had to watch two different teams win titles at Dodger Stadium. What Boston’s pitchers just did was bonkers — it should not have worked. And yet, there’s a limit to how many times we can say that, too — for now, it’s time we crown all of them as World Series champs.