Five reasons the Red Sox are going to the World Series

The Boston Red Sox were not satisfied with a franchise-record 108 wins during the regular season. From Day 1 in spring training, this team has had a much bigger goal in mind: Winning the World Series.

With their 4-1 win against the Houston Astros in Game 5 of the American League Championship Series, the Red Sox moved one huge step closer toward achieving that goal. They’re headed back to the World Series for the first time since 2013.

To most franchises and fan bases, five years without a World Series is nothing. To the Red Sox and their fans, it’s five years too many. They expect to compete for championships every single season, but have struggled more than usual in getting back to this point.

The Red Sox went from World Series champions in 2013, to last place in the AL East in 2014 and 2015. Though they bounced back with back-to-back 93-win seasons, they were disappointed with consecutive eliminations in the ALDS both years. That set the stage for a bigger change.

John Farrell was out as manager. Alex Cora was in. It’s debatable whether that’s the biggest reason the Red Sox have taken a big step forward in 2018. But it’s certainly among them. The continued brilliance of Chris Sale and the solidification of Mookie Betts as an MVP candidate are big reasons too.

Here though, we’ll zero in on the postseason and look at five reasons the Red Sox have been able to dispatch the New York Yankees and Astros in dominant fashion, setting the stage for a World Series rebirth.

Jackie Bradley Jr.’s three ALCS hits were so important that he won the ALCS MVP award. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

Jackie Bradley Jr. got hot at the right time

If we asked Red Sox fans to predict their ALCS MVP one week ago, would any of them have picked Jackie Bradley Jr.?

Probably not, yet that’s exactly what he was during the series against Houston.

Though Bradley Jr. only had three hits in the series, he made them all count.

In Game 2, he hit a bases-clearing double off of Gerrit Cole to give Boston the lead in a 7-5 victory. In Game 3, he broke the game wide open with an eighth-inning grand slam off of Astros reliever Roberto Osuna. Then came the Game 4 heroics, which not only gave Boston the lead, but positioned Bradley Jr. to challenge a Red Sox ALCS record held by David Ortiz.

The postseason is all about surprise heroes. Bradley Jr. fits the bill from an offensive standpoint.

Andrew Benintendi’s game-saving catch in ALCS Game 4

Would the Red Sox have made the World Series without Andrew Benintendi’s remarkable catch?

Maybe. But they certainly wouldn’t be here this soon.

Benintendi took away at least a game-tying hit from Alex Bregman with his diving catch to end Game 4. Had the ball skipped past him, then Houston wins, meaning this series would be headed back to Boston this weekend. No single play has had more importance this postseason. That includes the controversial Jose Altuve non-homer earlier in Game 4.

David Price discovers his changeup

While Clayton Kershaw continues rewriting his postseason narrative in the National League, Red Sox left-hander David Price is attempting to do the same in the AL.

Price was sensational in ALCS Game 5, outpitching the nearly impossible to crack Justin Verlander in an environment Verlander has owned during his career. While the Astros broke through with a pair of homers, Price navigated Houston’s dangerous lineup thanks largely to one pitch: his changeup.

One start might not override a decade’s worth of postseason struggles. It does, however, give Price a much-needed confidence as he heads into his second World Series.

Boston Red Sox starting pitcher Chris Sale throws against the Houston Astros during the first inning in Game 1 of a baseball American League Championship Series on Saturday, Oct. 13, 2018, in Boston. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

Chris Sale provides relief in ALDS Game 4

While some managers have schemed to use their starting pitchers less in October, Red Sox manager Alex Cora is finding ways to use his more. A prime example came in Game 4 of the ALDS. Cora called on Chris Sale in relief to help wrap up that series before he was needed to start Game 5.

Sale answered the call, shutting the Yankees down in the eighth inning on just 13 pitches to protect a 4-1 lead and preserve a series-clinching victory. The inning proved extra important after New York scored two in the ninth inning.

Sale had previously started Game 1 of the ALDS for the Red Sox just four days earlier, pitching 5 1/3 innings of two-run ball with eight strikeouts. 

J.D. Martinez goes boom

The Red Sox signed J.D. Martinez during the offseason to provide some sorely needed power. He’s only hit two home runs so far through nine postseason games, but both have been tone-setters for Boston.

The first came in the first inning of ALDS Game 1 against the Yankees. With two men on, Martinez cracked a three-run homer against J.A. Happ to pace the Red Sox in a 5-4 victory.

The second came Thursday, in Boston’s pennant-clinching win in Houston. This time, Martinez took Verlander deep to end Verlander’s 26-inning scoreless streak in games he’s pitched with his team facing elimination. The Red Sox would never trail in either game in which Martinez homered.

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