David J. Phillip/Associated Press
Major League Baseball hasn’t seen a repeat World Series champion since the New York Yankees reeled off three straight from 1998 through 2000.
That drought will continue at least one more year after the Boston Red Sox bounced the Houston Astros out of the American League Championship Series with a 4-1 victory Thursday behind six scoreless, nine-strikeout innings from David Price.
It was the five-time All-Star’s first win in 12 career postseason starts.
“He’s never going to forget it,” centerfielder Jackie Bradley told reporters. “I know I’m not.”
The Red Sox are still awaiting their opponent, as the Los Angeles Dodgers and Milwaukee Brewers move back to Wisconsin for Friday’s Game 6. The Dodgers own a 3-2 advantage after Clayton Kershaw pitched them to a 5-2 win on Wednesday.
Since we’re here to make predictions, we might as well start here—the Dodgers are going back to the championship round. They’ll clinch their spot Friday behind Hyun-Jin Ryu and his superhuman 1.97 ERA.
But we know you’re here for more bold calls than that. After laying out the World Series’ TV schedule, we’ll examine three of our biggest and boldest below.
2018 World Series TV Schedule
Game 1, Tuesday Oct. 23: Dodgers/Brewers at Red Sox; time TBA (Fox)
Game 2, Wednesday Oct. 24: Dodgers/Brewers at Red Sox; time TBA (Fox)
Game 3, Friday Oct. 26: Red Sox at Dodgers/Brewers; time TBA (Fox)
Game 4, Saturday Oct. 27: Red Sox at Dodgers/Brewers; time TBA (Fox)
*Game 5, Sunday Oct. 28: Red Sox at Dodgers/Brewers; time TBA (Fox)
*Game 6, Tuesday Oct. 30: Dodgers/Brewers at Red Sox; time TBA (Fox)
*Game 7, Wednesday Oct. 31: Dodgers/Brewers at Red Sox; time TBA (Fox)
Craig Kimbrel Won’t Allow a Run
File this under recency boldness—a category quite possibly created specifically for this article.
Craig Kimbrel is a seven-time All-Star and four-time saves leader. For his career, he has a sub-2.00 ERA and a sub-1.00 WHIP. Just last season, those marks were 1.43 and 0.68, respectively.
Normally, calling for a scoreless stretch from him isn’t much different than predicting a sunrise. But if you tighten the lens to just this postseason, he’s been as hittable as any of Boston’s bullpen regulars.
He’s surrendered six hits, six walks and five runs (all earned) over 6.1 innings. He’s had a single appearance in five chances.
So, why are we bullish about him bouncing back? For starters, this postseason hasn’t erased Kimbrel’s history. He’s the same filthy pitcher he’s always been, only he’s stuck in a rough patch. It happens.
Plus, something was spotted in his delivery—by former Red Sox closer Eric Gagne of all people—suggesting he was tipping his pitches. The information reached Kimbrel before Game 5, and he needed just 14 pitches to send the Astros into summer vacation.
“We knew he was tipping his pitches yesterday and that he was gonna be fine,” Boston skipper Alex Cora said, per MassLive.com’s Chris Cotillo. “We saw his hands today. Yesterday they were up, today they were down. He was tipping his pitches for two weeks.”
David Price Will Win Two More Postseason Starts
To suggest that a single victory can reroute the course of Price’s entire playoff trajectory is madness, right? Even after Thursday’s gem, his career postseason ERA still sits at an unsightly 5.04. It was north of 13 in two of his first three playoff trips with the franchise.
But his Game 5 performance had all the markings of a breakthrough.
The deck was stacked against him. He was pitching on three days’ rest and even less fresh than that sounds, considering he warmed up for a possible relief appearance the night before. He was facing a 103-win team that ranked among the 10 best offenses in runs (sixth), homers (10th), batting average (seventh) and OPS (seventh).
Turns out, none of it mattered.
Price didn’t simply deliver a clutch pitching performance, the guy was dealing.
Christopher Smith @SmittyOnMLB
Rick Porcello on David Price: was throwing gas. The fastball was 95, 96. The changeup was devastating. That was one of the best efforts I’ve ever seen in the postseason given the situation on short rest and (warming up in) the bullpen yesterday. That’s as impressive as you get”
Pitcher List @PitcherList
Beautiful changeup from David Price to fan Carlos Correa https://t.co/mnUj8k3QHy
But that’s the Price we’ve all come to know in the regular season. After watching him finally find his form in the playoffs, why can’t he maintain that level?
The Red Sox might need to follow his lead. Chris Sale has battled both injuries and illness. Rick Porcello had a rough go his last time out (seven hits, four runs, two homers in four innings). Nathan Eovaldi has been spectacular this postseason, but his career numbers say he’s just solid (44-53 record, 4.16 ERA).
In other words, Boston might need a couple good ones out of its $217 million man. Look for Price to deliver under the bright lights again.
The MVP Won’t Be a 2018 All-Star
The list of World Series MVP winners isn’t hurting for name recognition. We’ve seen time and again that superstars have a way of performing when pressure is at its highest.
But sometimes the quirkiness of baseball can put unexpected heroes under the spotlight.
Look no further than the ALCS, where Bradley—a career .238 hitter with one 20-homer season to date—slugged his way to the MVP with a double, two homers and nine RBI.
Jayson Stark @jaysonst
Strange But True Alert:
Jackie Bradley Jr. during the season: 0 XBH with the bases loaded.
Jackie Bradley Jr. in Games 2 & 3: A double & now a HR with the bases loaded!
October baseball is just funny like that sometimes.
David Freese had 15 career homers when he surprisingly surged to the 2011 World Series MVP. The 2010 honor went to Edgar Renteria, who hadn’t been an All-Star since 2006 and didn’t play an MLB game after 2011. Livan Hernandez entered the 1997 postseason with 99.1 career innings pitched and left it with both the NLCS and World Series MVP awards.
We’ll say another unlikely star emerges this year, even though the series won’t be lacking star power. The Red Sox and Brewers both had five players selected, while the Dodgers sent four.
Still, there’s a massive player pool behind that group, and it isn’t short on candidates for any team. Would anyone be shocked by Price, Andrew Benintendi, Rafael Devers or Xander Bogaerts taking home the trophy for Boston? What about Kershaw, Cody Bellinger, Justin Turner or Joc Pederson for L.A.? Or Ryan Braun, Mike Moustakas or Travis Shaw for Milwaukee?
All it takes is a few timely hits or a couple shutdown pitching performances to shape the course of the series. We’re guessing said contributions will come from a player who didn’t participate in the midseason classic.
Statistics used courtesy of ESPN.com and Baseball-Reference.com.