No one can say the Boston Red Sox had an easy path to their fourth World Series title since 2004. It just looked that way.
The Red Sox took their “Do damage” slogan to heart, ripping through the postseason and winning 11 of their 14 games.
From an offensive standpoint, the Red Sox had to run through a seemingly daunting gauntlet. The New York Yankees, Houston Astros and Los Angeles Dodgers all threw their best at Boston, and the Red Sox offense was up to the challenge. The Red Sox got contributions up and down their lineup, from starters and the bench, scoring 84 runs in 14 games while socking 17 home runs and posting a .724 OPS that was 145 points higher than the average OPS of the other playoff teams.
And when you start to look at who the Red Sox did all of that against, it becomes even more impressive.
J.A. Happ — 3.4 wins above replacement (WAR) in 2018, one-time All-Star, had an 8-4 record with a 2.98 ERA against the Red Sox
Luis Severino — 4.7 WAR in 2018, two-time All-Star, 33-14 record with 3.18 ERA over last two seasons, finished third in Cy Young voting in 2017
CC Sabathia — 6-time All-Star, Cy Young winner
The Red Sox jumped on Happ in Game 1, as J.D. Martinez welcomed him to playoff baseball with a missile of a three-run home run. Then, following an ugly Game 2 loss, Boston took out its frustrations on Severino, pounding him for six runs in just three innings on the way to a historic 16-1 win.
Gerrit Cole — 5.1 WAR in 2018, going 15-5 with 2.88 ERA and leading the league with 12.4 strikeouts per nine innings, two-time All-Star
Dallas Keuchel — 2.6 WAR in 2018, two-time All-Star, former Cy Young Award winner
Charlie Morton — 3.5 WAR in 2018, one-time All-Star
Justin Verlander — 6.3 WAR in 2018, seven-time All-Star, former Cy Young, MVP and Rookie of the Year, one of the greatest pitchers of his generation
After Verlander shut down the Red Sox in Game 1, Boston bounced back with four straight wins. The Red Sox jumped on Cole early in Game 2 before he settled in and the Red Sox ultimately held on, while Keuchel had a strong outing in Game 3. Morton couldn’t escape the third inning in Game 4 before the Red Sox got their revenge on Verlander, tagging him for four runs in the clincher. And a lot of Boston’s offensive output came against a Houston bullpen that ranked in the top 10 in just about every statistical category during the regular season.
Clayton Kershaw (twice) — 4.0 WAR in 2018, 3-time Cy Young, MVP, 7-time All-Star, also one of the greatest pitchers of his generation
Hyun-Jin Ryu — 2.6 WAR in 2018
Rich Hill — He’s had some nice seasons.
Kershaw had great numbers through his first four postseason appearances of 2018, limiting the Atlanta Braves and Milwaukee Brewers to just five runs in 19 innings. It was a different story for the Red Sox, who bookended the World Series by battering Kershaw. The future Hall of Famer allowed nine runs in just 11 innings, as the Red Sox took him deep three times. The results were mixed against the other starters, but just like the Houston series, the Red Sox pounded the ‘pen. Each and every Dodgers reliever was charged with at least one earned run, and five of their eight relievers had a WHIP of 1.70 or higher. During the regular season, L.A.’s bullpen posted a 1.15 WHIP — the best in all of baseball.