The Boston Red Sox captured their ninth World Series title Sunday night, defeating the Los Angeles Dodgers 5-1 in Game 5 at Dodger Stadium.
Red Sox manager Alex Cora unexpectedly called on David Price instead of Chris Sale to start the fifth game of the Fall Classic, and the gambit paid off, as Price pitched seven-plus innings, allowing one earned run and striking out five batters.
Boston hitters roughed up Clayton Kershaw en route to an 8-4 win in Game 1, and they had Kershaw's number again. The three-time National League Cy Young Award winner surrendered four earned runs in seven innings.
Steve Pearce bookended the Red Sox's run-scoring. He hit a two-run home run in the first inning to put them ahead 2-0 and then had a solo homer in the eighth to add another insurance run.
David Price Rewrites October Narrative with Another Dominant Start
Even casual baseball fans were probably aware of David Price's 5.03 postseason ERA entering the playoffs; the subject had been discussed a lot both this year and amid the fallout from last season's American League Division Series exit.
It looked like history was going to repeat itself when Price gave up seven runs in his first two starts of the 2018 playoffs. Then he allowed just three earned runs over 19.2 innings in four appearances (three starts) to close out his first World Series title.
Beyond just how good he was on the mound, Price's flexibility was vital for Boston.
Matthew Pouliot @matthewpouliot
David Price in Boston's last 7 games: ALCS Game 4: Warmed up for over an inning ALCS Game 5: Six scoreless in win WS Game 1: Rested WS Game 2: Six innings, two runs in win WS Game 3: Two outs in relief WS Game 4: Warmed up in ninth WS Game 5: Seven innings, one run (so far)
The five-time All-Star seemed to know exactly what was on the line. He wasn't just pitching to get the Red Sox another title; he was attempting to exorcise the ghosts of Octobers past. And in the space of a few weeks, Price has immortalized himself forever in Boston.
It's somewhat ironic Price's redemption came at the expense of Kershaw, who allowed nine earned runs in his two World Series starts. There's an alternate reality in which Kershaw is hailed as the postseason hero, heaping further misery upon Price.
Prior to the start of the 2018 season, some Red Sox fans were probably hoping Price would opt out of the remaining four years and $127 million on his contract. Now, those same fans will be worried the veteran left-hander might see just how much his World Series performance is worth on the open market.
Dodgers' Championship Window Rapidly Closing Ahead of Pivotal Offseason
Two or three years ago, the Dodgers appeared to have the strongest foundation of any team in baseball. They had a roster capable of winning a title and a farm system that was flush with budding stars.
Now, the franchise has lost in the playoffs in six consecutive seasons, and, more importantly, Los Angeles is facing a murky future.
Manny Machado is headed for free agency, and the Dodgers will assuredly have strong competition from the New York Yankees for his signature.
Kershaw can opt out of his contract, and, while he seems a surer bet to return, his days as the best starter in MLB may be over. His disappointing playoffs capped off a year in which he had his highest FIP (3.19) and his fewest strikeouts (8.6 per nine innings) since his rookie season, per Baseball Reference.
Likewise, Kenley Jansen had the worst FIP of his career (4.03) in the regular season and is owed $56 million over the next three years. Jansen was dominant in the playoffs, though, which will ease some of the pressure he would've otherwise faced.
And nobody will receive more criticism in the offseason than Dodgers manager Dave Roberts.
The Dodgers aren't in dire straits. Corey Seager will be back healthy in 2019. Julio Urias and Walker Buehler are 22 and 24, respectively. Justin Turner is the only key position player over the age of 30. And the franchise can continue to maintain one of MLB's highest payrolls.
But there are tough questions Los Angeles will have to answer.
Losing Kershaw or having him continue to slowly decline will have an impact on the rotation, and the same goes for Jansen and the bullpen if he doesn't return to his usual self in 2019.
Losing Machado would hurt the lineup. The Dodgers may not be able to count upon Max Muncy to slug .582 again either. Opposing teams seemed to figure out Chris Taylor a little more after his breakout in 2017.
For a team that has been so singularly focused on winning the World Series, next season could represent a step backward.
Red Sox Clear World Series Favorites in 2019 After Legendary Season
Winning 108 games is probably out of the question in 2019, but the Red Sox have everything required to repeat as champions.
The Price opt-out decision will linger throughout the offseason. Beyond that, the spring should be pretty much drama-free for the Red Sox.
Craig Kimbrel is Boston's most notable free agent, and the team may be comfortable letting him go. Finding another closer would be better than having to pay Kimbrel between $15 million and $20 million, which is the going rate for proven free-agent closers.
Pearce, Joe Kelly and Nathan Eovaldi all played a role in Boston's title triumph, but none of the three is irreplaceable.
More than anything, the Red Sox's best players are in the primes of their careers. Mookie Betts, Andrew Benintendi, Xander Bogaerts and Rafael Devers are all 26 or younger. Betts is likely the American League MVP, and teammate J.D. Martinez should finish in the top five.
Chris Sale delivered another Cy Young-caliber season, while Price and Rick Porcello have settled into their roles as the secondary aces to the left-hander.
Manager Alex Cora also handled the postseason like an experienced vet in his first year.
The Red Sox followed up their last World Series win by finishing with 71 victories in 2014. This team is different. Whereas that championship was a bit of an outlier, Boston had been building to this for years.
The Red Sox will open their spring training schedule Feb. 22 against the Northeastern Huskies. The Dodgers will take on the Chicago White Sox on Feb. 23. Boston and Los Angeles will play one another in the 2019 regular season, as the Red Sox host a three-game series July 12-14.