Red Sox, clearly the better team, win the World Series in five games over Dodgers

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A quartet of homers from Steve Pearce (two), Mookie Betts, and J.D. Martinez provided more than enough offense as the Red Sox defeated the Dodgers 5-1 on Sunday night in Game 5 of the World Series, winning the organization’s first championship since 2013 and their ninth overall. Pearce, coming off a tremendous Game 4 performance, hit a two-run shot in the first inning to open the scoring. Mookie Betts, who had been ice cold throughout the playoffs, drilled a solo blast in the sixth. J.D. Martinez clobbered a solo homer to dead-center off of Kershaw to begin the seventh. Pearce added another solo shot off of Pedro Báez in the eighth, padding the lead to four runs.

David Price, not Chris Sale, opposed Clayton Kershaw to start Game 5, a matchup of starters with perceived troubled postseason issues. Price, after struggling in his first two starts of the postseason, threw quite well in his last two starts and even got two outs in relief in the 18-inning Game 3 classic. Kershaw has had two terrific starts this postseason and two subpar outings.

Price outdueled Kershaw on Sunday, pitching seven-plus strong innings, yielding a lone run on three hits and two walks with five strikeouts on 83 pitches. The lone run came in the bottom of the first when David Freese hit a solo homer to right-center field on a first-pitch fastball. Kershaw, meanwhile, surrendered the four runs on seven hits with no walks and five strikeouts on 92 pitches.

Price issued a walk to Chris Taylor to begin the eighth inning, ending his night. Joe Kelly entered, promptly striking out the side, sending Matt Kemp, Joc Pederson, and Cody Bellinger back to the dugout unhappy.

In the ninth, Chris Sale — not Craig Kimbrel, notably — took the mound to close out the game. The strikeouts continued as Sale got Justin Turner to chase at a slider in the dirt. After falling behind 3-1 to Enrique Hernández, Sale fought back and got him to chase at a 3-2 slider for the second out. Fittingly, Manny Machado represented the final out of the Dodgers’ season. Sale threw a 1-2 slider that Machado whiffed at, clinching the World Series for the Red Sox.

The Red Sox, winners of 108 games during the regular season, appeared throughout the World Series to be the clearly better team in all facets of the game. This isn’t to say the Red Sox made zero mistakes, but their ability to execute fundamentally was a level above the Dodgers and it is what allowed them to close out the series in a rather tidy five games.

Early in the series, I highlighted Boston’s ability to come through with runners in scoring position, particularly with two outs. That was obviously not the deciding factor in Game 3’s 18-inning, knock-down, drag-out affair. What became the factor in Games 4 and 5 was Boston’s power potential as well as execution in RISP situations. The Dodgers’ bullpen was ambushed in Game 4 to the tune of eight runs in the seventh, eighth, and ninth as the Red Sox hit a pair of doubles and a pair of homers, which helped make four walks and three singles more impactful. All four of the runs the Red Sox scored in Game 5 came home by way of the homer.

Red Sox manager Alex Cora seemed to push all the right buttons compared to his counterpart in the Dodger dugout, Dave Roberts. Critics will have plenty of fodder for playing Monday morning quarterback with Roberts, whether it was relying too heavily on a clearly ineffective Ryan Madson, not leaning heavily enough on Max Muncy, taking out Rich Hill too early in Game 4, or leaving Clayton Kershaw in too long in Game 5. The biggest gripe critics will have of Cora is that he called on Kimbrel a bit too often. Kimbrel gave up a hit and a walk in Game 3 and served up a two-run homer in the ninth inning of Game 4, but the Red Sox thankfully had built up a substantial lead.

Across the five games in the World Series, the Red Sox offense cobbled together a .222/.303/.386 triple-slash line in the World Series while the Dodgers hit .180/.249/.302. Boston’s line is better, but not substantially better to warrant outscoring the other side by 12 runs over five games. It all came down to executing when it mattered most. Let’s not forget that to even get to the World Series, the Red Sox had to dispatch of two 100-win teams in the Yankees (100) and Astros (103). At no point in the playoffs were the Red Sox in danger of being eliminated from a series. It was a remarkable season from start to finish for the Red Sox as baseball’s best team emerged with the trophy.

Report: Yankees could be in on Nolan Arenado

Nolan Arenado
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The Yankees appear to have moved on from free agent Manny Machado this winter, but could they be turning their attention to Rockies superstar Nolan Arenado? That’s the idea floated by Andy Martino of SNY, who hears that GM Brian Cashman has been involved in recent discussions concerning the third baseman. No official comments have been made to the press yet, though, and it’s not clear whether the Yankees would prefer to pursue Arenado prior to the 2019 season or partway through it.

The 27-year-old infielder earned his fourth consecutive All-Star nomination, Silver Slugger, and Gold Glove award in 2018 after slashing .297/.374/.561 with 38 home runs, a .935 OPS, and 5.7 fWAR across 673 plate appearances. There’s no question he’s provided immense value to Colorado’s lineup over the last half-decade, and his consistency and incredible power at the plate helped form the basis of the record $30 million arbitration figure he presented to the team last week. The Rockies countered at $24 million, however, and in doing so may have jeopardized their chances of convincing the infielder to forego free agency in 2020 and take a long-term deal instead.

Assuming he declines to negotiate an extension with the Rockies, Arenado’s decorated résumé and career-best 2018 numbers should attract plenty of interest around the league — a reality that could put considerable pressure on the Yankees (or any other interested party) to finesse a deal sooner rather than later. For now, the club is prepared to enter the 2019 season with hot-hitting third baseman Miguel Andújar, whom Martino speculates would be the “centerpiece” of any trade with Colorado.