Exactly three weeks ago today, on Sunday, October 28, at 11:15 p.m., Eastern Standard Time, Chris Sale threw an 84 mile per hour slider which Dodgers shortstop Manny Machado swung at and missed, for the third out in the ninth inning of Game 5 — and the Red Sox had won the World Series for the fourth time in the 21st century.
Sale had thrown Machado a slider for strike one, came back with a 96.4 mph four seam fast ball which Machado fouled off for strike two and a 95.3 mph four seamer for a ball before finishing up Machado, one of the best hitters in baseball, with the off speed pitch. Machado never had a chance. This was Chris Sale at his best, a fitting end to the most exciting season in Red Sox baseball history.

Carl Johnson

There were many amazing things that happened in that season, but perhaps none as amazing, exciting and surprising as Red Sox pitching in the series clincher.
The naysayers spent the entire regular season moaning because the Red Sox had not picked up another starting pitcher. Of course, Red Sox fans were aware that David Price, who carries the burden of his big contract wherever he goes, had never won a game he started in the post season — and feared that he would cost them the playoffs.
That same David Price started Game 5, after winning Game 2 four days earlier, by pitching six innings, giving up just two runs on three hits. What did this pariah do in Game 5? He just held the Dodgers to one hit and three runs in seven innings while Steven Pearce, J. D. Martinez and Mookie Betts were hitting four home runs to provide the runs needed to win.
Of course, when Price faltered in the eighth and walked lead off hitter Chris Taylor to start the inning, here came Joe Kelly out of the bullpen. There had been speculation before the playoffs started that Kelly might not even make the Red Sox roster for the Playoffs. He had been brilliant most of the year but had shown signs of inconsistency later in the season.
What did he do? He struck out pinch hitters Matt Kemp, Joc Pederson and Cody Bellinger on 16 pitches to end the eighth. In the series, he appeared in all five games, pitched six scoreless innings, gave up just four hits and struck out 10.
So the game went to the ninth, with the Sox up, 5-1, and three outs between them and the World Championship. Out of the bullpen came Chris Sale, the ace of the Red Sox staff, who started 27 games during the year and never once appeared in relief. The same Chris Sale who had thrown 91 pitches in Game 1, lasted only four innings and gave up three runs on five hits while walking two. The same Chris Sale who had been on and off the disabled list since having a shoulder problem in August and had pitched just once in August, for five innings, and only four times in September for a total of just 12 innings.
What did he do? He struck out Justin Turner, Enrique Hernandez and Machado, the two, three and four hitters in the Dodgers order, on 15 pitches, to end the Series and bring the championship trophy to Boston for the fourth time since 2004.
An unlikely cast of characters on the mound for the Sox in Dodger Stadium that day? I’d say so, but this was just another example of Alex Cora’s ability to put his people in the right spot at the right time. Cora was edged out for the Manager of the Year award this week by Oakland’s Bob Melvin.
Prior to the World Series, the Sox had beaten the defending World Series Champion Houston Astros in five games in the American League Championship Series. If you were a Red Sox fan and were asked to pick a player before the ALCS who might win the Most Valuable Player award in that series, who would you have picked? Most Red Sox fans would have come up with one of the obvious choices — Mookie Betts, J. D. Martinez, Xander Bogaerts or maybe Andrew Benintendi. Wrong!
The MVP of the ALCS, was a player who parlayed just three hits, two homers and a double, in 15 at bats, a so-so .200 average, into nine runs batted in and three scored in five games. The player who, with the Red Sox down 4-2 in the third inning of Game 2 — after losing Game 1 at home — doubled down the left field line with the bases loaded to give the Red Sox the lead. He then hit a grand slam in the eighth inning of Game 3 to give the Red Sox the insurance they needed to win that game and then, with the Sox down 5-4 in the sixth inning of Game 4, hit a two-run homer to put them ahead to stay was none other than Jackie Bradley, who hit so poorly in the beginning of the season that the media, particularly WEEI’s assassins, had been urging the Red Sox to trade in July.
Alex Cora may not have won the Manager of the Year Award, but he took a really good team and made them a great team by making good personnel decisions all year, not all the time, but enough of the time to win 108 regular season and 11 playoff games.
A good manager, whether it is in baseball, or any other profession, manages by getting the best out of his employees. Alex Cora did that as well as any manager ever did in 2018. He may not be the American League Manager of the Year, but he deserves a lot of credit for what he accomplished, sometimes with an unlikely cast of characters.

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