By RONALD BLUM, AP Baseball Writer
LOS ANGELES (AP) — Chris Sale’s final pitch for this Boston juggernaut triggered a celebration on the Dodger Stadium infield, among thousands of fans who made their way to California — and even outside Fenway Park back home.
The quest is complete. Yes, these 2018 Red Sox really are that great.
A team to remember from top to bottom. A season to savor from start to finish.
David Price proved his postseason mettle, Steve Pearce homered twice and Boston beat the Los Angeles Dodgers 5-1 on Sunday to finish off a one-sided World Series in five games.
A tormented franchise during decades of despair before ending an 86-year championship drought in 2004, the Red Sox have become baseball’s team of the century with four titles in 15 seasons.
“Seeing all these grown men over there, just acting like kids, that’s what it’s all about,” Price said after pitching three-hit ball into the eighth inning on short rest. “This is why I came to Boston.”
After losing on opening day, Alex Cora’s team romped to a 17-2 start and a club-record 108 wins, then went 11-3 in the postseason, dispatching the 100-win New York Yankees and the 103-victory and defending champion Houston Astros in the playoffs. Cora, a player on Boston’s 2007 champions, became the first manager from Puerto Rico to win a title and just the fifth rookie skipper overall.
“I don’t know where we stand in history and all that,” said Dave Dombrowski, the club’s president of baseball operations. “If somebody would say you’re going to win 119 games and lose 57, we’d never, ever fathom that.”
Pearce hit a two-run homer on Clayton Kershaw’s sixth pitch. Solo homers by Mookie Betts in the sixth inning and J.D. Martinez in the seventh quieted the Los Angeles crowd. Pearce added a solo drive off Pedro Baez in the eighth, then was selected the Series MVP after the game.
“Best feeling in my life,” Pearce said.
Acquired in June from Toronto, Pearce had three homers and seven RBIs in the final 11 innings of the Series. Thousands of Boston fans remained on the first-base side of the stadium long after the final out, chanting “Let’s go Red Sox!” and singing “Sweet Caroline.”
Of course, they let loose a few choice words about the rival Yankees, too.
“I never knew there were so many Red Sox fans here,” Martinez said.
Players’ families, many dressed in red, congregated on the field to join the celebration, some holding babies, some watching children run across the outfield in glee.
“This is the greatest Red Sox team in history,” owner John Henry proclaimed after receiving the Series trophy.
After losing to Houston in Game 7 last year by the same 5-1 score, the Dodgers became the first team ousted on its home field in consecutive World Series since the New York Giants by the New York Yankees at the Polo Grounds in 1936 and ’37. Los Angeles remains without a championship since 1988.
“Ran up against a very good ballclub — and just a little bit too much for us,” said manager Dave Roberts, who played for Boston’s 2004 champions.
Boston outscored the Dodgers 28-16 and had only a slightly better batting average at .222 to .180. But the Red Sox got timely hitting and won their ninth title, tying the Athletics for third-most behind the Yankees (27) and Cardinals (11).
All that stood between the Red Sox and a sweep was an 18-inning loss in Game 3, the longest World Series game ever. They trailed 4-0 in the seventh inning of Game 4 when Sale rose from the dugout bench for a fiery, profane, motivational rant, and his teammates woke up in time to rally for a 9-6 win.
Boston never trailed in Game 5.
“I didn’t say anything that anyone didn’t know,” Sale explained. “Just rallying the troops and letting them know — we’re the best team on the planet, and to start playing like it.”
The 33-year-old Price, a Cy Young Award winner in 2012, long pitched under an October shadow cast by his regular-season success. He had been 0-9 in 11 postseason starts before defeating Astros ace Justin Verlander in the clinching Game 5 of the AL Championship Series. The left-hander won his third straight start Sunday and became the first pitcher to beat Cy Young winners in the finale of an LCS and the World Series in the same year.
“I’ve been through a lot in three years since I came here, but this is why I came,” said Price, who like Kershaw can opt out of his lucrative contract in the coming days and become a free agent.
After allowing two runs over six innings to win Game 2 last Wednesday, Price got two outs in the ninth inning of Friday’s marathon game. He became the first to pitch into the eighth inning of a Series game on one day of rest since the Yankees’ Bob Turley in 1957.
“All the haters, it’s time to be quiet and show the guy some respect,” Martinez said.
Price gave up a home run to David Freese on his first pitch , then allowed just two more hits — the last a triple to Freese that Martinez lost in the third-inning twilight and allowed to drop behind him on the right field warning track. Price struck out five and walked two, retiring 14 in a row before a leadoff walk to Chris Taylor in the eighth ended his night after 89 pitches. He tapped his heart several times to Red Sox fans behind the first base dugout while walking to the bench.
Joe Kelly struck out three straight pinch hitters and Sale, originally scheduled to start Game 5, fanned three more in the ninth. Sale ended by throwing a slider past a falling Manny Machado, a meager 4 for 22 (.182) in the Series, and raised both arms. Boston catcher Christian Vazquez ran out to jump on him with glee, and teammates from the dugout and bullpens followed.
While Price rewrote his own October legacy, Kershaw was unable to do the same as he fell to 1-4 with a 6.06 ERA in postseason elimination games. Plagued at times by an aching back, the 30-year-old lefty no longer is the dominant pitcher who won three Cy Young Awards, his famous 12-to-6 breaking ball now more 10 to 4:30.
Kershaw allowed four runs and seven hits — three of them homers — in seven innings. He is 9-10 with a 4.32 ERA in 30 postseason appearances, a huge drop from his 153-69 record and 2.39 ERA during the regular season.
“It just hurts worse when you make it all the way and get second place,” he said.
Kershaw began aggressively, throwing strikes on his first six pitches, and the Red Sox were ready.
Andrew Benintendi hit a one-out single and Pearce pulled a fastball over the middle of the plate and sent it 405 feet into the left-field pavilion.
While the crowd of 54,367 was stunned, Freese woke up fans in the bottom half. He drove Price’s first pitch 402 feet to the opposite field and into the right field pavilion.
Betts homered on a slider that stayed in the strike zone after going 0 for 13 in Los Angeles this weekend, the first postseason home run of his career coming in his 87th at-bat. Martinez homered in the seventh, driving a fastball to straightway center.
By then, Red Sox fans had started planning for the April 9 home opener against Toronto, when the championship flag will be raised over Fenway after Boston opens with an 11-game trip out West.
“It wasn’t as easy as what people think,” Cora said.
Boston went 7-1 on the road in the postseason and 10-0 overall when scoring first.
I’M STILL HERE
Shortstop Xander Bogaerts was the only active player on the Red Sox from their 2013 championship team.
SPEND IT TO MAKE IT
Boston is the first team with the highest payroll to win the title since the 2009 Yankees.
JUST LIKE LAST YEAR
Cora celebrated on the same field where he earned a ring last year as the Astros’ bench coach.
Visiting clubhouse manager Mitch Poole estimates he ordered 263 bottles of champagne for the Red Sox, at an estimated cost of $18,000.
“The visiting team always pays the bill,” he said.