To say the Boston Red Sox weren't among the favorites to win the World Series at the season's outset would have been folly. Boston's payroll and talent base make the franchise an annual threat. A ninth championship is always potentially just a few short months away once spring training convenes in Fort Myers every February.
To have David Price start and win a clinching game on short rest against the Dodgers is where we venture into Hollywood. To have Steve Pearce homer twice while powering the Red Sox offense to glory just might get you a lunch with a noteworthy producer. To have Alex Cora become just the third rookie manager to steer his club to a title since 1961 likely starts a bidding war between every major studio in town for a working draft of the script.
Their combined efforts -- and the labor of so many others -- have Boston back on top of the baseball world yet again. The Red Sox clinched their fourth title of this century on Sunday night at Dodger Stadium, outclassing Los Angeles, 5-1, in front of a sellout crowd of 54,367 fans.
Boston clinched the best-of-7 encounter in just five games, closing out a third straight opponent on the road to punctuate a dominant run through the playoffs. The Red Sox lost just once away from Fenway Park, and it took the Dodgers a record-setting 18 innings in Friday's Game 3 to prevent being swept. Boston also captured the last of its 10 games when it scored first in this postseason, squeezing the life out of three opponents thanks to its relentless pressure.
"This is why I came here," Price said. "This is what I envisioned. Not my start in Game 2 and coming out of the bullpen in Game 3 and all that, but this one right here -- being World Series champs. This is why I came to Boston. I'm happy we were able to do it."
Price entered the American League Championship Series against the Astros as the only man among 70 not to record a victory in any of his first 10 career postseason starts. He transformed into one of the driving forces behind the latest Red Sox championship, dominating one last time on Sunday night in Chavez Ravine. Price set down 14 straight at one point and allowed just three hits while working into the eighth inning, condemning Los Angeles to suffer a second straight runner-up finish in its home park.
"He was dominant," Pearce said. "We love when he's on the mound. When he takes it, he's a bulldog and he competes."
Pearce became the first player in 34 years to hit at least two home runs in a title clincher, earning series Most Valuable Player honors. Kirk Gibson, star of the last Los Angeles championship club three decades ago, did so for Detroit in 1984. Yogi Berra (1956), Johnny Bench (1976), Reggie Jackson (1977) and Eddie Murray (1983) also populate a list littered with Hall of Famers, elite company joined by a midseason acquisition from the Blue Jays. Mookie Betts and J.D. Martinez each added solo shots as the Red Sox bats doomed Clayton Kershaw to his 10th career postseason defeat.
"He's one of those guys who carries the team without all the recognition," Betts said. "He definitely got it this series and I'm so proud of him and happy for him."
Price survived some early bumps that previously might have dented his psyche. David Freese hit a solo home run to right field on Price's first pitch of the game. Justin Turner followed by drawing a five-pitch walk, but Kike Hernandez rolled over a backdoor cut-fastball to bounce into a 5-4-3 double play.
"For us to be able to turn that double play, it was huge," Price said. "We've been talking about it for five games now."
Martinez lost a fly ball to right by Freese in the twilight that dropped for a one-out triple in the third, but it was another occasion in which Price refused to come unglued. Turner's groundout to shortstop and Hernandez's foul pop along the line in right allowed Boston to maintain its lead, and no other Dodgers' hitter reached base until Chris Taylor drew a leadoff walk in the eighth.
"He was awesome," catcher Christian Vazquez said. "Every pitch, every inning, he was doing a great job. He was sharp."
Boston required just three batters to take a 2-0 lead in the top of the first. Andrew Benintendi made it a perfect 4-for-4 against Kershaw in the series with a one-out single to center, and Pearce was at it again on the next pitch, a fastball out over the plate. He launched a drive to the bleachers in left center for a two-run homer, his third of the postseason and second in as many nights.
"You've got to strike early on that guy," Pearce said. "You saw how he settled [down] in the middle innings."
Kershaw retired 14 of the next 15 men he faced before blinking again in the sixth, as the finest regular-season pitcher of his generation handed the Red Sox an unnecessary cushion. Betts pounced on a slider and drilled a one-out drive to deep left center, making it 3-1. Martinez followed suit leading off the seventh, going deep to center on a Kershaw fastball that caught too much of the plate inside.
Pearce added the coup de grace in the eighth, touching up Pedro Baez with one final swing. His two-out solo blast to left gave Boston a four-run lead, one protected by Joe Kelly and Chris Sale over the final two innings. Kelly and Sale, the scheduled Game 6 starter, combined to strike out six consecutive hitters to set up the best cross-country flight home imaginable.
"It's an instant shock," Sale said of the final out, a strikeout of Manny Machado. "Every hair on your body is standing up and you don't feel a thing."
Boston's 119 total wins are the third-most in baseball history. Only the 1998 Yankees (125) and the 2001 Mariners (120) captured more games. The Red Sox join New York among four franchises to win at least nine Fall Classics since the event's 1903 inception. Only the Yankees (27) and Cardinals (11) have been more successful, and Boston is now tied for third with the Athletics.
"When you say that it's almost overwhelming," Red Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski said. "You never think you'll be associated with a club that can do that. Those numbers are mind-boggling."
The Red Sox also became just the third franchise to win in four straight trips to the World Series, following up championships in 2004, 2007 and 2013. St. Louis (1944, 1946, 1964 and 1967) and New York (most recently in 1996, 1998, 1999 and 2000) are also among the exclusive company Boston now keeps.