2018 Boston Red Sox
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2018 Boston Red Sox / Franchise: Boston Red Sox / BR Team Page
Clinched Division: September 20, 2018, At New York Yankees
World Series Champs
Managed by Alex Cora
History, Comments, Contributions
The 2018 Boston Red Sox got off to the best start in team history when, after losing to the Tampa Bay Rays on Opening Day, March 29th, they reeled off 9 straight wins. The Red Sox were coming off two consecutive division titles, but in the off-season, all of the media attention had been focused on their traditional rivals, the New York Yankees, who had made a number of high-profile moves and named a new manager as well. But the Red Sox also had a new manager in former player Alex Cora, and had made one very significant addition by signing much sought-after free agent OF J.D. Martinez after protracted negotiations that lasted into spring training. The team's best player in the early going was SS Xander Bogaerts, who was hitting .368 and slugging .711 after 9 games but had to go on the disabled list on April 8th with a cracked bone in his ankle.
On April 11th, during the first series of the season against the Yankees, the Red Sox were involved in a major brawl triggered when reliever Joe Kelly hit the Yankees' Tyler Austin with a 96 mph fastball in the 7th, apparently in retaliation for a hard slide by Austin earlier in the game. Both benches cleared, and after order was restored, Kelly and Austin were ejected, and the next were handed suspensions of six and five games respectively, in a ddition to fines to various other minor protagonists in the melee. They lost that game, but otherwise continued to win, improving to 11-2 on April 13th. Only the 1918 edition of the team, famous for winning the franchise's last World Series before the 21st century, had had a start that good. They then won their next two games as well, completing a three-game sweep of the Baltimore Orioles, to improve to 13-2 on April 15th. When they won their next three games as well to reach a record of 16-2, they became the first team since the 1987 Milwaukee Brewers, who had begun the season 17-1, to win 16 of their first 18 games. They improved to 17-2 with another win, then on April 21st were ambushed by Sean Manaea of the Oakland Athletics, who defeated them by pitching a no-hitter, 3-0. It was the first time the Red Sox had been no-hit since Chris Bosio had turned the trick in 1993.
The Red Sox were one of the teams hitting the fewest homers in the majors in 2017 with 168 and did not hit a single grand slam all season. That changed in April, as they tied a record that had been set by the 1996 Montreal Expos with 6 grand slams in the month, the last coming courtesy of Bogaerts on April 30th in a 10-6 win over the Kansas City Royals. It was his second slam and third homer of the year and came in his third game back from his early-season injury. The Sox finished the month with the best record in the majors, at 21-7. On May 8-10, the Red Sox traveled to New Yankee Stadium with first place on the line, as the Yankees had been on a tremendous hot streak - in fact comparable to the Sox's start - that had seen them win 15 of their last 16 games and move to within one game of the Sox. The Yankees won the first two closely-fought games to briefly take over first place, but the Sox came back in the final contest to win, 5 - 4, thanks to five scoreless innings from starter Eduardo Rodriguez and an 8th-inning homer by J.D. Martinez off Dellin Betances after the Yankees had managed to tie the game with four runs off relievers Heath Hembree and Kelly in the 7th. The two team thus parted in a tie for first, with the promise of an exciting race for the division title lying ahead.
The Sox started July red hot as a win over the Toronto Blue Jays on July 12th was their 10th straight after their loss to the Yankees on July 1st. They had managed to increase their division lead to 3 1/2 games and set a team record with their 66th win before the All-Star break. In the 6-4 win, Mookie Betts padded his resumé with 5 RBIs, four coming on a grand slam off fellow All-Star J.A. Happ in the 4th. That homer over the Green Monster came on the 13th pitch of an epic at-bat, and was followed by another RBI in the 7th as the crowd loudly chanted "MVP! MVP!" in his honor. They went into the All-Star break with a record of 68-30, which would translate to 112 wins over a full season, and they had a 4 1/2 games lead on the Yankees. On July 23rd, following a 5-3 win over the Baltimore Orioles the Sox reached 40 games above .500 for the first time since 1949, when, ironically, the Sox had finished one game behind the Yankees at the end of the season.
The Red Sox made a huge statement in early August when they hosted the Yankees for a four-game series at Fenway Park with a lead of 5 1/2 games. They won all four games, starting off with a 15-run barrage on August 2nd that featured a trio of homers by Steve Pearce; this was followed by back-to-back outstanding pitching outings by Rick Porcello and recent acquisition Nathan Eovaldi, and then finally a stunning 9th-inning three-run comeback against closer Aroldis Chapman on August 5th that led to a 5-4, 10-inning win that extended their lead in the AL East to 9 1/2 games. That lead reached 10 1/2 games on August 17th, then the Red Sox hit their first real road bump of the season: after never losing three games in a row until then, they had two such streaks within a span of 8 games, including being swept by the Rays at Tropicana Field on August 24-26, to see their lead go down to 6 games.
The Red Sox got back to their winning ways in September. On September 11th, they clinched a postseason slot with a 7-2 win in over Toronto, and the next, a 1-0 win over those same Blue Jays gave them 100 wins for the season, only the fourth time in team history and first since 1946 that they reached the milestone number. It was their 10th win in their last 14 games and their lead over New York was back to an insurmountable 10 games. Fittingly, the Red Sox clinched their third straight division title against the Yankees, at New Yankee Stadium, on September 20th with an 11-6 win. It came on the third try, as the Red Sox went into the series with a magic number at 2, but had lost the first two contests between the two teams. With another win the next day, they tied the team record set in 1912 with 105 wins and set a new record with their 106th win on September 24th, which also insured they would have home field advantage throughout the postseason, were they to make it that far. They finished with 108 wins, and then breezed through the postseason, losing only three games - one in each series - on their way to defeating the Los Angeles Dodgers in the World Series. It was a fitting end to what was, in many commentators' eyes, the greatest season in team history.
Following the 2019 season, the Sox's victory was tarnished to some extent as it was revealed that the team had put together a sophisticated system aimed at stealing their opponents' signs through the use of the video review room. These allegations surfaced in the wake of an investigation by Major League Baseball into a similar scheme run by the 2017 Houston Astros. There was a clear link between the two cases, in the person of manager Alex Cora, who was on the coaching staff of the Houston team under investigation. One day after MLB issued some harsh penalties for the Astros, the Red Sox announced that Cora's employment with them was being terminated, as it was a foregone conclusion that the Sox would be issued similar punishment as soon as MLB had completed its investigation and there was no point in prolonging the agony. However, when the Commissioner released his findings on April 22, 2020, he found that the Red Sox's scheme, while still in violation of the rules, was much more limited in scope than the Astros' had been, and suspended only one mid-level employee, the team's video room coordinator, as well as forfeiting a second-round pick in the 2020 amateur draft.
Awards and Honors
- All-Stars: Mookie Betts, Craig Kimbrel, J.D. Martinez, Mitch Moreland and Chris Sale
- AL MVP: Mookie Betts
- AL Comeback Player of the Year Award: David Price
- AL Gold Glove: Mookie Betts (RF), Jackie Bradley (CF) and Ian Kinsler (2B)
- AL Silver Slugger Award Winner: Mookie Betts (OF) and J.D. Martinez (OF & DH)
- Associated Press: "Red Sox clinch 3rd straight AL East title with win at Yanks", ESPN.com, September 21, 2018
- Scot Boeck: "5 astonishing facts from the Red Sox's historic 16-2 start", USA Today Sports, April 20, 2018. 
- Ian Browne: "Red Sox set to thrive with fresh faces, outlook", mlb.com, March 20, 2018. 
- Ian Browne: "2018 champs stand out as greatest Sox team: Club went an astounding 119-57 in regular season and postseason", mlb.com, October 29, 2018. 
- Chris Bumbaca: "Boston Red Sox illegally used video replay room to steal signs during 2018 season, report says", USA Today, January 7, 2020. 
- Mark Feinsand: "Boston sign stealing in '18 found limited in scope", mlb.com April 22, 2020. 
- Gabe Lacques: "Are these the best Red Sox ever? Only a championship will truly cement their legacy", USA Today, Sepetmber 21, 2018. 
- Gabe Lacques: "Why these Red Sox are the greatest of their four recent champions", October 29, 2018. 
- Mike Lupica: "Red Sox the ultimate win-now team: Loaded roster will be even more expensive to keep together in future", mlb.com, March 10, 2018. 
- Bob Nightengale: "Yankees and Red Sox, both bound for 100 wins, gear up for epic pennant race: 'Bring it on'", USA Today Sports, July 19, 2018. 
- Bob Nightengale: "Boston Red Sox want to be immortalized as greatest team in franchise history", USA Today, October 19, 2018. 
- Bob Nightengale: "These Red Sox are the kings of this century, winning four World Series titles in 15 years", USA Today, October 28, 2018. * Doug Padilla: "Sox (16-2) off to MLB's best start since 1987", mlb.com, April 20, 2018. 
- Andrew Simon: "Red Sox have shot at Mariners' win record: 79-34 start has Boston within striking distance of the record books", mlb.com, August 7, 2018.