LOS ANGELES — No Red Sox team had ever won as many regular-season games as this one did. As nice as that achievement was for an iconic franchise, though, their players knew the deal as the 114th World Series began.
“Hopefully,” Brock Holt said on the eve of the World Series after a 108-54 season, “we can finish this thing off and we can call ourselves one of the best Red Sox teams ever.”
No doubt about it now. And not just one of the best ever, maybe the best.
With David Price exorcising his October demons in a third straight sterling postseason start and the Red Sox tagging Clayton Kershaw for three of their four home runs, Boston won its fourth World Series in 15 seasons with a 5-1 victory over the Dodgers in Game 5 in front of 54,367 at Dodger Stadium.
“I said it up on the stage, it’s the best Red Sox team ever,” principal owner John Henry said on the field after the trophy presentation. “But it’s really for you guys to say and argue about. But from the first day of spring training, it was just a wonderful thing to watch on a day-to-day basis.”
Counting their 11-3 mark this postseason — which included series victories over the 100-win Yankees and defending champion Astros (103 wins) — the Red Sox finished 119-57 overall.
“When you say that, it’s almost overwhelming because you just never think that you’ll be associated with a club that can do that,” said president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski, who added a second title to the one he won with the Marlins in 1997. “119-57. Those numbers are mind-boggling.”
World Series MVP Steve Pearce hit two home runs — including a two-run shot in the top of the first inning on Kershaw’s sixth pitch that gave the Red Sox the lead for good — and Mookie Betts and J.D. Martinez also homered for Boston.
Pearce — who has played for each of the five AL East teams and was an under-the-radar acquisition on June 29 from Toronto — had three homers, eight RBIs and a .333/.500/1.167 slash line for a ridiculously good 1.667 OPS in the World Series.
“You never know where the game will take you,” said Pearce, 35, a Yankee for 12 games in 2012. “I’ve gone through a lot in my career to be here and I couldn’t be more thankful.”
Pearce, who hit a tying homer off Kenley Jansen in the eighth and added a three-run double off Kenta Maeda in the ninth in Boston’s 9-6 Game 4 victory on Saturday night, hit his second homer in Game 5 against Pedro Baez with two outs in the eighth to give the Red Sox a 5-1 lead.
In a matchup of the first- and third-highest payrolls in the game — $228 million for the Red Sox and about $200 million for the Dodgers, according to Spotrac.com — it was no contest. Boston outscored Los Angeles 28-16 in the series and had the better ERA, 2.55 to 4.85.
The Red Sox went 7-1 on the road in the postseason, outscoring the opposition 56-23.
“It wasn’t as easy as what people think,” said Alex Cora, who became the fifth rookie manager, and first since Arizona’s Bob Brenly in 2001, to win the World Series. “But it starts with talent. I mean, it starts with ownership. Everybody knows, they talk about we have the highest payroll in baseball, and that’s a challenge, the way they see us, the media and the fans. We have to win because there’s a lot of money involved.”
His players were money in Game 5. David Freese homered on Price’s first pitch in the bottom of the first, but the Dodgers, who lost to the Astros in a seven-game World Series last year, would not score again. They managed only three hits and their final six batters struck out against Joe Kelly and Chris Sale.
Price, winless as a starter in his postseason career before a brilliant outing in the ALCS Game 5 clincher over the Astros, allowed one run and three hits in seven innings-plus. Price, whom Cora named as his Game 5 starter in place of Sale minutes after the conclusion of Game 4, also won Game 2 of this series, allowing two runs and three hits in six innings.
Price, signed to a seven-year, $217-million contract in December 2015, retired 14 straight batters before walking Chris Taylor to start the eighth. Kelly then struck out pinch hitters Matt Kemp, Joc Pederson and Cody Bellinger. Sale struck out Justin Turner, Kike Hernandez and Manny Machado in the ninth to end it, giving Boston pitchers 11 strikeouts in the game.
“[Price has] had to answer that question on a continuing basis about his postseason,” said Dombrowski, who traded for him as the Tigers’ GM in 2014 and later signed him with the Red Sox. “I don’t think he’ll ever have to answer that question again.”