Envisioning a Scenario Where Craig Kimbrel Returns to the #RedSox.

According to several media outlets, Craig Kimbrel is reportedly seeking a six-year contract worth up to $100 million in free agency this winter.

That would be a record deal for a closer, one fit for, “the best closer of all time,” according to Kimbrel’s agent David Meter.

Seven weeks after winning the World Series, the Red Sox find themselves in need of some help out of the bullpen in 2019, even more so now with Joe Kelly reportedly inking a three-year deal with the Los Angeles Dodgers.

The market for Kimbrel remains to be seen thus far into the offseason. The Philadelphia Phillies seem like the ideal suitor based on their need for a closer and their willingness to spend big, but nothing has formulated on that front to this point outside of some speculation.

If the Phillies were not to splurge on the flame-throwing right-hander and pursue an alternative, then that could ultimately give the Red Sox a chance to retain the services of their three-time All-Star.

Use JD Martinez as a prime example in this case. Prior to signing with Boston this past February, the Miami native was reportedly seeking a mega-deal in free agency for months.

Granted, Martinez still got paid, but the terms agreed upon were more team friendly than initially thought.

So, with that in mind, let’s say Kimbrel remains a free agent through the winter months, holding out in hopes of receiving a hefty contract offer.

Red Sox President of Baseball Operations Dave Dombrowski has already stated that the club will wait the reliever market out.

“At this time of year, if you’re going to sign somebody, you’re going to be aggressive and try to make it happen with big dollars,” Dombrowski said at the Baseball Winter Meetings last week. “We’re not at that point in the reliever market.”

Given the fact that Dombrowski has already doled out $68 million to RHP Nathan Eovaldi earlier in the month, a reunion with Kimbrel for a steep price seems unlikely now, but things could change once Spring Training begins to loom.

Take into consideration that the 30-year-old presumably knows the Red Sox organization inside and out. The city, the culture, the media. That’s all covered if Kimbrel remains in Boston

Having been with the club since 2016, Kimbrel, albeit shaky at times, has posted quality numbers in Boston and has maintained his status as one of the more elite relievers in all of baseball.

If the demand for the Alabama native is not as hyped as initially thought, then perhaps Craig Kimbrel will be taking the mound in a Red Sox uniform once again in 2019.

 

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Craig Kimbrel Rejects $17.9 Million Qualifying Offer from #RedSox.

Red Sox President of Baseball Operations Dave Dombrowski announced on Monday that Craig Kimbrel has officially rejected his qualifying offer, making him a free agent.

This news may not come as a surprise to some, but it does leave the World Series champions without a closer, for now.

If Kimbrel does choose to sign elsewhere this winter, such as with the Atlanta Braves or Philadelphia Phillies, that particular club will owe Boston a compensatory pick in next year’s draft, which is set to land somewhere after the fourth round.

The Red Sox extended the QO with a value of $17.9 million to Kimbrel on November 2nd, giving the seven-time All-Star 10 days to either accept or reject.

With this rejection, Kimbrel will more than likely become one of the highest paid relievers in all of baseball, joining the likes of Dodgers closer Kenley Jansen and Yankees ninth-inning man Aroldis Chapman, whose current deals have a combined worth of $166 million over 10 total years, per Spotrac.

Over the course of the GM meetings in Carlsbad, Calif. this past week, Kimbrel’s agent, David Meter, pitched his client as, “the best closer of all-time,” so you can expect the Alabama native to seek out a hefty pay-day in the coming weeks.

Given the very real possibility the Red Sox decide to not commit that much to their closer for the past three seasons, we could be looking at Matt Barnes, or even Ryan Brasier as ninth inning options in 2019.

Dombrowski made clear on Nov. 1st that if Kimbrel were to leave, “We do think that we do have a situation where internally we have a couple of candidates to do that – Matt Barnes and Ryan Brasier are the top candidates.”

That remains to be seen, as there is still a slight possibility that the Red Sox retain the services of Kimbrel to remain their closer. But, given the way relief pitching appears to be trending, it would not be surprising if Dombrowski and/or Alex Cora would prefer a closer who could come on and pitch multiple innings in order to lock up wins.

In his three-year tenure with Boston, the 30-year-old Kimbrel seemed to struggle with this task regularly, as well as securing saves in tight, late-game situations at times.

If this is it for Kimbrel in a Red Sox uniform, it was certainly a memorable run. Three seasons, three All-Star team selections, an elite 2017, and a World Series championship in 2018.

#RedSox Extend Qualifying Offer of $17.9 Million to Craig Kimbrel.

On Friday, NBC Sports Boston’s Evan Drellich reported that the Red Sox had extended a qualifying offer to Craig Kimbrel.

The qualifying offer, which has a value of $17.9 million, also has an expiration date, as the right-handed Kimbrel now has 10 days or either accept or decline it.

Regardless of the decision the flame throwing closer makes, this moves seems to be a win-win for the Red Sox. Either they get their All-Star reliever back for another season on a rather expensive deal, or, if Kimbrel declines the QO and chooses to sign elsewhere, the Red Sox will receive a compensatory pick in next year’s MLB draft from that club.

According to MLB.com’s Anthony Castrovince, “only five of the 73 players who have been extended qualifying offers since this system began in 2012 have accepted the offers.”

With that statistic in mind, I’m going to go ahead and Say Kimbrel will turn down the QO and opt for a long-term deal with a team willing to splurge on a closer.

Whether or not the Red Sox are willing to spend that much on a ninth-inning man has yet to be determined. But, from what I have gathered recently, and sound more and more likely that the club likes their internal options to take over that spot, such as Matt Barnes or Ryan Brasier.

In his third and potential final season with Boston, Kimbrel notched 42 saves to go along with a 2.74 ERA and 96 strikeouts over 62.1 innings pitched. He also made his third consecutive All-Star team and became a World Series champion for the first time in his career.

MLB free agency is set to begin this weekend. Stay tuned.

RECAP: #RedSox Bounce Back and Score Nine Unanswered Runs en Route to Game Four Win over Dodgers, Stand One Victory Away from World Series Title.

After losing in demoralizing fashion in Game Three of the World Series on Friday night, the Red Sox bounced back less than 24 hours later with a pivotal, come from behind win over the Los Angeles Dodgers in nine innings on Saturday.

Learning he was going to start in this game hours before first pitch, Eduardo Rodriguez, who had already appeared in this series as a reliever, Eduardo Rodriguez put together a solid performance in this one up until the sixth.

Pitching into the sixth inning, the left-hander surrendered four earned runs on four hits and two walks to go along with six strikeouts on the night.

Retiring 15 of the first 18 hitters he faced, things were looking great for Rodriguez until he plunked David Freese to lead off the bottom half of the sixth.

With his pitch count steadily rising, it seemed as though the Venezuela native’s evening was about to come to a close, but even after giving up a one out double to Justin Turner, intentionally putting Manny Machado on to load the bases, he remained in the game.

The sixth inning could have come to a close with Cody Bellinger grounding into a potential 3-2-3 double play, but instead, Christian Vazquez made a poor throw back to first, and Turner came into score as a result. 1-0 Los Angeles.

Just a few moments after that transpired, with runners on the corners, Rodriguez still remained in the game to face the right-handed Yasiel Puig, who made the most of the opportunity by blasting a 439 foot three-run home run much to Rodriguez’s disdain.

That would put the Dodgers up 4-0 and also put an end to Rodriguez’s night. It will be lost in the numbers, but given the circumstances, the 25-year-old gave the Red Sox what they needed.

Finishing with a final pitch count of 93 (59 strikes), the former international free agent, who was caught by Christian Vazquez, relied on his four-seam fastball 45% of the time on Saturday and topped out at 96.5 MPH with the same pitch in the first inning. If this series were head back to Boston, that is when I would expect to see Rodriguez out of the bullpen again.

I would have more to say about Alex Cora’s decision to stick with Rodriguez in the sixth, but given how things worked out later on, I’ll give him a pass for now.

Anyway, in relief of Rodriguez, the Red Sox bullpen was not stretched thin in this one, as they were only responsible for the final 3.1 innings to close this thing out.

Matt Barnes entered with the bases empty in the sixth, and he worked his way around a two out walk to end the inning with a strikeout of Austin Barnes.

Joe Kelly was next up for the fourth time in the last five days, and he shined while scattering three hits and three strikeouts over two scoreless frames of work to eventually pick up the winning decision.

Finally, Craig Kimbrel came on in the ninth with a fresh five-run lead to work with, and he trimmed that down to two on the way to securing the Game Four victory for his club.

On the other side of things, the Red Sox lineup was matched up against Dodgers left-hander Rich Hill, who they were seeing for the first time in this series.

A native of Milton, Massachusetts, Hill, like Game Three starter Walker Buehler, had his way with the Boston bats early on.

No one could really couldn’t get anything going up until the seventh inning, when Chris Sale decided to light a fire under their bellies in the visitors dugout.

Coincidence or not, the bats got rolling after that, and it all started with a leadoff walk drawn by Xander Bogaerts.

Four batters and two separate pitching changes later, Mitch Moreland came on for his first at bat of the night pinch-hitting for Matt Barnes.

With Ryan Madson, a pitcher Boston had success against at Fenway Park, on the mound for Los Angeles, Moreland did not waste any time screwing around, and promptly mashed a three-run home run on the first pitch he saw.

4-3 Dodgers on that 437 foot blast from Moreland.

An inning later, another Red Sox first baseman struck for a home run, as Steve Pearce took one deep off of Dodgers closer Kenley Jansen to knot this game up at four runs a piece.

In the ninth, looking for some insurance, Brock Holt ended up being the catalyst of a five-run inning by ripping a one out double off of Dodgers reliever Dylan Floro.

Hitting in Sandy Leon’s spot in the order, Rafael Devers came up to bat next, and as he has done so much this October, delivered with yet another clutch RBI on a single to center field that allowed Holt to score from second and put his team up 5-4.

They would not stop there, though.

Nope, Steve Pearce got another chance with the bases loaded, two outs, and Kenta Maeda on the mound for Los Angeles, and he came through yet again with a bases-clearing three RBI double to all but put this contest out of reach.

In case it was not enough, Xander Bogaerts was responsible for the final RBI of the night on an RBI single that plated Pearce from second and made it a 9-4 game, which is all the Red Sox would need to pick up their first win of the year at Dodger Stadium.

Some notes from this 9-6 victory:

From @SoxNotes: The 2018 Red Sox are the 3rd team ever to hit multiple pinch-hit home runs in a single World Series, joining the 1975 Red Sox and 1959 Dodgers.

From @MLBStatoftheDay: The Red Sox have scored 17 of their 23 runs in this World Series with two outs.

From @MLBStatoftheDay: Steve Pearce is the third Red Sox player ever to homer and drive in four runs in a single World Series game (Yastrzemski, 1967; Ortiz, 2004).

In 10 postseason games this year, Rafael Devers has collected nine RBI.

A quote from Devers about Chris Sale’s in-game speech:

With the opportunity to clinch their fourth World Series title Sunday, it will be David Price, not Chris Sale, getting the start for Boston in Game Five.

Alex Cora made that announcement following his post game press conference.

In two career starts at Dodger Stadium, Price is 0-1 with a 2.25 ERA over 12 innings pitched. The Red Sox have won the last three postseason games the left-hander has started in.

Opposite Price will be another left-hander in the form of Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw, who served up five earned runs on seven hits in four-plus innings pitched in his Game One start back on October 23rd.

Do they end it tonight or does this series head back to Boston? First pitch of Game Five of the 2018 World Series is scheduled for 8:09 PM ET on FOX.

 

RECAP: David Price Fans Five over Six Quality Innings as #RedSox Head to Los Angeles Two Wins Away from World Series Title.

The Boston Red Sox stand just two victories away from their ninth World Series title in franchise history following a 4-2 win over the Los Angeles Dodgers on Wednesday night.

It was another chilly evening at Fenway Park, and David Price, who was making his first appearance in a World Series since 2008, picked up right where he left off in Game Five of the ALCS with another stellar performance.

Tossing six complete innings in this one, the left-hander only surrendered two earned runs on three hits and three walks to go along with five punch outs in his fourth start of this postseason.

Both of those runs given up by Price came in the fourth inning after the Tennessee native seemingly breezed through the first three frames.

There, the Dodgers loaded the bases without recording an out to lead things off, and a sacrifice fly from Matt Kemp, followed by a two out single from Yasiel Puig, put Los Angeles ahead 2-1 at the time.

Despite that rough patch, Price rebounded by retiring the seven final hitters he faced to send this game into the middle of the seventh and pick up the eventual winning decision. He got some help along the way from Andrew Benintendi as well.

Finishing with a final pitch count of 88 (58 strikes), the 33-year-old, with Christian Vazquez behind the plate, threw 33 four-seam fastballs, 25 changeups, 23 two-seam fastballs, and seven changeups. He also topped out at 94.6 MPH with that two-seamer in the fourth inning.

With the Red Sox now unbeaten in Price’s last three October starts, I wouldn’t expect to see the southpaw start in another game of this Fall Classic until it comes back to Fenway Park, if that is even necessary.

In relief of Price, the Red Sox bullpen was responsible for the final three innings of Wednesday night’s contest, and once again, were extremely effective.

Joe Kelly got the first call for his second appearance of this series, and he fanned two of the three batters he faced while hovering around 100 MPH on the radar gun in a scoreless seventh.

Speaking of high velocity, Nathan Eovaldi came on for his second outing in as many days to work the top of the eighth, and he too topped out at 100.3 MPH with his fastball in a 1-2-3 inning.

Finally, in the ninth, Craig Kimbrel looked to lock up his first career World Series save, and he needed just nine pitches to do that and secure a 2-0 lead for his team as they head out west.

On the other side of things, the Red Sox lineup was matched up against another Dodgers left-handed starter in the form of South Korea native Hyun-Jin Ryu, who entered Wednesday with a 4.40 ERA in three postseason starts this October.

With the majority of this lineup outside of the veterans like Ian Kinsler, JD Martinez, and Steve Pearce having never faced Ryu before, it took some time for the bats to get going.

That happened in the bottom of the third, when Kinsler got the scoring for his team started by ripping a two out RBI double to drive in Xander Bogaerts, who had previously doubled, from second. 1-0.

Fast forward to the bottom of the fifth, with Boston trailing by a run, and it ended up being Andrew Benintendi who would chase Ryu from this game by drawing a two out walk to load the bases for Steve Pearce.

Following a pitching change that saw Ryan Madson take over things with runners on for the second consecutive night, Pearce exhibited some patience and drove in what was the tying run at the time by drawing yet another walk. 2-2.

Just a few moments after that, JD Martinez put an exclamation point on this game by promptly unloading the bases and driving in Mookie Betts and Benintendi in from scoring position on a line drive two RBI double to right field.

Since Yasiel Puig was playing so deep in that situation, the ball easily landed in front of him, which allowed both runners to score. Had Puig been playing in more close, who knows how that goes.

Regardless of that, Martinez’s 12th and 13th RBI of this postseason would be all the Red Sox would need to pick up a Game Two win.

Some notes from this 4-2 win: 

The Red Sox are 9-0 this postseason when they score first.

Mookie Betts collected three hits on Wednesday night.

In his last two postseason starts, David Price is 2-0 with a 1.50 ERA over 12 innings pitched.

Heading out to California with two games at hand, it will be Rick Porcello getting the starting nod for the Red Sox in Game Three after an off day.

In two prior starts at Dodger Stadium, Porcello is 1-0 with a 5.91 ERA and 1.97 WHIP over 10.2 innings of work.

Opposite Porcello will be Dodgers right-hander Walker Buehler, who’ll bring in a career 5.40 postseason ERA into his first ever World Series start.

The Red Sox are winners of five in a row. How many more wins do they need to clinch this World Series?

First pitch of Game Three of the World Series is scheduled for 8:09 PM ET Friday on FOX.

 

RECAP: Eduardo Nunez Comes off Bench and Mashes Three-Run Home Run as #RedSox Take Game One of World Series from Dodgers.

After a five-day layoff that involved celebrating winning the American League pennant, waiting to see who they would play, getting in some light workouts, and fulfilling media obligations, the Red Sox were finally back in action on Tuesday night, as they welcomed the National League champion Los Angeles Dodgers into Fenway Park to begin the 2018 World Series.

The last time these two clubs matched up in the Fall Classic, Babe Ruth was on the Red Sox and the Dodgers, who went by the Robins at the time, called Brooklyn, New York home.

That series took place 102 years ago in 1916, when Boston took four out of five games from Brooklyn to claim their fourth World Series title.

Now, both of these organizations truly represent the cream of the crop in baseball, as they make up two of the highest payrolls in the league.

Their paths to get to this point were a little different, with the Red Sox claiming the best record in the American League and the Dodgers having to play a Game 163 in order to claim their sixth straight NL West crown. But still, they got to the position where they would be a few steps away from the ultimate goal, and the journey to that goal began last night.

Getting the start for the Red Sox in this one, his first ever World Series nod, was ace Chris Sale, who hadn’t seen any in-game action since Game One of the ALCS because of a stomach ailment.

Pitching into the fifth inning under the bright lights at Fenway, the left-hander surrendered three earned on five hits and two walks to go along with seven strikeouts on the evening.

Similar to his previous two starts this postseason, Tuesday’s outing was another grind for Sale.

A scoreless first, followed by facing a combined 11 hitters over the next two frames where the Dodgers plated their first two runs on a Matt Kemp solo home run in the second and a Manny Machado RBI single in the third.

The Florida native would rebound by retiring the side in order in the fourth, but his night would ultimately come to an end after walking Brian Dozier on five pitches to lead off the fifth.

Finishing with a final pitch count of 91 (54 strikes), Sale, who was caught by Sandy Leon, threw 33 sliders, 30 four-seam fastballs, 16 changeups, and 12 two-seam fastballs in his first career World Series start, which induced 11 total swings and misses.

Out of those 30 four-seamers, the 29-year-old managed to top out at 96.2 MPH with that pitch in the first inning.

Unable to pick up the winning decision because of the rather short outing, I would expect to see Sale back on the mound in a starting capacity on Sunday in Game Five, if the series reaches that point.

In relief of Sale, the Red Sox bullpen was responsible for the final 15 outs of this one, and they were quite effective as a group once again.

Matt Barnes got the first call with the tying run on first and no outs in the fifth, and he allowed that inherited runner to score on an RBI ground out from Manny Machado in an otherwise clean frame that earned him the winning decision.

Joe Kelly was next up for the sixth, and he continued to impress with another scoreless relief appearance, striking out to along the way as well as hitting 100.1 MPH on the radar gun at one point.

Ryan Brasier entered the seventh with a two run lead to protect, got the first out, then proceeded to load the bases for the Dodgers on two singles and a walk with Manny Machado due up next.

Fortunately, he was able to hold Machado to a sacrifice fly, which saw Boston’s lead cut down to one run.

That made way for Eduardo Rodriguez to make his World Series debut with the left-handed Cody Bellinger coming up to bat for Los Angeles, and he got the job done by getting Bellinger to fly out to center to send this game to the middle of the seventh.

Nathan Eovaldi was responsible for the eighth inning after his team had just jumped out to a four run lead, and he got the only three hitters he faced to ground out in a scoreless inning.

Finally, Red Sox closer Craig Kimbrel came on in a non-save situation and put together his second straight shutout performance by striking out the final two Dodgers he faced to secure the Game One win.

On the other side of things, the Red Sox lineup was matched up against another ace left-hander in the form of three-time National League Cy Young Award winner Clayton Kershaw, who was making his first career start at Fenway Park on the biggest possible stage.

Starting the scoring right away in the first was Mookie Betts, whose leadoff single, followed by a successful steal of second base, would result in Boston’s first run of the night crossing the plate on an Andrew Benintendi RBI single.

On that play, Benintendi was able to advance to second thanks to a poor throw from Dodgers right fielder Yasiel Puig, and he too would come around to score on a one out RBI single off the bat of JD Martinez. 2-0.

Two innings later, after the Dodgers had bounced back to knot this thing up at two runs a piece, Benintendi and Martinez linked up again, as the DH would drive in the left fielder from first on a one out line drive RBI double off the center field wall. 3-2.

In the fifth, both Betts and Benintendi reached base to lead off the frame, which resulted in Clayton Kershaw departing from this contest having only recorded 12 outs.

So, with runners at first and second and veteran reliever Ryan Madson now into this game for Los Angeles, Steve Pearce came to the plate, took four straight balls, one of which was a wild pitch, and set up a huge spot with the bases loaded for JD Martinez.

Already with a pair of RBI under his belt up to that point, it was honestly shocking to see Martinez fan on three straight hittable pitches from Madson, but Xander Bogaerts and Rafael Devers salvaged things by driving in a combined two runs on an RBI ground out and an RBI single. That gave the Red Sox a fresh 5-3 lead, but they were not done yet.

Fast forward to the seventh, moments after the Dodgers had made it a one run game in their half of the inning, Eduardo Nunez came to the plate with two outs and the chance to tack on some insurance runs for his club.

Pinch-hitting for Rafael Devers with runners at first and second and left-handed reliever Alex Wood on the mound for Los Angeles, Nunez swung at the second pitch he saw, an 84 MPH knuckle curveball located on the lower half of the strike zone, and ripped it 373 feet into the first row of Monster seats in left field.

Alex Cora may in fact be a genius.

That three-run blast padded Boston’s lead up to four runs, which is all they would need to pick up this pivotal opening World Series victory.

Some notes from this 8-4 win:

From @MLBStatoftheDay: Eduardo Núñez is the first player to have a World Series pinch-hit home runs since Hideki Matsui (Game Three, 2009).

Andrew Benintendi went 4/5 with one RBI Tuesday night, and according to @SoxNotes, Benintendi is the third player in Red Sox history to collect four or more hits in a World Series game.

Looking to go up two games to nothing headed into a cross-country flight to Los Angeles, it will be David Price getting the ball for Boston in Game Two of the World Series.

Making his first appearance in a World Series since his rookie year in 2008, the left-hander is fresh off six scoreless innings and his first winning decision as a starter in the postseason in his last time out against the Houston Astros in Game Five of the ALCS.

In his career against the Dodgers, Price is 0-1 with a 2.25 ERA in 12 innings pitched over two starts.

Opposite Price will be another left-hander for Los Angeles with South Korea native Hyun-Jin Ryu getting the nod for Game Two.

In only one career start against Boston back in August of 2013, Ryu surrendered four earned runs over five innings in a losing effort. Not like that means much now, though.

First pitch of the second game of the World Series is scheduled for 8:09 PM ET Wednesday on FOX.

 

RECAP: Andrew Benintendi Makes Game-Saving Catch in Ninth Inning as #RedSox Jump up 3-1 on Astros in ALCS.

In a game that took over four and a half hours to complete, the Red Sox found themselves just one win away from clinching the American League pennant following an enthralling 8-6 win over the Houston Astros on Wednesday night.

Making his second start (fourth appearance) of the postseason in this one was Rick Porcello, and he did not have it going on early.

Tossing four innings seemingly out of necessity, the right-hander got hit hard, as he surrendered a postseason-high four earned runs on seven hits, one walk, and one HBP to go along with three strikeouts on the night.

Right from the get go, it was clear to see Porcello was struggling to find any sort of rhythm. The Astros were making hard contact and getting on base, which could have led to two runs crossing the plate in their half of the first, right after the Red Sox scored a pair of their own, had it not been for Joe West ruling this ball off the bat of Jose Altuve as fan interference.

I don’t want to get into this too much, since like Tuesday’s controversy, it really did not make a difference in the end, but I do believe it’s pretty obvious that Mookie Betts would have made that spectacular catch had that fan not shut his glove closed.

Any who, Porcello got out of the first unscathed. Great, maybe he’ll start to settle in a bit after getting that out of the way, I thought.

Nope, instead Josh Reddick and Carlos Correa greeted the New Jersey native in their half of the second by consecutively reaching base, and that led to Houston’s first run of the night coming around to score on a Correa RBI single.

An inning later, George Springer, who seemingly hits a home run in almost every postseason game he plays in, was at it agin with a leadoff solo shot to right field that cut Boston’s lead to one momentarily.

After a Jose Altuve double to follow that up and two straight outs, Josh Reddick continued his revenge tour against the team he came up with by ripping a line drive RBI single to left to drive in Altuve. Tie game.

In his final frame of work, Porcello failed once again to retire the side in order, as he served up a one out, solo home run to Astros left fielder Tony Kemp, who put his club up by a run with his first homer of the series.

Finishing his night by getting Jose Altuve to pop out to first for the final out of the fourth, Porcello would finish with a final pitch count of 68 (46 strikes).

Out of those 68 pitches, the 29-year-old hurler, who was caught by Christian Vazquez, relied on his slider the most at 31% of the time and topped out at 92.9 MPH with his four-seam fastball in the first inning. He only induced seven total swings and misses as well.

chart (10)

Whether we see Porcello again in this series will probably be indicative on whether or not it goes back to Boston.

If the Red Sox clinch the pennant tonight, then there’s obviously no need for him until the World Series. But, it would not shock me to see Alex Cora turn to Porcello in a late, close game at Fenway either.

In relief of Porcello, the Red Sox bullpen was responsible for locking down the final five innings of Wednesday night’s contest.

Joe Kelly (1-1) got the first call in the fifth with the game tied at four runs each, but surrendered the then go-ahead run on another Carlos Correa RBI single in the lone inning he appeared in.

Eduardo Rodriguez was next up with left-handed bat Tony Kemp set to leadoff the sixth, and he walked him on seven pitches, the last three of which were all balls. Not ideal.

That made way for Ryan Brasier to clean up that small mess, and he did just that by sitting down the 1-2-3 hitters in the Astros lineup in consecutive fashion.

With his team up 7-5 by the time he took the mound again for the seventh, Brasier would be unable to do his job this time, as he gave up a leadoff single to Marwin Gonzalez and a two out double to the pesky Carlos Correa to put runners at second and third.

Matt Barnes got the next call from Alex Cora in this crucial spot with the pinch-hitting Tyler White at the plate for Houston, and he managed to strikeout White while his bat never left his shoulder. Inning over.

Finally, Craig Kimbrel came on in an extremely rare SIX out save situation with a three-run lead to protect, and somehow, someway he did it.

It was far from easy and certainly very stressful with the Astros cutting their deficit down to two in the eighth and then loading the bases with two outs in the ninth, but Kimbrel was bailed out twice by his stellar outfield.

The first came in eighth, when the aforementioned Tony Kemp tried to stretch a leadoff single into a leadoff double, but his childhood friend, Mookie Betts, had other ideas.

And in the ninth, with two outs and an Astro on every base, Andrew Benintendi made the catch of his life on a screaming line drive off the bat of Alex Bregman that was falling rapidly.

Absolutely unreal. That’s how this ballgame would end only four and a half hours after it started.

On the other side of things, the Red Sox lineup was matched up against Astros veteran right-hander Charlie Morton, who hadn’t seen any in-game action since the end of September.

Like they did off of Gerrit Cole on Tuesday, the top of the lineup got things started right away in the first, as Mookie Betts and JD Martinez drew a pair of walks to put runners on first and second with one out.

A wild pitch with Xander Bogaerts at the plate would allow both runners to advance into scoring position, but Bogaerts was unable to bring them home.

Fortunately, Rafael Devers, who has seemingly turned into an elite hitter in the postseason, came through with a two out, two RBI single to left field that saw his club take an early 2-0 lead.

Over the next four innings, not only was Morton knocked out of this contest, but a pair of Xander Bogaerts RBI base knocks, one in the third and one in the fifth, gave the Red Sox a two-run lead and then pulled them even with Houston at four runs each.

In the sixth, a red-hot Jackie Bradley Jr. came up looking for his first hit of the evening with two outs and Christian Vazquez at second following a double, and he did just that by smoking a 89 MPH changeup from Astros reliever Josh James 385 feet down the right field line.

That put Boston up 6-5, and they would not have to look back on that lead despite some late inning concerns.

To add on what would become much needed insurance, a Brock Holt bases loaded walk in the seventh, followed by a JD Martinez RBI single in the ninth, would eventually be all the Red Sox would need to go up 3-1 in this American League Championship Series.

Some notes from this 8-6 win:

From @SoxNotes: Most multi-RBI games in an ALCS, Red Sox history: David Ortiz – 4 (2004) Jason Varitek – 3 (2004) Jackie Bradley Jr. – 3 (2018)

Most RBI in an ALCS, Red Sox history: David Ortiz – 11 (2004) Manny Ramirez – 10 (2007) Jackie Bradley Jr. – 9 (2018) Mike Lowell – 8 (2007)

Including the Postseason, the Red Sox are 14-0 in 2018 when Jackie Bradley Jr. hits a home run.

The Red Sox are 4-0 on the road this postseason.

With the opportunity to clinch a spot in the World Series with a win tonight, it will be David Price, not Chris Sale, on the mound for Boston.

Pitching on only four days rest, it appeared as though Price was available to come out of the bullpen if needed on Wednesday, but that did not happen.

In his only other appearance of this series, the southpaw nearly earned the winning decision in 4.2 innings of four-run ball in Game Two at Fenway Park last Sunday.

Opposite Price will be Astros ace Justin Verlander, who allowed just two runs to score over six quality innings of work in a Game One win for Houston.

A lot is on the line Thursday, and first pitch of Game Five is scheduled for 8:09 PM ET on TBS.