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USA TODAY Sports Weekly - - INSIDE -

The 2018 World Series cham­pi­ons are tops among the Red Sox’s re­cent World Series win­ners and per­haps in the fran­chise’s an­nals.

LOS AN­GE­LES – They ran around Dodger Sta­dium in eu­pho­ria Oct. 28, jump­ing into one an­other’s arms, scream­ing at the top of their lungs, hug­ging ev­ery­one they could find, deliri­ous in their ec­stasy.

There was never any doubt to them they’d be World Series cham­pi­ons. They be­lieved from the first month of the sea­son they’d be the last ones stand­ing, king of the base­ball moun­tain.

Still, now that the mo­ment finally was here, af­ter they won Game 5 5-1 to cap­ture the World Series 4 games to 1, the tor­rent of emo­tions hit them all at once, leav­ing them sur­pris­ingly emo­tional.

David Price, who pitched the big­gest game of his life, walked away min­utes af­ter their team pic­ture, cov­er­ing his face with his sweat­shirt and wip­ing away the tears. Fel­low pitcher Rick Por­cello, try­ing to ex­plain what this World Series meant to them, kept apol­o­giz­ing to the re­porters around him on the field for cry­ing.

Chris Sale, who threw the final pitch, leav­ing Oc­to­ber vil­lain Manny Machado swing­ing at noth­ing but air as he struck out the side, grabbed the tro­phy and ran to left field. He couldn’t talk. Not yet. He kept run­ning and run­ning, wait­ing for his fam­ily to ar­rive.

There, they stood, Sale hoist­ing the World Series tro­phy in the air, with his wife, par­ents and kids to his side, walk­ing to­ward the infield. Sale said he al­ways imag­ined what heaven would feel like, but now he knows.

“This,” Sale said, still hold­ing his tro­phy, “means ev­ery­thing. It’s sur­real. To be a World Series cham­pion, it’s the great­est feel­ing in the world.

“Sit­ting in my bed and throw­ing a ball to the ceil­ing as a kid, play­ing catch with my dad, my mom drag­ging me all over the state of Florida, and now to be stand­ing here. I’ll never for­get this as long as I live.

“Re­ally, this team will be re­mem­bered for­ever.”

It will be de­bated through­out New Eng­land which Red Sox cham­pi­onship team was the best in fran­chise his­tory, but only two teams in base­ball ever won more than the Red Sox’s 119 vic­to­ries, and few were ever more re­spected and beloved.

“There’s no ques­tion in my mind,” Red Sox Pres­i­dent Sam Kennedy said, “that this is the great­est team in Red Sox his­tory. It should live for­ever.”

The Red Sox, who won 108 games dur­ing the reg­u­lar sea­son, the only team this sea­son not to lose four games in a row, stormed through the post­sea­son, tak­ing down ev­ery­one who dared stand in their way. The New York Yan­kees went down in four games. The de­fend­ing World Series cham­pion Hous­ton Astros went down in five, as did the Na­tional League cham­pion Dodgers.

The Yan­kees (27) and St. Louis Car­di­nals (11) are the only teams that have won more World Series ti­tles in his­tory, but the Red Sox, who now have nine ti­tles, stand alone as the kings of this cen­tury, win­ning four cham­pi­onships in 15 years. It might not quite qual­ify as a dy­nasty, but it’s an era of great­ness that no one in Bos­ton has wit­nessed in 100 years, win­ning four World Series ti­tles between 1912 and 1918 be­fore go­ing 86 years un­til their next.

“We are one of the great­est teams in his­tory,” Red Sox re­liever Joe Kelly said, “and now we will have that bond for­ever.”

It will be the team that pro­duced Amer­i­can League MVP Mookie Betts, un­veiled slug­ger J.D. Martinez’s great­ness, ex­posed Sale’s prow­ess, re­vealed the sig­nificance of late trad­edead­line moves (Steve Pearce) and for­ever changed the nar­ra­tive of Price.

Price, who en­tered the post­sea­son with the stigma of never win­ning when it mat­tered in Oc­to­ber, go­ing 0-8 with a 5.74 ERA as a post­sea­son starter, won the big­gest one of all, pitch­ing the finest clinch­ing game since Tim Lince­cum of the San Fran­cisco Gi­ants in 2010. He yielded a 1.98 World Series ERA, al­low­ing six hits over 13 in­nings as a starter.

The crowd chanted over and over, “David Price! David Price! David Price!” And, oh, was that re­venge ever so sweet.

“I hold all the cards now,” Price said, “and that feels so good. Feels so good. I can’t tell you how good it feels to hold that trump card.

“You guys (re­porters) have had it for a long time. You’ve played that card ex­tremely well. But you don’t have it any­more.

“None of you, and that feels re­ally good.”

The Red Sox were ec­static that ev­ery­one got to see Price’s tenac­ity, the man who started and won Game 2, pitched in relief in Game 3, warmed up in Game 4 and started and won Game 5 with a three-hit­ter through seven in­nings. They talked about the sac­rifice of Sale, pitch­ing through pain through­out the post­sea­son, tak­ing so much med­i­ca­tion for his shoul­der that it left him hos­pi­tal­ized. They talked about Nathan Eo­valdi’s courage, throw­ing 97 pitches over six in­nings in their 18-in­ning loss on a day he wasn’t even sup­posed to pitch. They talked about Pearce’s club­house pres­ence, join­ing the team in July, and fitting right in.

And if any­one dared to ridicule any of them, whether it was Ian Kinsler’s crit­i­cal throw­ing er­ror in Game 3, or Betts’ strug­gles un­til home­r­ing in Game 5, you bet­ter take them all on, be­cause ev­ery last one of them had each other’s back.

“All of the crit­ics, all of the haters out there,” Martinez said, “you got to shut up now.”

The Red Sox finished off the Dodgers by outscor­ing them 14-3 in the final 12 in­nings of the series, and when man­ager Alex Cora tried to give a speech af­ter the game, he was able to de­liver only six words:

“Thank you!

Thank you.”

The cham­pagne corks popped. The beer was sprayed. The party was just start­ing, with the af­ter-hour fes­tiv­i­ties sched­uled at their Pasadena ho­tel, with their pa­rade set for Hal­loween in down­town Bos­ton.

“Fire up those Duck Boats,” Sale said. “We’re com­ing home! We are cham­pi­ons of the world!” Thank you!

RICHARD MACKSON/USA TO­DAY SPORTS

The Red Sox’s David Price pitched in three of the five World Series games and warmed up in an­other.

Colum­nist USA TO­DAY

Bob Night­en­gale

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