From obstruction calls to game-ending pickoffs, the 2013 World Series had its fair share of shocking moments. But the most surprising of all had to be the end result: The Boston Red Sox completed their worst-to-first campaign by winning a championship, their third in the past decade.
Sporting a solid rotation and arguably the best offense in baseball, the Sox had their fair share of struggles throughout the postseason. Perhaps the biggest reason they made it all the way was their clutch performances.
It’s hard to talk about clutch without first mentioning David Ortiz. Big Papi hit a mind-boggling 11-for-16 in the World Series, basically mashing every pitch he saw. This was on the heels of an ALCS where he saved Boston from going down 2-0 with his goosebump-worthy grand slam that will forever live in Red Sox lore.
Shane Victorino had a legendary grand slam of his own in Game 6 of the ALCS. With the team down a run and fighting hard to avoid a Game 7, the Flyin’ Hawaiin crushed a pitch over the monster, which ultimately sent the Red Sox to the World Series. And every little thing was all right in Boston.
The redemption tours of pitchers Jon Lester and John Lackey were huge for the Red Sox, whose ace, Clay Bucholz, was simply not that in the playoffs. Lester gave up only six runs in 34.2 innings (1.56 ERA) while fanning 29 batters. Lackey complemented him with a stat line of eight runs allowed in 26 innnings (2.77 ERA), along with 25 strikeouts. The two pitchers went from chicken and beer to pitching and beards.
And finally, in order to be dominant and clutch, a team needs someone reliable to close the game out. Koji Uehara was as reliable as he could be.
After going through three closers, Boston finally settled on Uehara, who gave up a lone run in 13.2 postseason innings, while striking out 16 and not walking a single batter. Uehara consistently recorded saves (seven total), whether they were three, four or even five outs long. To put it all into perspective, from July to the end of the World Series, Uehara gave up only two runs in 53.2 innings pitched.
The playoffs can often be a crapshoot in any sport, and we’ve seen plenty of athletes step up with heroic performances to lead their team to a title. The Red Sox had all of this, along with a bunch of other players coming through when they needed it most. And while that isn’t something that can be measured in a stat, it often leads to championships.