LOS ANGELES -- Sunday night represented a bit of a throwback for Chris Sale.
The Red Sox's ace, whom many expected to start Game 5 of the World Series, instead pitched the final frame out of the bullpen, calling back to the beginning of his career as a reliever with the White Sox. He struck out all three Dodgers batters he faced -- dropping Manny Machado, the final batter, to one knee with a wicked slider -- to secure the Red Sox's 5-1 victory and clinch Boston's fourth championship in 15 seasons.
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"I got a chance to go old school," Sale said, clutching the Commissioner's Trophy to his chest in right field at Dodger Stadium. "I got to throw the last pitch in the World Series, so I can't complain."
After a stellar performance by starter David Price, who earned the win with seven innings of one-run ball, manager Alex Cora turned to Joe Kelly -- who pitched six scoreless innings and struck out 10 batters in the World Series -- and Sale for the final six outs. The many Red Sox fans in attendance roared as Sale ran in from the right-field bullpen.
"I don't think [the Dodgers] wanted to see that," shortstop Xander Bogaerts said. "That was the last guy they wanted to see on the mound."
"It's an instant shot [of adrenaline]," Sale said of entering out of the 'pen. "Every hair on your body is standing up and you don't feel a thing. I appreciate the fact that they handed me the ball."
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The big left-hander struck out Justin Turner, Enrique Hernandez and then Machado, all swinging, and threw his hands in the air upon securing the final out. Catcher Christian Vazquez leapt into his arms, and the rest of the 2018 World Series champions joined them in celebration on the mound.
"It was so surreal," Sale said. "I throw a pitch, next thing I know I got [Vazquez] in my arms and just the first thought of being a World Series champ ran through my mind. It was unbelievable."
Boston closer Craig Kimbrel said he didn't offer Sale any advice for his first relief appearance since 2012. He didn't see the need.
"He's one of the nastiest pitchers in the game," said Kimbrel, "and for him to go out there and get those last three outs, it was pretty awesome to see."
In what was billed as a Game 1 pitching duel between Clayton Kershaw (whom the Red Sox beat in Game 5 to clinch the title) and Sale, neither starter made it past the fifth inning. Sale was tagged for three runs on five hits and two walks and struck out seven batters over four frames.
Sale only took the mound in the opener and clincher, but made his presence felt in the dugout in Game 4 with an emotional outburst that preceded Mitch Moreland's pinch-hit home run that sparked Boston's late comeback. Several of his teammates cited Sale's rallying cry as the spark they needed.
"I look like an idiot if Mitch doesn't hit that home run," Sale said. "That wasn't me, that was them kicking it in gear. I didn't say anything we already didn't know."
Had the Dodgers sent the Series back to Fenway Park with a win Sunday, Sale would have started Game 6.
"He's a gamer. Always wants the ball," Kelly said. "He was ready for another start, but we wanted him right there. And he came out firing some BBs."
The World Series title capped what's been a remarkable start to Sale's Red Sox tenure. Since joining Boston via trade prior to the 2017 season, he's gone 29-12 with a 2.56 ERA in 59 regular season starts across two All-Star campaigns. He finished as the runner-up for the American League Cy Young Award last season and is again in the mix for the award this year.
After leaving the FOX postgame set, Sale retrieved the Commissioner's Trophy and carried it into right field to pose for a photo with his family, the people he credits for helping him along this journey. His World Series moment, he said, was every bit of what he dreamed it to be growing up in Lakeland, Fla.
"Every second of it. Sitting in my bed, throwing a ball against the ceiling, playing catch with my dad, my mom dragging me all over the state of Florida my entire life," he said. "This goes out to a lot of people. There's a lot of people that got me to this point and I appreciate every single person. …
"Right when I saw [my parents], I said, 'This is what we've worked our entire life for.'"