The Red Sox outfield was among the best in the game in 2018, and following the franchise's fourth World Series title in 15 years, two of Boston's outfielders were awarded Rawlings Gold Glove Awards on Sunday. American League MVP Award candidate Mookie Betts won his third consecutive Gold Glove Award in right field, while Jackie Bradley Jr. won the first of his career in center field.
And that wasn't all the Red Sox had to celebrate when the awards were announced, as veteran infielder Ian Kinsler won his second career Gold Glove honor.
• Full list of 2018 Gold Glove Award winners
Betts, 26, has received what could be the first of many awards to come for his sensational 2018 campaign. While he slashed .346/.438/.640 with 32 home runs and 30 steals over 136 games, he dazzled with his customarily spectacular defense in right. Betts was tied for second among all Major League outfielders with 20 Defensive Runs Saved (DRS), per FanGraphs. He also produced an impressive 11 outs above average, per Statcast™.
Bradley, 28, claimed his first Gold Glove Award after playing a stellar center field over the past several seasons. Though it's hard to believe this is his first such honor, he has always had stiff competition from defensive stars such as the Rays' Kevin Kiermaier and the Orioles' Adam Jones. This season, though, he wouldn't be denied, tying Atlanta's Ender Inciarte for the most four-star catches in baseball, per Statcast™, with 12. He also posted 11 outs above average.
It's been quite a few weeks for Bradley, who was also named the AL Championship Series MVP during Boston's run to the World Series title.
"It means a whole lot," Bradley told ESPN's Karl Ravech following the Gold Glove Award announcement. "I'm a player that takes a lot of pride in my defense, and helping my team on both sides of the ball. There are a lot of great center fielders that I'm in competition with, and it's an honor to be mentioned along with those guys."
While Bradley and Betts won Gold Glove Awards, yet another Red Sox outfielder received a nomination, in Andrew Benintendi.
"Good luck hitting fly balls to the outfield if you're the other team," Bradley said. "It's very exciting playing next to them. It makes for a lot of fun. Not only are we pretty decent outfielders, but we're really close. I think that's what makes us even better, being able to communicate and keep each other accountable."
A unique aspect of two Red Sox outfielders winning Gold Glove Awards in the same season, particularly in Bradley's case as a center fielder, is that they play their home games at Fenway Park, which has challenging outfield dimensions. It makes the accomplishment all the more impressive.
"Get used to uncertainty," Bradley said of playing in the outfield at Fenway. "Sometimes it's gonna hit a little nook or cranny. It's got a lot of different angles and a lot of different types of padding it could hit off of, whether it's in right-center field or left-center with the [Green Monster].
"In center field, you've got three different types of backgrounds -- you've got the padded wall, and then you've got the metal fence out there that goes up. So a lot of different things to interact with."
Bradley and Betts have a combined four Gold Glove Awards, and at 28 and 26 years old, respectively, we can expect more where those came from.
Kinsler, who joined Boston in a trade with the Angels at the non-waiver Trade Deadline, earned his first Gold Glove Award with the Tigers in 2016. He and the Rangers' Rougned Odor finished this season with 10 DRS apiece, tied for the most among AL second basemen.
As the old baseball adage goes, "Pitching and defense win championships." In the case of the 2018 Red Sox, that certainly proved true, with the defense taking center stage Sunday night.