As the Boston Red Sox enjoyed champagne in another visiting clubhouse Thursday night, you had to wonder how this team could have won the pennant.

Four games into the American League Championship Series, Boston’s top three starters this season had recorded a 6.77 ERA.

The eventual ALCS MVP batted .200. His teammates in the outfield batted .217 and .208.

Boston’s closer was an adventure with a 4.50 ERA and 2.00 WHIP.

And when it seemed certain that the odds were against the Red Sox winning Game 5 in Houston, they turned to a veteran who never won a start in the postseason and was pitching on three days rest. He was opposing a pitcher who had thrown 24 consecutive scoreless innings in the playoffs. It was very much a David (Price) versus Goliath (Justin Verlander) scenario.

Yet there was Price celebrating with his teammates after Game 5 – after closer Craig Kimbrel pitched a scoreless ninth – and with Jackie Bradley Jr. receiving the ALCS MVP trophy.

How in the world?

Simply put, this Red Sox team figures out how to win games. We just weren’t convinced until they came back to beat the Yankees in New York and the Astros in Houston.

Entering the playoffs, the Red Sox mantra was one of confidence: “This team won 108 games.”

Applaud all you want for the regular season, but Boston was leaving the marathon six-month schedule and entering the playoffs against formidable teams.

The 100-win Yankees were dangerous and the 103-win Astros were peaking.

In the divisional series, when New York split two games in Boston and headed to the Bronx, the Yankees had all the momentum and Luis Severino pitching Game 3.

Boston won, 16-1. Utility infielder Brock Holt, in his first start in these playoffs, hit for the cycle. Right-hander Nathan Eovaldi – who was not a lock for the postseason rotation – pitched seven innings of five-hit, one-run ball.

Boston eliminated New York the next night but had to face the Astros, who had just steamrolled Cleveland in a three-game sweep.

When Houston won Game 1 in Boston – Verlander beating Chris Sale – the doubters surfaced again. Winning 108 regular-season games was not going to help the Red Sox now.

But the Red Sox led the majors with 876 runs and the offense got in gear, winning Game 2, 7-5 despite a shaky Price start.Then, in Game 3, they won 8-2 in Houston behind another Eovaldi gem, and home runs by Bradley (a grand slam) and Steve Pearce, who was only starting against right-handers because Mitch Moreland hurt his hamstring.

Boston’s offense scored eight more runs in a Game 4 victory. Then, in Game 5, with Sale unavailable, Price was at his best, on short rest, throwing six shutout innings in a 4-1 win.

“They took it to us,” Houston Manager A.J. Hinch said. “They outplayed us. They did a real good job of having an excellent game plan, and going and executing it. They were extremely tough.”

Some closing thoughts as this team looks to the World Series:

Eovaldi and Pearce, two summer acquisitions, are making Dave Dombrowski look smart. While it figured Boston would go after bullpen help – which the Yankees, Astros and Indians did – Dombrowski traded for a starter, which appeared to be a position of strength. It wasn’t, and Eovaldi has been gold in the postseason – three games, two starts, 2-0 with a 1.88 ERA/0.98 WHIP.

Pearce has a .810 OPS in the postseason, including a big homer in Houston.

Dombrowski kept saying the bullpen would be fine. While it looked shaky at the end of the season, it has held up in the playoffs with a 3.62 ERA (2.66, if you throw out Brandon Workman’s terrible outing in ALCS Game 1). Using Rick Porcello, Eovaldi and Eduardo Rodriguez – all with 0.00 ERAs in relief – has helped the pen.

Rafael Devers did not start the playoffs but it will be hard to keep this young Mr. October on the bench. Devers, who had the huge three-run homer off Verlander on Thursday, is batting .355 in 10 postseason games (including last year), with a 1.962 OPS, three home runs and 12 RBI.

Boston’s outfield beats teams in so many ways – and their gloves never slump. Andrew Benintendi in left and Mookie Betts in right made game-saving plays.

And Bradley is the best outfielder of them all.

Bradley also has the streakiest bat. On July 1 he was batting .198. But he was clutch in the ALCS with a double, two homers and nine RBI.

Bradley got hot at the right time. It seems to be the way of these Red Sox. They find ways to win.

Can they do it for four more games?

Kevin Thomas can be reached at 791-6411 or:

[email protected]

Twitter: ClearTheBases

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