02 November 2004

(Triumphant) 2004 World Series Recap...

(98-64) vs. (105-57)

Game One

BOS 11
WP- Keith Foulke (1-0)
LP- Julian Tavarez (2-2)
HR- D Ortiz (5), L Walker (5), M Bellhorn (3)

I came home Saturday afternoon to watch the World Series with the Broseph, and we spent the better part of the time leading up to first pitch in wild amazement over the fact that OUR team was about to play a home game in the World Series. It was unbelievable. The energy at Fenway bled through the television screen- you could feel the emotion and excitement just by looking at it. The lights seemed to have more electricity pumping through them, the grass seemed to will itself greener, the dirt looked like it was proudly dirtier. The first World Series in Boston in 18 years. It was religious in that Park.

So at game time, I slipped into my Florida State shorts, Sox shirt. Put my 75 Sox hat on the armrest (NOT my head), grabbed the lucky wiffle ball (held in the changeup grip) and took my Game Seven ALCS seat. The Broseph did the same on the couch while picking at his foam pumpkin decked in the now famous "victory sweats" and Sox shirt. It was on, and we were doing all we could for the boys.

Of course, I was working all sorts of mojo throughout the playoffs. In the ALDS, it was the Mueller HR off Rivera in July/ the Dropkick Murphy's "Tessie"/ "Dirty Water"/ Boston bands only on the iPod. In the ALCS, I tried to carry that over, and it clearly wasn't working. Late after Game Three in that series, I saw an episode of Tenacious D and it cheered me up a bit, so it was settled- Tenacious D mojo for the ALCS on the iPod. Add to that my practice of a "victory burger" from Gracie Mews on 81st and 1st after every win, and I had solid mojo working. Once the Series started, I knew mojo didn't carry over from set to set. So, I went right to the source: my all time favorites. Nirvana mojo was in full effect.

For the record, yes, this is all I true and I did in fact do all these things without even considering it to be odd. I guess the further your team goes in the playoffs, the more you act like a retard. Or at least I do.

Although it may sound somewhat disingenuous and hindsight credit-taking, I have to mention that I knew we would win this series. At least, I knew we were substantially better than the Cardinals. It may not have seemed so on first glance and when considering their regular season records... but here's why:

  1. The Cardinals won the bulk of their games on the strength of a staggeringly gifted offense. But, like most NL teams, that offense was concentrated in the place of three (sometimes four) staggeringly gifted hitters. Albert Pujols, Jim Edmonds and Scott Rolen (the "sometimes" is Larry Walker). Thankfully, LaRussa was never fully aware of what he had/has in Edmonds, and batted him fifth. Not only does this break up the nice, tidy LH/RH/LH/RH lineup, but it left a patient hitter like Edmonds on base to be driven in by the execrable bottom third of the Cardinal lineup. If you bat Edmonds fourth, you have his amazing bat to drive in Pujols, and you have the less patient (but powerful) Rolen to drive them both in when Edmonds works a walk. Against a largely right handed staff (save Embree/ Myers), Edmonds was the best bat in the Cards lineup, not Pujols. As an aside, when one takes into consideration his defense, Jim Edmonds has to be considered one of the top 5 most valuable position guys in baseball, and one of the most underrated hitters in the game. Here's the point though- pitch to the big boys, keep their inevitable contributions to (hopefully) a dull roar, and take care of business against the AAA'rs.

  2. Simply put, the Cardinals had no pitching. None. Not one of the Cardinal pitching staff was a dominating presence: no Rivera, Lidge, Gagne, Smoltz, Oswalt, Schilling, Santana, Rodriguez- not even a Clemens. Every Cardinal starter slated for the Series (Williams, Morris, Suppan, Marquis) were the same animal: rely on contact from the hitter and depend on the all-world Cardinal gloves. Problem is, with a powerful, patient team like Boston, all we had to do was lay off the crap they get groundouts and pop-ups on and drive the mediocre fastballs. Isringhausen's postseason ERA was up around 6, Steve Kline- their best LOOGY and setup man was out, and no one else could come in and miss some bats late in a game. Advantage Boston.

  3. St. Louis's defense is/ was NOT as superior to ours as some would assume it was, and not by any metric. Really. It wasn't.

  4. Our pitching was, going into the playoffs, the best. It stayed that way, even with Schilling at about 75% (probably even less). We had guys that threw strikes, missed bats and relied on deception (with the exception of Lowe).

  5. Our hot hitter coming in was a left handed hitting kid in a right handed pitching candy store. Theirs was a right handed hitter facing up against a line of right handed power pitchers and jamjobs. Advantage Sox.

  6. While 105 wins is, by all means, extremely impressive, the Red Sox had a better Pythagorean record and got 98 wins in a far superior AL East. The Cardinals won 105 in an inferior NL Central (missing Houston until it got hot at the end, catching Chicago at the height of their midseason woes... everyone else in the NL Central self explanatory). The only offense that came close to Boston's in the NL was.. the Cardinals. Their pitchers got to skip that lineup. Not this time.

  7. Homefield advantage, secured in the All Star game by David Ortiz and Manny Ramirez (with a pinch of Alfonso Soriano) off Roger Clemens.

  8. Our uniforms are slightly cooler, both home and road.

I picked Boston in 5 (Wake loses Game One, we sweep the rest), and if they were playing like they were in Game Seven ALCS, I felt really confident.

Wake started the night off well, surrendering only a long double by Larry Walker. He looked like he was in strike zone early, which is always a very good sign. Keeping the ball down. All good stuff.

Woody Williams, on the other hand, never stood a chance. Run out there on three days rest- cardinal post-season sin from LaRussa- was an awful bad omen, expecially for a guy over 35 and a history of shoulder trouble... in 40 degree cold.

Damon started things off with a big 10 pitch at bat that was punctuated by a beautiful opposite field double. Cabrera, batting second, took one off the shoulder to put two on with no out. After Manny flew out, David Ortiz stepped again in a big spot. And delivered big. Again. With a HUGE HR. Again. 3-0 Sox. Six pitches later it was 4-0 on a Kevin Millar wallball double and a Bill Mueller RBI single. Williams was toast.

In the second though, Wakefield gave one back. Jim Edmonds dropped down a bunt for a hit with Mueller playing deep and shaded to pull. Reggie Sanders worked a walk, and Tony Womack came on with two on, no out, and Wakefield in trouble of a big inning. With the chaff of the lineup behind him, Tony Womack did the Sox a huge favor and sacrificed the runners over and gift-wrapping an out for us. Baserunners move up, but we get an out, and after a Matheny sac fly and Taguchi strikeout Wakefield is lucky to get by with only one run scoring. Bunting in the second inning is just really fucking stupid. 4-1 Sox.

Larry Walker continued what would be a huge game for him, hitting an absolute rope down the right field line and hooking into the seats. It was 4-2 going into the third.

If Woody Williams thought he had anything left, the 3rd inning came up and smacked him right in the head. After a Mueller walk, Mirabelli single and Bellhorn walk loaded the bases with one out, Johnny Damon singled to shallow right, scoring Mueller. Up next was Cabrera, and on the first pitch from new guy Danny Haren, Orlando ripped a single scoring two. Manny added an RBI groundout, and it was now 7-2 Sox. They were looking like a machine.

Then, in the top of the fourth, Wake lost the strike zone. Completely. Walking the first three batters on 13 pitches, it looked like disaster. Bases loaded, no out. Mike Matheny got a run in on a sac fly, and it looked like that was it- until the relay came in to Millar, and he tried to pick Sanders off third. Throw gets away, another run scores. Taguchi then got the runner at third in on an RBI groundout. With two outs, Wakefield then walked leadoff hitter Edgar Renteria on 5 pitches (making the outs from Matheny and Taguchi all the more iffy) and got Francona into the bullpen for the hot Larry Walker. Bronson Arroyo came in, gave up a hit to Walker, but Pujols on a fielder's choice. Inning over, 7-5 Sox.

For the next few innings, there was little movement. Haren and Arroyo pitched well in the middle innings, keeping the respective offenses off the bases, calming down the serious glut of scoring.

In the 6th, a big mistake from Arroyo made the game even closer than it ever should have been. After two quick outs, Arroyo got So Taguchi to chop the ball between third and the mound. Off the hill Arroyo grabbed and it was clearly not only out of position on the throw, but had no chance to catch the very fast Taguchi. He threw it anyway, the ball sailed into the dugout, and the Cardinals had a man in scoring position for the top of their order. Arroyo then got two strikes on Renteria, but left a fastball in over the plate, and he tagged it deep to left center. 7-6, Sox. On the first pitch he saw, Walker then promptly laced another hit, this one down the line in right just over Millar's head, for an RBI double. Arroyo came back to strike out Pujols, but the damage was done. 7-7 in a game the sox had lead 7-2 and 6-1. Not good.

Both teams traded 0's on the board until the Boston 7th. Haren was relieved by Kiki Calero, who promptly walked two out of the first three hitters he faced- Bellhorn and Cabrera. Manny then came up with one out and man in scoring position. He gave Calero a great at bat, fouling off a few sliders and cutters running away. Finally he got a tight slider and lifted it off the ground and into left field. A run scored, Cabrera went to third on a throw into first behind Manny. 8-7 Sox.

LaRussa brought in the only lefty he had to face Ortiz, Ray "No-Neck Neckless" King. King fell behind early in the count, and Ortiz ripped a hard grounder that popped up after two hops and hit Tony Womack on the collarbone. Infield single, run scores- 9-7 Sox. It was a very strange play- the Broseph and I both talk about how odd it was seeing a ball in play hurt a guy in the field, much less one that took two hops. Our first guess was that it hit his throat, but replays showed it clearly did not- it was in the collarbone area. I'm not sure why it seemed so strange to me, and it does make sense that a ball off your collarbone would hurt more on a 40 degree day... but a ball that had that long to slow down knocking a guy out of a World Series game... just weird is all. He was replaced my Marlon Anderson, and King got out of the inning.

The Cardinal 8th was very nerve wracking. Mike Timlin took over to start, and got a quick groundout from Marlon Anderson. Next, Timlin gave up an inexcusable late-game single to the light hitting Mike Matheny, who was pinch run for by Game Four starter Jason Marquis (not a bad idea- don't burn a potential hitter for later on just on a pinch run). Embree came on to pitch to pinch hitter Roger Cedeno, who lace a single up the middle. Marquis had the misfortune of literally tripping all over himself and second base, but he was safe, and St. Louis had two one with only one out.

Foulke took over for Embree, and with runners on first and second, gave up a big single to Edgar Renteria. The hit was shallow and forced Marquis to stop at third... until Manny bobbled the ball and allowed him to score. 9-8 Sox. The next play was terrible. Just absolutely awful, but in many ways I could see it coming. If you watch the Red Sox with any regularity, you know that Manny likes to go into a slide coming in on a ball far in front of him. He's actually pretty good at it, and it helps him to catch up to those types of pop flies. This one, though, was a little different. Manny was fooled on Walker's swing and got a late jump on the ball- replays showed him running laterally a bit then breaking in. As soon as he got within range of it, I knew he'd try the little slide move. I just knew it. Instead of gliding in, his right cleat caught the grass, he popped up, and the ball nearly hit him in the face. Cedeno scored to tie the game, and Walker stood on second with Renteria on third, two outs. 9-9. Foulke put Pujols on, and in one of the bigger spots in the Series, managed to induce a Scott Rolen pop up to third on the first pitch. Nails.

In the Boston 8th, certified lunatic Julian Tavarez took the mound, replete with his fresh fractures in his glove hand thanks to his losing bout with the bullpen phone in Houston. Hey, that Ma Bell bitch had it comin'.

Bill Mueller started off the inning with a groundout, but Varitek hit a shot in the hole at short, a ball Renteris should have made easily. Instead, it rattled in his glove and rolled away long enough to get Varitek aboard. One out, one on, Bellhorn up.

When it gets down to it in these parts of the games, things get scarier. Every time my hands got a little clammy, I wiped it on my hat (helps wear it in). Everytime I said something out loud, I repeated it in kind if the count was in his favor, switched it up if it wasn't. There was a small pile of chemical foam at the Broseph's feet. We were sweatin' this all-important first game out.

Bellhorn fouled off the first pitch and looked at strike two putting him a quick hole. Tavarez throws a lot of breaking stuff and uses his fastball to jam hitters, so Bellhorn was able to lay off the breaking ball away for ball one on pitch three. On pitch four he saw the jam pitch coming and got out ahead of it, trying to put the barrel of the bat on it.

Earlier in the count, Bellhorn had cranked a ball down the line that twisted foul at the last minute. In a "Sounds of the Game" segment later, Schilling leaned over to Doug Mirabelli and told him to hit it out on such a cold, windy night, a batter would have to "hit it right out at those RF seats, and it'll get blown right into the Pesky Pole I'm sure..."

Clank. There's a really cool shot of the fans, watching the ball float on towards the corner, waiting... waiting... waiting... and it smacks the pole, queueing their absolute eruption.

Foulke came out in the ninth looking great. After a dominant three pitch strikeout of Sanders, he gave up a long double to Marlon Anderson. Yadier Molina and Roger Cedeno were St. Louis's chances as the potential tying run. Molina popped the third pitch up to Mientkiewicz and Cedeno struck out swinging on an absolutely filthy changeup low and away. The Broseph and I popped up and fist-pounded it.

Wow. A win in the World Series. Cool. I kept saying- I'd rather be up 1-0 than down 0-1.

Stupid, but it's true.

BOS 1, STL 0

Game Two

WP- Curt Schilling (3-1)
LP- Matt Morris (0-2)

Matt Morris, in his own words, hadn't pitched on three days rest "since I did it once in wiffle ball as a kid." He'd been awful on regular rest in the postseason to that point, and at home, against our offense clicking, I took that as a huge sign.

Of course, what I took as near-gospel was that Curt Schilling was ready to go, the ankle was being treated in order to accomodate him pitching, and that his mere presence was enough for us. I turned out to be more or less right- but I had no idea how wrong I was early Sunday morning.

To paraphrase Schilling, when he woke up at 7AM ("which was alarming itself, because I don't get up at 7 for anything"), there was "no way [he] was pitching that day." Something was wrong, supposedly, and he could barely even walk to the car to drive to the park from his home in Medfield, MA. Apparently, he even told his wife before he left there was no way he was pitching in the condition he was in.

The Broseph and I had no idea of this at the time, of course. I was steering clear of the message boards for the time being, and we kept the TV off most of the day. We were way to anxious. When we finally did flick on ESPN, we heard some whispers, but it never really registered- all we saw was Schilling, in his jacket, with Tek, walking in from the bullpen. Looked fine to me.

The first inning didn't start out specifically how I wanted it to- Edgar Renteria took Schilling to 14 pitches before retiring on a groundout. A few things were obvious from the get go with Curt-
  • His fastball started out like gangbusters (~94), and during the Renteria at bat, completely fell off the table to the 88-91 neighborhood.

  • He looked to be driving OK off his injured ankle.

  • His split, thank the heavens, was biting hard.

  • This was not going to be easy.

  • Schill got Larry Walker on a lazy fly ball to right, then on the third pitch to Pujols, left a fastball in and had it roped down the left field line. Rolen followed by scalding a ball right at Mueller for the third out. After Schilling's adrenaline first two batters, it seemed they were hitting him hard.

    Two out runs, when all is said and done, should more or less be the story of the postseason for this offense. In the Red Sox first, Morris got two quick outs on Damon and Cabrera, not truly looking spectacular, but getting what he needed in keeping the ball on the ground and at his fielders. But, with two outs, we kept grinding- Manny worked a walk on 6 pitches after being down 0-2, Ortiz worked an 8 pitch walk. After a quick start, before he even knew it, Morris was in a hole and facing a guy that hit .320 at Fenway and was well rested.

    Varitek fell behind 0-2 as well, hacking at a fastball first pitch and then watching one in the strikezone second pitch. He managed to lay off a fastball running away for ball one (Morris, for some inexplicable reason, completely abandoned his best pitch- the curve- nearly the entire night), and the next pitch he saw he not so much crushed as completely obliterated- Tek drive the ball 415 feet to the triangle in center field- 2RBI, and only the second triple for a catcher in World Series history. 2-0, Sox.

    Schilling was clearly working with inferior stuff as the game wore on, but he was dealing in a few areas- hitting his spots, moving his fastball, and using the split (which was working) to finish guys off. Jim Edmonds can hit an 89 MPH fastball, but not when it's painted over a corner at the knees, and followed by a nasty splitfinger.

    Schilling got big outs in the 3rd by retiring Renteria- the top of the order- on one pitch, and then striking out the heretofore white hot Larry Walker on three pitches, a swing and miss on a beautiful splitter. In the 4th Albert Pujols lead off the inning with a double, and after getting Rolen (clearly not himself this series) to pop to right (moving Pujols over), Schilling faced Edmonds in a tough spot. Schilling threw a 2-2 fastball up and away right past Edmonds who, with 2 strikes may have been looking split (it's what nearly every hitter with 2 strikes on them was getting). Pujols did score on Bill Mueller's second error of the night, but the point was being made- Schilling was getting it done at almost half-strength.

    In the Red Sox 4th, Mark Bellhorn added 2 more two out runs with a double deep to center field scoring Millar and Mueller. 4-1 Sox. In his final inning, Schilling gutted out an inspiring performance- he first struck out Larry Walker on five pitches, a swing and miss again on a knee-high split that Walker simply swung over. Pujols had been hitting Schilling hard, but Schilling managed to jam him in the air to right. Next, Scott Rolen fell behind 0-2, 1-2 and managed to foul a pitch off. Schill threw a pitch over the outside part of the plate that Rolen turned over to third- initially it looked like the easy third out, but it took an awkward in-between hop at Mueller, and the Red Sox had their jaw-dropping 7th error in two games, and Mueller's 3rd of the night- a obvious rarity for the sure handed fielder. So instead of working to Edmonds in the 7th with no one on, Schilling was facing him with one on in an inning he should have been done with. Schill fell behind Edmonds quick, 3-0. He got a fastball over to work 3-1, made his pitch, and got a groundball right at Bellhorn. As steady as he'd been all year, Bellhorn still bumbled the play- Edmonds safe, Rolen to second, inning extended, and MY ankle started to hurt. Absolutely maddening, and frightening to boot- this was a scary inning so far.

    Then the camera caught Schilling walk toward Mueller after walking from Bellhorn. His lips said, as he pointed at Mueller- "I'm getting this third out." He was going to pick up his teammate and end the inning.

    And then he did. Reggie Sanders hit a hard ground ball to Mueller who made a nice play, went to first, end of inning. 8 errors in 2 games, and only 2 runs score as a result. 4-1 Sox.

    In the Boston 6th, Orlando Cabrera delivered a 2 out hit (!!) so huge, it seemed to completely seal up the game. Morris was relieved in favor of Cal Eldred, and after two outs sandwiched by Nixon and Damon singles, Cabrera came to the plate.

    In the 1946 World Series, these two teams played and went to Seven Games, the final one played in the very same park as Game Two of the '04 series. At a crucial spot in the game, Cardinal 2B Red Schoendienst hit a single to right field. "Country" Enos Slaughter, on first at the time, ran from first, past second, towards third, and blew through on his way home. Johnny Pesky, relaying the ball, supposedly "held" it too long (replays show otherwise), allowing Slaughter to score. It was the winning run.

    Orlando Cabrera smashed a ball hard off the wall- it could have been a double, but Cabrera didn't get out of the box well, and with two outs there was no sense risking an inning or a run getting thrown out at 2B. Johnny Damon, on first, scored on a single quite easily. 6-1 Sox.

    After the Cardinals added a run via Scott Rolen's sac fly off Mike Timlin in the 8th, Keith Foulke came on to finish the game. Foulke was brought on to face Jim Edmonds with a man on first and two outs. Foulke started him with a fastball inside that he fouled off. Next, he worked a fastball outside. In the third pitch it was a fastball further inside than pitch one. Foulke threw his first changeup of the night low and away, which Edmonds layed off. Finally, he put a fastball right on Edmonds' hands, and he swung right through it. Yet another Cardinal rally cut off at the root.

    Reggie Sanders- who'd looked so awful against him the night before, took Foulke to 10 pitches in the 9th, fouling off five strikes and laying off his change. Foulke got him swinging on a masterful inside fastball. Foulke got Womack and Matheny on 4 pitches, and we had a 2-0 series lead. They looked bulletproof.

    Objectively speaking, most people probably saw the series as near over at this point. We held serve at home and had Pedro going against Suppan in Game Three in St. Loo- hardly in the Cards' favor. We were hitting better, pitching MUCH better, and winning games despite mistakes. We were taking literally every opportunity given to us by the Cardinals (read: 2 out RBI), and they were taking almost none of the opportunities given them by us.

    All that said, the Broseph and I still took nothing for granted, still didn't let ourselves of the nerves hook, and anxiously awaited Game Three. Only for a Red Sox fan, it would seem, would Game Three be a must win, even with a 2-0 lead. The Broseph and I were so pumped, we followed the victory by going down to our local video game retailer in the middle of the night and swiping their sign for Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas. "I'd rather be up 2-0 than down 0-2," I said, the full brunt of our amazing success in the face of opposite odds weighing on my nerves.

    CURT SCHILLING: 6IP, 1R, 0ER, 3K, 4H, 0BB

    BOS 2, STL 0

    Game Three

    BOS 4
    STL 1
    WP- Pedro Martinez(2-1)
    LP- Jeff Suppan(2-2)
    HR- M Ramirez (2), L Walker (6)

    It's awful tough to put perspective for me on what this particular game meant to me- in a lot of ways. Of course, it was Game Three of the Series, and with us up 2-0, it was nice to hear the Sox weren't letting up. Johnny Damon's pregame comments suggesting that the game was a "must win" was refreshing, and telling- of course it wasn't, but it was clear they knew that any gasp of breath they give a team like St. Louis, the higher the chances they give them of storming back. What's the old phrase? Keep your boot on the throat.

    Coming in, I was nervous- after a day off, word was that St. Louis was supposed to rain buckets- and possibly postpone the game. I knew then that I physically could not take another day without a game- I was too nervous and excited to put it off. I needed release. As game time arrived, the heavens paused, and somehow- the game got in. Almost meant to be, in a way.

    The thing was though, this was Pedro Martinez's first ever World Series appearance, and after all that he'd gone through during the '04 season, I wanted my favorite player to come through, to silence the critics and always have that huge game in his back pocket- win in Game Three and, of course, victory was imminent. Lose, and we would be prolonging a series in which we needed to avoid giving the Cardinals more and more chances. Petey's performance was one that I rooted for as a fan of him, and as a fan of the team.

    It ultimately was a very strange game. Jeff Suppan was pitching, someone that literally defined the style of pitcher on the Cardinal staff. Not imposing, not going to fool anyone, relying to guys putting the ball in plays, preferably soft. Of course, any patient team has a leg up on him- we matched up, again, perfect with a Cardinal pitcher.

    I didn't watch this game at home with the Broseph- the only one in which I stayed in NYC- basically because I couldn't afford the 20$ for tickets every single day. I said to the Broseph though- as soon as we get to three games on these bastards, I'm coming home.

    Top of the first, after two quick outs, Jeff Suppan had Manny 2-2 and looked like he was going to get out of the innings unscathed. The managed to get a pitch up and in on Manny's hands- and from the looks of it, Manny was looking for it. He whip-turned on it and jacked it through the heavy rain-air over the bullpens in left and rows deep into the crowd. A moonshot, 1-0 Sox.

    Pedro came out in the 1st and flat out had a bad fastball. It was topping out at 88 early on, and while he got Renteria to ground out on the 4th pitch, he walked Walker, gave up a hit to Pujols and walked Rolen (hitless thus far in the series). The bases were loaded, one out, and Jim Edmonds was up. Not good.

    Pedro went to 2-2 on Edmonds, getting a swinging strike on a brilliant changeup. On the next pitch, Edmonds lofted a medium-shallow flyball to left field, right over Manny. Ramirez floated under it, got in great throwing position, and nailed the throw to home. Varitek blocked the plate expertly, pushing Walker to the outside part and slapping a tag on his shoulder. Double play, no runs scored- Pete out of the inning.

    In the third inning, Pedro struck out on three pitches, looking, much to the delight of his teammates. It was arguably the most feeble looking at bat in postseason history.

    In the bottom of the third, with the score still 1-0 Sox, Jeff Suppan lead off the inning with an infield single- maddening considering the need to do the work against the weak spots in the Cardinal lineup. Leadoff man Edgar Renteria followed with a well-struck 2B in the left-centerfield gap, and the Cards had men on second and third with no out.

    Larry Walker batted next, and on the first pitch did the textbook thing- shot a groundball to the right side on an infield not playing to cut off the run at third base. Bellhorn dealt to Ortiz at first, and Suppan should have been able to crawl home. It should have been on the scoreboard as soon as the ball hit Walker's bat. The Red Sox were conceding the run.

    But as soon as he gathered in the ball, Ortiz was gunning back to third- incomprehensibly, Jeff Suppan got caught in a rundown going home. This was the most blind and stupid of all possible luck, almost akin to letting a ball slip through your leg, or starting Armbrister... nevermind. It was startlingly stupid.

    The excuse given by Suppan and third base coach Jose Oquendo was that when the ball was hit, Oquendo was screaming "go! go!" and Suppan thought he heard "no! no!" While this seems to make sense, it begs the question- since he could have tip-toed home, why would it matter if the coach said no? You're going on contact, and you can see with your eyes they don't have a chance of catching you. Even with all that considered, Suppan put on the brakes, and as soon as he did that- we had him. Ortiz fired a strike to third, Mueller nailed him- double play. The first inning ended with a 7-2 twin killing, and the Sox stayed away from bad news in the third with a 4-3-5. Pete got Pujols to ground to third, and from that point on, the Cardinals were done. You can extrapolate that out to mean they were dead for the series, for the game- whatever. But that has to be regarded among the worst and most ridiculous mental errors in postseason history- of for no other reason that it's sheer weight in stupidity.

    The Sox then responded in the 4th inning with yet another 2 out RBI. With the bases empty and two outs, Bill Mueller served a ball into the gap and gambled for the extra bag- he got it, and on the first pitch thereafter, Trot Nixon absolutely smoked a pitch down over Larry Walker's head. Walker may have had a chance at it had it not rained- the inning earlier Nixon had actually full out slipped in the water and fell right on his ass- Walker looked unwilling to risk splaying out and giving up the triple for a shot at an out, and played it well- he held Nixon to a single. 2-0, Sox.

    Ultimately, the rest of the night became all about Pedro. He gave up no hits the rest of the way, retiring every Cardinal he faced from the 4th inning on. His fastball wasn't great, but his changeup was vintage Pedro, as was the curveball. He moved the ball in and out effectively, changed speeds, missed bats- it was invigorating watching him dominate an offense as accomplished as the Cardinals', and in their home park- where they hit like the '27 Yankees. Pedro was, in many ways, the final nail in their coffin.

    The final line on Pedro-
    7IP, 3H, 0ER, 2BB, 6K, 98P

    In the fifth inning, we scored two more, tacking onto a lead that Pedro was making look insurmountable. Damon started the inning with a double, and after a single by Cabrera, Manny singled home Damon. After making a couple quick outs, Bill Mueller struck again for the umpteenth 2-out Sox run. It was now the 5th inning, 4-0 Sox, and Pedro was cruising. He would carry us through the 7th inning, where he retired Scott Rolen on a 3-pitch groundout, and then struck out Jim Edmonds and Reggie Sanders on a combined 11 pitches- finishing off the most important start of his entire career with an exclamation point, and all but sealing victory number three for the Sox.

    After Mike Timlin worked a scoreless 8th, Keith Foulke came on- again- to work to Edgar Renteria, Larry Walker, and Albert Pujols. Renteria struck out on a full count- Foulke was working mostly fastballs away at this point. In the same vein, Foulke was working the outside corner on Walker, getting ahead 0-2. On the third pitch, refusing to give in and ignite a rally on a deep double, Foulke went to the well one too many times and left a fastball over too much of the outside corner. Walker hit an awesome shot- a sharp drive to deep left center- to get the Cardinals on the board. 4-1 Sox, but there was one out, and the bases empty. With Pujols up, Foulke induced a pop up to left.

    Scott Rolen was all that was left between 0-3. Scott was hitless in the series. Foulke went up 1-2 on Rolen, getting the second strike expanding the strike zone and getting him to foul off a pitch that was off the plate. The next pitch was a beautiful fastball tailing towards Rolen and nipping the inside corner. Strike three, out three, win three- Sox took a commanding lead in the series. Pedro got his first World Series victory. Manny hit another postseason HR, his 18th. This was a commanding win, and it set up what was seemingly becoming inevitable- one more win, and it was the first Series in 86 friggin' years. I kept thinking- this time tomorrow, my team could be World Champs. It was fun just to think about.

    But for now, I still plowed through nerves. I fist-pounded it with the Woman, and called up the Brospeh.

    "I'll see you tomorrow, motherfucker!"

    BOS 2, STL 0

    Game Four

    BOS 3
    STL 0
    WP- Derek Lowe (3-0)
    LP- Jason Marquis (0-1)
    SV- Keith Foulke (3)
    HR- J Damon (3)

    So back home I went, trekking through NYC to southern CT, home to the Broseph for a Game Four viewing and our first match point in the 2004 World Series. As soon as I got home, I was uneasy- my 88 year old grandmother was there, in her just-purchased Sox World Series hat. My mom wanted to take pre-game pictures... it was starting to feel like they were assuming we'd win that night.

    I kept worrying leading up to the game as well- if we lost this game, we had Wakefield going in Game Five, and he'd been very shakey. Schilling was a big question mark for Game Six, and even though we had Pedro in a Game Seven at home... I didn't want to face the prospect of the Cardinals doing to us what we did to the Yankees. I wanted this over. Tonight. Sweep the LEG!

    After we all settled down and the Broseph and I lectured our grandmother that she wasn't allowed to claim victory until it had actually happened, Johnny Damon took a 2-1 fastball right down the middle from Jason Marquis over the right field fence to give us a real quick 1-0 lead. Of course, this prompted the following exchange.

    Mom- I really think we're going to win this now.
    Grandmother- There's something about that Pedro I don't like. He looks so cross when he's pitching.

    I thought my head was going to explode.

    Marquis worked his way out of the innint following a walk to Manny, and the Sox turned things over to Derek "I Was the One Credited with the Win in 'Game Seven'" Lowe. To mow through the St. Louis lineup, he was going to have to be on. And honestly- he flat out was. He was filthy, all night. I can sit here and type recollections of huge rallies he killed, or chronicle the poor decisions/ pitches he may have made... but I don't need to. Derek Lowe's line on the night:
    LOWE 7 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 4 K, 85 P

    Seven innings in a remarkably efficient 85 pitches, and absolutely strangling the life out of the Cardinal hitters with more junk than a William Burroughs novel. He was so on.

    Tony Womack actually lead off the game with a single, too, and this off a pitcher who holds runners worse than any I think I've ever seen. For someone like Womack, it seemed like a single was actually a double. At least it should have been. But despite Womack's speed and Lowe's inability to keep him put, LaRussa bunted with Larry Walker. So instead of man on 2nd, no outs, Larry Walker up, it was Womack on 2nd, one out, Walker wasted. Pujols and Rolen both meekly grounded out.

    Lowe didn't give up another hit until the 5th, when he allowed an Edgar Renteria double in between a fly out to Edmonds, a strike out of Mabry (who had no chance all night) and a ground out to Molina #3. Nothin' doin'. In the 7th, Renteria then singled to shallow right. He was, again, stranded.

    Meanwhile, the Red Sox were getting what they could off Marquis. Marquis had the best success of any Cards pitcher in the Series, and honestly pitched well enough to have won. But he didn't.

    In the 3rd inning, Manny singled followed by an Ortiz double. With one out the Sox put on a contact play, with Ramirez running on Varitek's ground ball to first. Albert Pujols made a sparkling play flipping the ball hard under his body as he fell, nailing Ramirez at home. Men on first and third, two outs. After a four-pitch to Bill Mueller to load the bases, Marquis threw his 5th, 6th and 7th consecutive balls to Trot Nixon. The next pitch was crucial- I asked the Broseph- does he swing here? Earlier in the year it was practice for Boston hitters to get the green light on 3-0 if they were of the patient/ contact variety- ie, Ramirez, Ortiz, Millar, Mueller... and Nixon, had he been healthy. That said, with two outs and a guy that seemed to be losing the strike zone, why give him a strike? I guessed take, Broseph guessed swing. Go Broseph.

    Nixon smoked the 3-0 pitch- an absolute meatball fastball down the Great White Way into the right-center gap, missing a grand slam by about ten feet. It hit the wall on the fly, Ortiz and Varitek scored, Mueller held at 3rd. The Sox took a 3-0 lead, and looked in control.

    From the 4th-7th innings, nothing much happened. No real rallies, no real threats- just great pitching and solid defense. It moved so quick, it was easy to avoid getting caught up in what was inching toward inevitability- a win. Once Lowe came out, replaced by Bronson Arroyo, we were forced into reflecting on his night, and in between starry-eyed lovefests for Derek Lowe, the nerves set in. We were six outs from winning a World Series, and the weight was starting to lower itself upon us.

    Arroyo first got Roger Cedeno to ease into an innocent pop-up before giving up a walk to Reggie Sanders. With one out Francona went to Alan Embree to face the top of the order- two lefties- in Womack and Walker.

    Instead of allowing his leadoff hitter to simply hit against a lefthander, LaRussa instead allowed Hector Luna, an inexperienced and poor-hitting right handed utility infielder, to hit for Womack. Advantage Embree for sure. Embree got a swinging strike out on five pitches using nothing but hard fastballs on the hands. Embree turned it up a notch in the playoffs, and he was half of his way to delivering the Sox to the ninth inning. In came Walker.

    Sanders had worked a stolen base, and there he stood with two outs, Larry Walker the only batter standing between the end of the inning or Pujols/ Rolen/ Edmonds. On the second pitch, Embree got his pop up to Cabrera. Three outs away.

    Isringhausen worked his first inning of the Series (the Cards never held a lead in any game of the Series), and worked around a two out Varitek single (battling to 7 pitches even then). Foulke was on in the 9th, and we needed three outs from Pujols/ Rolen/ Edmonds/ Renteria.

    Pujols started off the inning with a strong single right up the middle. No outs, man on. Rolen, in what would be his last Series at bat (no hits), flied out for the first out. Edmonds struck out on three pitches. Two outs, man on- it was going to happen. Not if, but when. Renteria up. Foulke threw a ball up and away, and as soon as he came to the set on his second pitch, I quietly thought- this is it. This is the pitch we win on.

    Chopper back to Foulke. He stabs it- wow. We're going to do it. He jogs at Mientkiewicz- I'm half off my seat. He tosses, ball caught- I threw my wiffle ball high in the air, jumped at the Broseph. We won! WE WON!

    And then it was tears and hugs and bliss, friends- sheer, absolute bliss.

    ______________________________ |