10/28/2004 2:36 AM ET
Magic 8 ball: Sox rack up history
Red Sox complete historic sweep of Cardinals
By Ian Browne / MLB.com
|Jason Varitek and Keith Foulke celebrate after winning the Fall Classic. (Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images)
ST. LOUIS -- In the baseball-crazed region of New England, they will no longer cuss about mythical curses. Red Sox players will no longer be force-fed history lessons on the generations of championship futility that preceded them. The heartbreak is officially over, thanks to a historic odyssey that arguably now earns top-shelf status as the biggest story in the history of Boston sports.
The entire culture of the Boston Red Sox changed Wednesday night at Busch Stadium, as the tradition-laden franchise carted home its sixth World Series championship, but first since 1918.
That's right, the 86-year drought officially came crashing down after the Sox completed their four-game sweep of the Cardinals with a 3-0 victory in Game 4.
They capped it with Derek Lowe (seven innings, three hits, one walk, four strikeouts) pitching a phenomenal game, just like the one he spun against the Yankees in Game 7 of the American League Championship Series. In fact, Lowe, who earned the victory in relief of Game 3 of the Division Series, was the winning pitcher in all three of Boston's postseason clinchers.
"We came to the park today with the attitude that this was Game 7," Lowe said. "We didn't want it to go any further because we know what [the Cardinals] can do. So we focused on ending it today and to pull it off was a great accomplishment."
How thorough a conquest was this for the Red Sox? The Cardinals didn't even take a single lead in this Fall Classic. The Red Sox became the fourth team in history to never trail during the World Series, becoming the first to do so since the 1989 Oakland Athletics.
|The Red Sox won eight straight postseason games en route to the championship, setting the all-time record:|
|8||2004||Red Sox||ALCS (4-7)|
|* The Reds swept the Phillies in a three-game NLCS in 1976.|
There was nothing left for the Sox, who became the third straight Wild Card team to win the Fall Classic, to do but soak in the euphoria.
"We stepped it up at the right time. We're world champs," said leadoff man Johnny Damon, who opened the World Series clincher with a home run. "We're going to enjoy it a bit and give up a bunch of hugs and kisses right now and do what champions do -- celebrate."
This was quite a turn of events for a team that trailed the Yankees, 3-0, in the ALCS and was down a run against Mariano Rivera entering the ninth inning of Game 4.
They came back to win that game in 12 innings, and never lost again, closing out the postseason with eight wins in a row, and an 11-3 record overall.
Since the LCS adopted a best-of-seven format in 1985, no eventual world champion had been able to win eight consecutive games in one postseason.
But the Sox completed that most gaudy mission at 11:40 p.m. ET on Wednesday, as closer Keith Foulke flew off the mound and tossed the World Series-ending out to first baseman Doug Mientkiewicz.
"This was a very special team," said Foulke. "It matters when you got hot. We got hot at the right time."
While this was the epitome of a team effort for the Red Sox, star slugger Manny Ramirez took the World Series MVP, batting .412 (7-for-17) with a homer and four RBIs.
"It means a lot," said Ramirez. "But I wanted to get the ring, and I have it. That's the something that nobody is going to take away from you. I'm just blessed to be the MVP and to win a World Series."
|The 2004 Red Sox scored 24 runs in the World Series and Boston batters drove in 12 of those runs with two out:|
|Game ||Runs||Two-out RBIs|
|ALDS Game 1||9||5|
|ALDS Game 2||8||6|
|ALDS Game 3||8||3|
|ALCS Game 1||7||7|
|ALCS Game 2||1||0|
|ALCS Game 3||8||1|
|ALCS Game 4||6||3|
|ALCS Game 5||5||2|
|ALCS Game 6||4||4|
|ALCS Game 7||10||2|
|WS Game 1||11||1|
|WS Game 2||6||6|
|WS Game 3||4||3|
|WS Game 4||3||2|
The Boston pitching staff was masterful in the final three games of the series, holding the normally potent Cardinals to three runs over 27 innings.
"I thought we had a great scouting report, very in-depth," said Red Sox manager Terry Francona. "But what it comes down to is having really good pitchers."
Curt Schilling, Pedro Martinez and Lowe finished the season with three vintage starts.
For Martinez, who blanked the Cardinals over seven innings in Game 3 and had done virtually everything in his career but win a championship, this was something to behold.
"We had a lot of things going for us, offense and defense doing it at the same time," said Martinez. "I'm not so happy for the ring, but just to bring this to Boston. The ring is meaningless, the ring is a ring and it's a material thing, but the feelings these people are going to have in Boston is indescribable."
This game was a microcosm of the entire series.
Not once in four games could the Cardinals keep the Red Sox off the scoreboard in the first inning. This time, the Sox wasted even less time than usual as sparkplug Damon ripped the fourth pitch of the game over the wall in right-center.
With Lowe sharp throughout his 85-pitch performance, the Sox tacked on to their lead against St. Louis starter Jason Marquis in the third. Trot Nixon came up with the bases loaded and two outs and came out swinging on a 3-0 pitch, clocking a two-run double off the wall in right-center, putting the Sox ahead by three runs. Marquis threw a whopping 72 pitches over the first three innings.
Meanwhile, the Cardinals couldn't touch Lowe. The sinkerballer gave up just one hit over the first four innings.
The Cardinals did threaten in the fifth. Edgar Renteria smacked a double to left-center and moved to third on a wild pitch with just one out. But Lowe snuffed things out by striking out John Mabry and getting Yadier Molina on a grounder to short.
In the eighth, the Sox nearly broke it open, loading the bases with nobody out. But Cardinals closer Jason Isringhausen somehow escaped unscathed, giving the offense a chance to rally back.
It didn't happen. Bronson Arroyo and Alan Embree got the Sox through the eighth. And Foulke, so marvelous for all of October, set off the celebration all of Red Sox Nation was waiting for.
|The Red Sox finish 2004 with an 11-3 postseason record, tied for the fifth best since divisional play began in 1995. The best postseason records:|
"Just looking over there at that big trophy with all the flags on it, it's absolutely incredible," said Foulke. "I couldn't imagine any other place I'd rather be in this world. Congratulations, Boston, just don't tear the city up. Just take it easy on the city and everybody keep safe."
The man who bought this team in February of 2002 and dreamed of this moment looked around the jubilant clubhouse with a look of pure satisfaction on his face.
"This is sheer relief and joy for all of New England," said Red Sox owner John W. Henry.
The man Henry entrusted to run his front office on Nov. 25, 2002, was just as thrilled.
"This is what we've all been waiting for," said Sox general manager Theo Epstein, the pride of Brookline, Mass., who built this historic team at the age of 30. "We can die happy. I just hope everyone out there who has been rooting for the Red Sox the last 86 years is enjoying this as much as we are. We're coming home to see you soon."
The World Series trophy can finally call Boston home again.
Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.