Red Sox Lift Championship, Bury Curse
ST. LOUIS - The Boston Red Sox won their first World Series title since 1918, and buried a curse, with a 3-0 victory over the St. Louis Cardinals Wednesday.
Johnny Damon homered and Derek Lowe pitched seven shutout innings to put the finishing touches on a four-game sweep of the best-of-seven series and a historic comeback that will be as remembered as much as any of Boston's World Series collapses.
The victory ends one of the sporting world's most enduring curses in which a hex has supposedly hung over Fenway Park since Harry Frazee sold Babe Ruth to the New York Yankees in 1920, leaving Boston without a World Series champion for 86-years.
After watching championships slip from their grasp, including Game Seven losses to St. Louis in 1946 and 1967, the Red Sox took no chances this time and never trailed the Cardinals during the entire series.
The game was played out under a total lunar eclipse with superstitious Red Sox fans hoping it would not be a harbinger of more misfortune as some ancient cultures believed.
But the news was all good in the first inning as Johnny Damon crunched a leadoff solo home run off Jason Marquis for a 1-0 lead.
In the third, as the moon began to disappear into the earth's shadow so did any hope of a Cardinals victory as Trot Nixon doubled off the wall in right center field driving home two more runs.
With aces Curt Schilling and Pedro Martinez having done their jobs by winning Games Two and Three respectively, Boston manager Terry Francona handed the ball to Derek Lowe, a pitcher who struggled down the stretch and was not even included on his original postseason rotation.
But Lowe, who also got the Game Seven win over the Yankees in the American League Championship Series, sparkled in his World Series debut giving up just three hits in seven innings before Bronson Arroyo, Alan Embree and Keith Foulke closed out.
St. Louis, with an impressive collection of power hitters and who had outscored opponents 43-23 at Busch stadium during the postseason prior to the World Series, were again impotent on Wednesday.
The Cardinals scored just one run in two home games with sluggers Scott Rolen and Jim Edmonds going a combined 1-for-30 at the plate for the entire series.
Hundreds of Red Sox fans, who traveled to St. Louis to watch the game, sat anxiously through the final outs, unleashed a torrent of emotion when Foulke tossed to first base for the final out to trigger a wild celebration.
Red Sox Win First World Series Since 1918
ST. LOUIS - The Boston Red Sox — yes, the Boston Red Sox! — are World Series champions at long, long last. No more curse and no doubt about it. Ridiculed and reviled through decades of defeat, the Red Sox didn't just beat the St. Louis Cardinals, owners of the best record in baseball, they swept them for their first crown since 1918.
Johnny Damon homered on the fourth pitch of the game, Derek Lowe made it stand up and the Red Sox won 3-0 Wednesday night. Edgar Renteria grounded out for the final out, wrapping up a Series in which the Red Sox never trailed.
Chants of "Let's go, Red Sox!" bounced all around Busch Stadium, with Boston fans as revved-up as they were relieved. Only 10 nights earlier, the Red Sox were just three outs from getting swept by the New York Yankees in the AL championship series before becoming the first team in baseball postseason history to overcome a 3-0 deficit.
It was Boston's sixth championship, but the first after 86 years of frustration and futility, after two world wars, the Great Depression, men on the moon, and the rise and fall of the Soviet Union.
After all that, on a night when the moon went dark in a total eclipse, the Red Sox made it look easy.
Gone was the heartbreak of four Game 7 losses since their last title, a drought — some insist it was a curse — that really began after they sold Babe Ruth to the Yankees in 1920.
"We wanted to do it so bad for the city of Boston. To win a World Series with this on our chests — it hasn't been done since 1918," Kevin Millar of the Red Sox said. "So rip up those '1918' posters right now."
Damon's leadoff homer off starter Jason Marquis and Trot Nixon's two-out, two-run double on a 3-0 pitch were all that Lowe needed. Having won the first-round clincher against Anaheim in relief and then winning Game 7 at Yankee Stadium, Lowe blanked the Cards on a mere three hits for seven innings.
Relievers Bronson Arroyo and Alan Embree worked the eighth and Keith Foulke finished it off for his first save.
The Red Sox get to raise the World Series banner next April 11 in the home opener at Fenway Park, with the Yankees in town forced to watch.
Boston became the third straight wild-card team to win it, relying on the guts of Curt Schilling and guile of Pedro Martinez. And they took it in the same year they traded away popular shortstop Nomar Garciaparra.
Led by Series MVP Manny Ramirez, Boston got key contributions from almost everyone. Backup outfielder Dave Roberts did not play in the Series, yet it was his stolen base in the ninth inning of Game 4 in the ALCS that began the comeback against Mariano Rivera.
And while second baseman Mark Bellhorn was born in Boston, no one else on the roster came from anywhere near Beantown. And the only homegrown players on the team are Trot Nixon and rookie Kevin Youkilis.
No matter, this win might make all of them as much a part of New England lore as Plymouth Rock and Paul Revere.
Or, as Red Sox owner John Henry said close to gametime: "People tell me this is the biggest thing since the Revolutionary War."
The Boston win also left no doubt which city is now the most jinxed in baseball. It's Chicago — the Cubs last won it all in 1908, the White Sox in 1917.
Meanwhile, the Cardinals team that led the majors with 105 wins never showed up. The timely hitting, solid pitching and sharp baserunning that served them so well all season completely broke down.
Albert Pujols, Scott Rolen and Jim Edmonds, the meat of the order, combined for just one RBI. Rolen got it on a sacrifice fly, and it was little consolation as he went 0-for-15.
Ramirez, put on waivers in the offseason and nearly traded to Texas for Alex Rodriguez, was 7-for-17 (.412) with a homer and four RBIs. The left fielder's biggest contribution came in Game 3, when he bounced back from a couple of errors to throw out a runner at the plate.
Lowe was loose from the start. While the Cardinals took batting practice, he sat alone in the Boston dugout, his hat backward and singing the little ditty, "If you're happy and you know it, clap your hands."
Lowe was equally relaxed on the mound. He gave up a leadoff single to Tony Womack, then retired 13 straight batters until Renteria doubled in the fifth. Renteria made it to third on a wild pitch, but Lowe fanned John Mabry — who unsuccessfully argued that he tipped strike three — and got Yadier Molina on a routine grounder.
At that point, the Cardinals were going quietly. About the only noise they made came when Molina, a 21-year-old rookie catcher whose two brothers catch for Anaheim, began yapping at Ramirez when the Boston star came to the plate in the fourth.
Red Sox manager Terry Francona quickly rushed out of the dugout to keep things calm.
Best known before this year for being Michael Jordan's manager in the minors, Francona made plenty of wicked smart moves. Oakland's bench coach in 2003, he took over after Grady Little was fired last fall. Baltimore and the White Sox also interviewed the man who managed Philadelphia to losing seasons from 1997-2000.
And while many Boston fans hollered for him to bench the slumping Damon in the ALCS, Francona stuck with him. Damon hit a grand slam and two-run homer in Game 7.
Facing Marquis, Damon yanked a shot over the right-center field wall and before he could circle the bases, the chants of "Let's go, Red Sox!" began echoing from the upper deck.
Damon became the second Boston player to hit a leadoff homer in the Series. The other? Patsy Dougherty, who did it in 1903 for the Americans — renamed the Red Sox five years later.
A single by Ramirez and double by David Ortiz got the Red Sox ramped up again in the third. Pujols threw out Ramirez at the plate, trying to score on a grounder to first base, and a walk loaded the bases with two outs.
Nixon took three straight balls and Francona gambled, giving his good fastball hitter the green light. That's what Nixon got, and he drilled it off the right-center wall for a 3-0 lead.
Notes: Ramirez tied Derek Jeter and Hank Bauer for the longest postseason hitting streak at 17 games. ... Damon hit the 17th leadoff homer in Series history. Jeter (2000) was the last to do it. ... This was Jim Burton's 55th birthday. A rookie in 1975 for Boston, he gave up Joe Morgan's go-ahead single in the ninth inning of Game 7 against Cincinnati. Burton pitched only one more game in the majors. ... The Red Sox led for 34 of the 36 innings. ... Larry Walker put down his first sacrifice since 1991. He bunted in the first inning, but Lowe threw him out. ... Boston teams continued to bedevil St. Louis clubs. The New England Patriots beat the Rams in the 2002 Super Bowl, the Bruins swept the Blues for the 1970 Stanley Cup and the Celtics won their first NBA title by defeating the Hawks in 1957.