Red Sox Have the World at Their Feet
Monday, October 29, 2007
DENVER, Oct. 28 -- The Boston Red Sox on Sunday night graciously removed the crushing weight of baseball angst from all those blank-faced 2-year-olds toddling around New England wondering if they would ever see a World Series title in their lifetimes. As for those who decided, following the curse-breaking catharsis of 2004, that they could finally die in peace, what a pity that they will never know the feeling of winning a second time and savoring the subtle differences between the two.
On an unseasonably mild night under the shadows of the Great Rocky Mountains, in a cavernous stadium nearly a mile above sea level, the Red Sox completed another devastating, memorable march to baseball's biggest prize, holding off the Colorado Rockies, 4-3, to finish off a four-game sweep and secure the once-cursed franchise's second World Series title in four seasons.
"It means the first one wasn't a fluke," said owner John Henry, standing in a corner of the Red Sox clubhouse in an unsuccessful attempt to avoid being sprayed with champagne. "The first time, we suffered through every inning, right up to the final out. This time it was really enjoyable."
In the center of the raucous clubhouse just minutes after the game, a begoggled David Ortiz stood atop a flimsy table and tried to fight off dozens of champagne-wielding teammate-assailants, armed with just a single bottle himself. It was a massacre, with Ortiz drenched, out of ammo and loving every minute of it.
"When I came here in 2003," said Ortiz, the Red Sox' designated hitter-cum-first baseman, "it seemed like it was impossible to win a World Series. And now this is my second. It's unbelievable."
The win, before a towel-waving crowd of 50,041 at Coors Field, was the Red Sox' seventh in a row -- an echo of 2004, when they closed with eight straight wins -- a stretch in which they outscored their opponents by a staggering combined score of 59-15.
The last such period of sustained success in Red Sox history came from 1915 to 1918, when they won three World Series titles in four years -- the last of which featured a 23-year-old left-handed pitcher named Babe Ruth winning two games before being sold to the New York Yankees and, well, you know the rest.
Seeking another sweep to match the one three Fall Classics ago against the St. Louis Cardinals, the Red Sox methodically built a 3-0 lead by the top of the seventh -- with left-hander Jon Lester, who a year ago this time was battling lymphoma, pitching 5 2/3 shutout innings -- then found themselves gasping for breath in the thin mountain air as the Rockies, true to their relentless autumn personae, clawed back with powerful swiftness against the Red Sox bullpen.
Right fielder Brad Hawpe homered off right-hander Manny Delcarmen to lead off the seventh -- a blast that Red Sox pinch hitter Bobby Kielty answered with one of his own in the top of the eighth, returning the lead to three runs -- and Garrett Atkins launched a two-run homer off Red Sox lefty Hideki Okajima with one out in the eighth.
Suddenly, a crowd that had been silenced much of the night roared to life -- until Red Sox closer Jonathan Papelbon, a true difference-maker in the series, arrived with one out in the eighth to quell the Rockies' rally.
Finally, in the ninth, Papelbon survived a one-out line drive to the wall in left field by reserve infielder Jamey Carroll -- which, for a brief, stunning moment, appeared headed for the seats to tie the game -- then closed out his third save of the series by striking out pinch hitter Seth Smith, setting off a wild celebration at the center of the diamond. Papelbon, whom Ortiz later revealed was "hurting" after Saturday night's win, pieced together 13 critical outs in his three saves.
The Rockies "did everything they could to stay in it," Papelbon said, "and we had to do everything we could to keep the lead."