While the team he had assembled so deftly sipped on countless bottles of champagne during a postgame celebration, Boston Red Sox General Manager Theo Epstein preferred to celebrate his team's historic American League Championship Series win with a simple can of domestic beer. Champagne, Epstein theorized, was for a World Series win.
Boston made history by beating the Yankees after losing the first three games of the ALCS. No team in baseball ever had come back from such a deficit. But it can only change history, a supposedly cursed existence that has kept the Red Sox from a championship since 1918, by winning the World Series.
"We haven't accomplished what we set out to accomplish yet," Boston Manager Terry Francona said Thursday. "I'm glad we're playing still, which certainly a few days ago was an uphill battle. But, it's just not time to have the final celebration. We're excited to be doing what we're doing, but we're not done."
On Thursday, Francona announced Boston's starting rotation for the World Series: Knuckleballer Tim Wakefield starts Game 1 and will be followed by Curt Schilling, Pedro Martinez and Derek Lowe.
In order to keep Schilling in the rotation, Boston once again will have to sew up the ace's tender ankle. Prior to Game 6 of the ALCS, Schilling had stitches placed on both sides of his right ankle, which ails because the protective sheath around the tendons is torn. The stitches helped stabilize the tendons, which had snapped from one side of the ankle to the other during Schilling's Game 1 start when he yielded six runs on three hits against the Yankees.
The stitches certainly appeared to help bring back Schilling in Tuesday's Game 6. With blood staining his right sock because of the stitches, Schilling pitched seven innings, allowing just one run on four hits. The velocity that had abandoned him in Game 1 returned.
Francona said after Game 6 that he began to consider removing Schilling as early as the fourth inning because the pitcher had appeared to lose his consistency. But each time Francona was on the verge of making a change, Schilling provided a performance on the field that changed his manager's mind. Without hesitation, Francona put Schilling, who will throw in Game 2 on regular rest, in the World Series rotation.
"He's going to do what he has to do to pitch," Francona said.
Lowe's inclusion will certainly serve as a bit of redemption. Lowe was not part of Boston's postseason rotation at the start of the playoffs, but earned his spot in the World Series with two quality starts in the ALCS. In Game 7, Lowe, pitching on just two days of rest, allowed just one run on one hit in six efficient innings (69 pitches).
"I came in fully confident," Lowe said. "I think you can look at the two days rest, but you can also look at the fact that I only pitched once in 16 days, so it wasn't like I was pitching every five days. And so, it was a personal challenge for me to see if I could come back in the stadium after the disaster I had in September, giving up seven runs in one inning [on Sept. 18]."
Boston will surely suffer when it travels to St. Louis for Games 3, 4, and 5 of the World Series. David Ortiz, the unanimous MVP of the ALCS, will be asked to play first base because the designated hitter will not be used in the NL park. The change will hurt Boston twofold -- on defense, because Ortiz is considered a fielding liability, and on offense, because the move sends regular first baseman Kevin Millar, also a strong hitter, to the bench.
"I don't want that bat out of the lineup," Francona said of having Ortiz play first base. "It's a shame. I understand the way the rules are set up. That's not our team. Our team is having David Ortiz DH and having Millar play first."
It remains to be seen whether the Red Sox will be emotionally spent after such a draining series against the Yankees. Last season, New York appeared exhausted after beating the Red Sox in Game 7 on Aaron Boone's 11th-inning home run. The Florida Marlins beat them, 3-2, in Game 1 of the World Series, and Yankees Manager Joe Torre admitted his team still had Boston on its mind. The Marlins won the World Series in six games. In the coming days, the Red Sox surely will realize the magnitude of their win at Yankee Stadium on Wednesday.
"They'll be ready," Francona said. "It comes back to they like to play baseball. So we have another baseball game to play. I think they'll look forward to that. I understand the hype and the emotion."
While Red Sox President Larry Lucchino and principal owner John Henry accepted the ALCS trophy on a stage in the Boston clubhouse on Wednesday, Epstein stood a few feet away from the stage, subdued by tears. Epstein tried to mask his emotions, though the tears trickled down slowly. Sobs must be in reserve for a World Series title.