Red Sox 11, Cardinals 9

-- They threw the ball and kicked the ball all over creation. They ran around like self-described idiots, with their socks pulled high and their hair flying low. They crushed baseballs into the cool night air, blew a pair of leads and left their loyal followers to alternately throw their hands up in frustration and bring them together in loving applause. In other words, the Boston Red Sox played Game 1 of the World Series on Saturday night the only way they know how: Shabbily brilliant, brilliantly shabby and always jubilantly.

And in the end, the Red Sox were only slightly more brilliant than shabby, and only slightly more deserving than the St. Louis Cardinals, whom the Red Sox finally vanquished, 11-9, on Mark Bellhorn's two-run homer in the bottom of the eighth inning. Game 2 is Sunday night, with Boston's Curt Schilling facing St. Louis's Matt Morris.

Bellhorn's towering drive to right off Cardinals right-hander Julian Tavarez curled and curled and curled, as 35,035 raucous fans -- on hand to witness the first World Series game at Fenway Park in 18 years -- did their best Carlton Fisk impression to will it fair. Curling and curling, it finally crashed into the foul pole -- "Pesky Pole," just 302 feet from home plate -- igniting the crowd.

Ahead of Bellhorn was catcher Jason Varitek, who had reached one batter before on an error on Cardinals shortstop Edgar Renteria. Bellhorn, the lightest hitter in a lineup full of heavyweights, has now homered in three straight postseason games.

"I'm not trying to be a hero," Bellhorn said. "I'm just trying to win four games."

Freed from the grips of institutional angst -- at least partially, anyway -- by a cathartic seven-game victory over the New York Yankees in the American League Championship Series, the Red Sox played hard and loose, sometimes with semi-comical results.

Left fielder Manny Ramirez, whose mind never quite seems to be into such things as defense, committed a pair of ghastly errors in the top of the eighth -- Boston's third and fourth errors of the game, the most in a World Series game in 22 years -- allowing the Cardinals to make up a two-run deficit with closer Keith Foulke on the mound, Foulke's first blown save of the postseason. Still, Foulke stayed in the game and earned the victory with a scoreless ninth.

Having blown the remnants of a 7-2 lead just an inning before, the Red Sox took the lead back in the bottom of the seventh with a pair of runs off the Cardinals' bullpen. Ramirez, held without an RBI during the ALCS, provided the go-ahead score with an RBI single to center off Kiko Calero.

Red Sox slugger David Ortiz continued his outlandish October production with four RBI, blasting a three-run homer off Cardinals starter Woody Williams in the first inning -- the Red Sox' first World Series homer at Fenway since Fisk's memorable 12th inning blast in Game 6 of the 1975 series -- then smashing a bad-ball grounder off the chest of Cardinals second baseman Tony Womack during the pivotal seventh-inning rally.

Leading 9-7 in the top of the eighth, the Red Sox tried three relievers to hold back the Cardinals, with Foulke being the third. He inherited a one-out, runners-on-first-and-second jam from Alan Embree, and might have gotten out of it were it not for Ramirez's ill-timed defensive adventures.

First, he botched Renteria's routine single to left, allowing a runner to score from third when he otherwise would have remained there to load the bases.

One batter later, Larry Walker sent a sinking liner into shallow left.

Ramirez closed in on the ball and attempted, perhaps unnecessarily, to make a sliding catch. However, his cleats got caught in the grass and he lurched forward, the ball glancing off his glove and bouncing away.

"That," said Red Sox Manager Terry Francona, "was not [out of] an instructional video."

This World Series pitted the most brutish offenses in either league against each other, and the Cardinals showed just how meaningless a five-run lead will be during this series. They made up that margin in a span of only three innings, scoring three runs off Red Sox starter Tim Wakefield in the fourth inning -- without the benefit of a hit -- then tying it in the sixth on back-to-back RBI doubles by Renteria and Walker. Both rallies were aided greatly by Boston errors, one each on first baseman Kevin Millar and reliever Bronson Arroyo.

The throngs who were shoehorned into the stately old bandbox on Yawkey Way were joined by perhaps tens of thousands more in the streets and in the many watering holes that surround Fenway.

As the World Series dawned, Boston itself and all its inhabitants seemed to be emanating a soft glow that spoke to how significantly the ALCS victory over the Yankees -- in which the Red Sox became the first team in baseball history to win a seven-game series after losing the first three games -- was felt in the city's collective soul.

But that satisfaction gave rise to the fear that the Red Sox, with that monumental task behind them, would be too placated to keep the good fight going against the Cardinals. The Red Sox shot that argument down in one game, needing all they could muster to fight off the Cardinals' relentless offense, the burden of history and their own endearing imperfections.

"We knew [the Cardinals] wouldn't quit," Francona said. "We helped them back into [the game] also. But we persevered, and we won."

Boston's No. 9 hitter, Mark Bellhorn, passes St. Louis first baseman Albert Pujols after blasting a 2-run homer off Pesky Pole in the 8th off reliever Julian Tavarez.Left fielder Manny Ramirez commits 1 of Boston's 4 errors on a fly ball hit by Larry Walker in the 8th.Boston fans bid St. Louis starter Woody Williams (21/3 innings, 8 hits, 7 runs) a good night in the third. Julian Tavarez took the loss for the Cards.David Ortiz puts the wood on Woody Williams, bashing a three-run homer off the Cardinals' starter in the first inning to give Boston a 3-0 lead.Manager Tony La Russa watches as 2nd baseman Tony Womack is tended to after taking a grounder off his left collarbone in the 7th.