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 - "The Curse of the Bambino" — 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.
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.
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