BOSTON – There hasn’t been a party like this in New England for nearly a century.
Turmoil to triumph. Worst to first.
David Ortiz and the Boston Red Sox, baseball’s bearded wonders, capped their remarkable turnaround by beating the St. Louis Cardinals 6-1 in Game 6 on Wednesday night to win their third World Series championship in 10 seasons.
“We’ve dealt with a lot. But our team came together, and we stuck by each other,” Dustin Pedroia said. “What a great feeling.”
Shane Victorino, symbolic of these resilient Sox, returned from a stiff back and got Boston rolling with a three-run double off the Green Monster against rookie sensation Michael Wacha.
John Lackey became the first pitcher to start and win a Series clincher for two different teams, allowing one run over 6 2/3 innings 11 years after his Game 7 victory as an Angels rookie in 2002.
With fans roaring on every pitch and cameras flashing, Koji Uehara struck out Matt Carpenter for the final out. The Japanese pitcher jumped into the arms of catcher David Ross while Red Sox players rushed from the dugout and bullpen as the Boston theme “Dirty Water” played on the public-address system.
“We have a lot of players with heart. We probably don’t have the talent that we had in ’07 and ’04, but we have guys that are capable (of staying) focused and do the little things,” said Ortiz, the Series MVP.
And the Red Sox didn’t have to fly the trophy home. For the first time since Babe Ruth’s team back in 1918, Boston won the title at Fenway Park. The 101-year-old ballpark, oldest in the majors, was packed with 38,447 singing, shouting fans anticipating a celebration 95 years in the making.
“Maybe they won’t have to go another 95 years,” said John Farrell, a champion in his first season as Boston’s manager.
There wasn’t the “Cowboy Up!” comeback charm of “The Idiots” from 2004, who swept St. Louis to end an 86-year title drought. There wasn’t that cool efficiency of the 2007 team that swept Colorado.
This time, they were Boston Strong – playing for a city shaken by the marathon bombings in April.
“This is for you, Boston. You guys deserve it,” Ortiz said. “We’ve been through a lot this year and this is for all of you and all those families who struggled.”
After late-season slumps in 2010 and 2011, the embarrassing revelations of a chicken-and-beer clubhouse culture that contributed to the ouster of manager Terry Francona, and the daily tumult of Bobby Valentine’s one-year flop, these Red Sox grew on fans.
Just like the long whiskers on the players’ faces, starting with Gomes’ scruffy spring training beard.
“As soon as we went to Fort Myers, the movie’s already been written,” Gomes said. “All we had to do was press play, and this is what happened.”
Ortiz, the only player remaining from the 2004 champs, had himself a Ruthian World Series. He batted .688 (11 for 16) with two homers, six RBIs and eight walks – including four in the finale – for a .760 on-base percentage in 25 plate appearances.
Even slumping Stephen Drew delivered a big hit in Game 6, sending Wacha’s first pitch of the fourth into the right-center bullpen.
By the time the inning was over, RBI singles by Mike Napoli and Victorino had made it 6-0, and the Red Sox were on their way.
“Hey, I missed two games. It’s time to shine,” Victorino said.
Boston’s eighth title can be remembered for the beard-yanking bonding.
Fans bid up the average ticket price to over $1,000 on the resale market and some seats went for more than $10,000. Nearly all the Red Sox rooters stood in place for 30 minutes after the final out to view the presentation of the trophy and MVP award.
“It was an awesome atmosphere here tonight,” Lackey said.
Lackey pitched shutout ball into the seventh, when Carlos Beltran’s RBI single ended the Cardinals’ slump with runners in scoring position at 0 for 14.
Junichi Tazawa came in with the bases loaded and retired Allen Craig on an inning-ending grounder to first. Brandon Workman followed in the eighth and Uehara finished.
St. Louis had been seeking its second title in three seasons.
“I just made too many mistakes,” Wacha said. “It doesn’t matter how hard you’re throwing if you can’t locate it.”
Boston was a 30-1 underdog to win the World Series last winter but joined the 1991 Minnesota Twins as the only teams to win titles one season after finishing in last place.