Two or three days have passed since the Red Sox defeated the Cardinals in Game Six at Fenway Park 6-1. The Sox are now World Series winners for the third time in ten years. For you Red Sox fans of a certain age or older just let that sink in. Three World Championships in just ten years. A different generation of Sox fans are living in this era. As the Boston Herald's Steve Buckley tweeted the other night, First graders around New England have now seen the Red Sox win a World Series, their years of suffering are over."
A few thoughts about Game Seven and then the World Series as a whole.
It could not have been more fitting to have John Lackey on the mound and pitching so well to get the win in the clinching game. His personal journey through the last two years as well as his relationship with Red Sox Nation mirrors almost perfectly that of the franchise itself. An up and down 2011, crashing at the end, missing the entire 2012 season ( Lackey with Tommy John surgery, the team seeming missed the whole season due to disinterest and chaos), and finally arriving in 2013 with a rebuilt body, attitude, and performance.
The recipe to beat rookie sensation Michael Wacha ( who really was the only potential factor in St. Louis' favor going into Game Six) seem to be getting some early runs. And after Wacha loaded the bases on a couple of walks and hitting Jonny Gomes with a pitch ( the only batter Wacha hit all year), Shane Victorino nearly duplicating his ALCS winning grand slam, smashed a 2-0 offering high off the Green Monster to score three, the third on a great slide home by Gomes. Despite St. Louis having runners on in nearly every inning ( especially a hairy 7th with a run in and three on when the inning ended.), this Victorino blast essentially ended the game and the series.
The next inning Stephen Drew finally snapped his post season long slump, with a long home run into the Sox bullpen. In the same inning, Jacoby Ellsbury just missed a home run with a long blast to the base of the wall in right. This shot was likely a good bye from free agent to be Jacoby.
St. Louis finally decided pitching to David Ortiz ( .733 BA, coming in) was a bad idea and walked him three times. And how did that work? Papi came around to score 2 of the 6 runs Boston scored.
As mentioned above St. Louis put on one final furious, two out rally attempt in the 7th, but Junichi Tazawa got the last out to hold the Cards to one run. Then, rookie Brandon Workman pitched a crucial 1-2-3 8th inning, ending any chance for the Cards to comeback. Because they were not gonna score five runs in the ninth ( or any runs, likely) off Koji Uehara. And just as fitting as John Lackey being the starting and winning pitcher, was the fact this season ended as champions with Koji striking out Matt Carpenter ( who led the NL in hits this year).
The literally loud buzz of the crowd at Fenway all night long could be heard seeping through each and every TV set in New England and beyond. The game itself and the wonderful trophy presentation on the field was everything anyone in New England could have imagined for the last 95 years. (although the low hanging smoke from the fireworks going off behind the centerfield wall created a surreal effect and led me to wonder if someone had accidentally set fire to the grand ol' lady of a ballpark!!).
Some random musings about the World Series 2013:
*Nearing the end of the regular season, all were in agreement this team's achilles heel could be ( would be?) the bullpen getting to Koji Uhara. The cast of characters seemed to be Junichi Tazawa, Craig Breslow, and Brandon Workman. Would the Sox supplement there usual 6/7/8th inning guys with Ryan Dempster? Franklin Morales? Someone else? Basically no additional help was needed(except maybe for a shutout 8th inning World Series Game Four appearance by John Lackey). These were the numbers for Taz, Workman, and Breslow for the World Series and postseason as a whole:
Tazawa WS: 5 G 2.1 IP ERA 0.00
PS 13 G 7.1 IP ERA 1.23
Workman WS 3G 3.1 IP ERA 0.00
PS 7G ERA 0.00
Breslow PS 10G 7.1 IP ERA 2.45( Craig sort of crashed and burned in the WS, but the Sox may not get there without his ALDS and ALCS efforts).
The bullpen as a whole had a 1.28 ERA for the entire post season ( including Koji).
And the other help in getting to Koji came from the Sox starters in the World Series. Jon Lester and John Lackey pitched 2 starts each deep into the game saving the bullpen. And in the two shorter starts
( by Buchholz and Peavy) in each game starter Felix Doubront came in, in back to back games, pitching great ball to get the game to late inning relievers ( Doubront's World Series ERA was 1.93).
*The starting pitching as alluded to above was also great in the entire Series. Jake Peavy and Clay Buchholz each went only 4 innings but they were important innings, especially Clay's effort in Game Four when the Sox were down 2 games to 1. John Lackey out pitched Michael Wacha twice, finally getting the win in Game Six. Jon Lester was historically good and by winning Game Five, he all but sealed the Cards fate going back to Boston.
By historically good I mean these two things. First Lester has moved into third place all time in post season ERA for a starting pitcher with ten starts or more. And the first two are Hall of Famers Christy Mathewson and Waite Hoyt. Also, Lester pitched 7 2/3 innings in each start this Series and allowed no runs in Game One and only one in Game Five, winning both games. The last pitcher to have two starts of 7 2/3 or more innings and allow one run total and be the winning pitcher in both games was Bret Saberhagen in 1985! Before Saberhagen, you could go back to 1968 and 1967, when Bob Gibson sort of did it both years. Gibby had two complete game wins allowing one run total, but then each year went on to pitch Game Seven. In 1968 he allowed 4 to Detroit in a loss, the year before he allowed only 2 runs to Boston in a Game Seven victory. Before Gibson, you have to go back to the Yankees' Whitey Ford who had two complete game shutout victories vs. Pittsburgh in 1960 ( but the Yanks lost this WS 4 games to 3).
*Strong defense goes hand in hand with great pitching, and despite a few uncharacteristic errors by Boston ( if they only had not thrown the ball to third from the home plate area!!), the defense overall ranged from solid to superb. The superb was mostly the middle infield combo of Dustin Pedroia and Stephen Drew. John Farrell was proven correct in sticking with Dirt ( Drew's nickname since he was a teen, apparently JD's kids even call him Uncle Dirt) at short. And lost in the obstruction call was the initial play in which Pedroia makes a nearly impossible pick of a wicked smash as he played in and threw out the runner at home.
* David Ortiz. Of course he won the MVP with .688 BA the highest all time for a player with as many at bats as Papi had in the WS ( Billy Hatcher holds the record of .750, but in only 12 ABs.) But I will remember two things about Papi in this World Series. First he played half of the series, three games, at first base and did so flawlessly. And most importantly the impromptu team meeting he called in the dugout mid way through Game Four. Down 2 to 1 in games and trailing in Game Four, the Sox responded to Papi, Gomes crushed a three run jack, and Sox never looked back. Ortiz became the first non Yankee to be on three WS champions for the same team in 30 years,( Jim Palmer, Baltimore 66-70-83).
* Xander Bogaerts although not the most outstanding player in the series, acquitted himself extremely well, and was in the middle of several rallies. He was all ready on course to be a great player, likely even a superstar. This experience can only heighten his abilities.
*In case I have not mentioned this before, Shane Victorino is the toughest son of a bitch ever to play for the Boston Red Sox.
* Also this year I have mentioned a number of times, the fact this Red Sox team never lost four games in a row, and other than a bad 12 days in May, only lost three in a row twice. This turned out not to be some fluke but maybe the most illuminating sign of the character and talent of this team. Whenever things started to look like trouble was brewing, they would win the next several games, never having that losing streak. The most vivid example of all happened in the World Series at the end of Game Three with the infamous game ending obstruction play. It was the second loss in a row to the Cards and they were down 2 games to 1. The next two games were in St. Louis and things were beginning to look bleak. But to lose the next game would be three in a row.....this team basically does not lose three in a row. Instead after the horrific game ending obstruction call.....THE RED SOX NEVER LOST ANOTHER GAME. This my friends was the epitome of the 2013 Boston Red Sox. The 2013 World Champion Boston Red Sox.
Thanks to the Sox for a wonderful year and one helluva ride. Enjoy it Sox fans.