Monday, October 22, 2007
Pennant Number 12
It was an incredibly memorable Game 7 at Fenway Park last night as the Red Sox won their 12th American League pennant with an 11-2 drubbing of the Cleveland Indians and for the fifth time in team history came back from a two-game deficit and elimination to win a postseason series. It was fourth-most lopsided win ever to decide a playoff series, trailing just the 1996 NLCS win by the Braves over the Cardinals (15 runs), and the Cardinals World Series win in 1934 over Detroit and the Royals 1985 World Series win over St. Louis (both by 11 runs).
Josh Beckett, with his two spectacular wins, was voted MVP of the series. You could have made a good case for Kevin Youkilis winning it though. He hit .500 for the series, going a staggering 14-for-28 with 10 runs scored. His batting average, hits and runs scored are all LCS records.
The score was a lot closer than the nine-run win, as the Red Sox opened the scoring with single runs in the first three innings. They could have added more but they kept hitting into the old-devil double play. (In fact they set a record of hitting into 14 DPs in a seven-game series.)
Cleveland scored single runs in the fourth and fifth off Daisuke Matsuzaka. The Dice Man (who became the first Japanese-born pitcher to win a postseason game) pitched five gritty innings before turning it over to fellow countryman Hideki Okajima. In the seventh, Julio Lugo dropped a popup with one out and looked like it was going to be big trouble. Franklin Gutierrez lined a ball over third base, but third base coach Joel Skinner held up Kenny Lofton at third, who easily could have scored. Casey Blake rapped into a double play to end the threat, and Professor Thom's went bananas.
Dustin Pedroia hit a two-run shot in the seventh to extend the Sox lead to 5-2. Jonathan Papelbon came on with two on for a two-inning save, and got the third out from Ryan Garko, who hit a deep fly to center that Jacoby Ellsbury ran down.
Then in the bottom of the eighth, the Sox blew the game wide open off "unhittable" reliever Rafael Bettencourt. Pedroia, who was red-hot the last three games, doubled with the bases loaded, and Kevin Youkilis banged a shot off the Coke bottles in left to make it 11-2. It was the Sox getting revenge and payback for the Indians' 7-run outburst in the 11th inning of Game 2. Fenway, as well as the bar, was in a total frenzy. It was great to see in this game that the supporting cast around Manny Ramirez and David Ortiz did almost all the damage, as Papi and Manny went just 1-for-8 last night. They carried the club earlier in this postseason, so now it was the rest of the cast's turn to shine.
Papelbon got the last out by getting Blake to hit a ball into the triangle that Coco Crisp made a spectacular running catch on. (That sums up his Gold Glove season in center in a nutshell.) The Sox had their 12th AL pennant, and the celebrations were on, especially in the Greenwich Village bar. The place was jammed all night as you would expect, and once the last out was made, I was in the middle of a madhouse celebration. I had some beer poured on me and enjoyed hugging and high-fiving my friends and other Red Sox fans I didn't know.
It was another great night in my life that involved the Red Sox. It brought back such fond memories of the Riviera three years ago. It totally wiped me out, and I'm still recovering as I write this.
It has to be one bitter pill for the Indians and their fans. After Game 4, they never had a lead in the final three games, and the Sox outscored them, 30-5. Two of their best hitters, Travis Hafner and Grady Sizemore, disappeared in this series. The Cleveland Indians may have lost this series after being up 3-1, but they have nothing to be ashamed of. They are a very good club, and they could be even better next year. My thanks to them, if only for taking the Yankees out in the ALDS.
It was a nail-biter for most of the night last night, but it turned out tremendous in the end.
The Red Sox may have taken about 10 years off my life with all these dramatics over the years and driven me completely crazy at times.
But boy, do I love this team. Bring on the Rockies.