RED SOX WIN 2013 WORLD SERIES, 4 GAMES TO 2
Score: 6-1 Boston / WP: Lackey (3-1) / LP: Wacha (4-1) / BOS HR: Drew (1)
When Stephen Drew (note the moniker) homered, we knew it was over.
Drew’s 4th-inning blast redeemed his postseason of strikeouts and pop-ups; one-time goat John Lackey’s 6.2 innings of stellar one-run ball had a capacity crowd at Fenway chanting his name as he walked off the mound; and the Red Sox’ 6-1, Game 6 victory over St. Louis clinched the World Series and cemented the Bearded Boys of Boston among the great Red Sox teams of all time, setting off a World Series celebration at Fenway Park for the first time since 1918.
I almost wasn’t there. Rodrigo was hesitant to let me come, for whatever reason, and when he caved he wasn’t happy about it. But I sure was. My train to Boston got in at 8:07, and I listened on MLB.com radio as I took the train to the park. Walking from Back Bay station to Copley, it struck me how empty the streets seemed. Duh: everyone was inside watching the Sox.
I got to the park in time for the top of the second inning. I’ve never seen it so packed. I could hardly walk down Landsdowne street, and the line for the Cask and Flagon stretched halfway to Kenmore Square. And yet the park itself was strangely quiet. A few cheers flared and died in the bleachers. People were nervous, collectively holding their breath. Seeing the Sox have the chance to win a World Series at home has some gravity to it. It hasn’t happened in 95 years. Winning at home versus winning on the road is like the whole city being there versus watching on TV. Whether you have a ticket or not, if they win at home, you were there. Around the third inning, I realized that there might be no-one alive who had seen the Sox win a series at Fenway. And after 5 heart-pounding games (well, four heart-stoppers and one cruiser) we weren’t sure we would see them do it tonight. Lackey looked great out of the gate, striking out Jon Jay on a cureveball to end a second-and-third threat in the second. The Sox had some runners on early, but we went to the bottom of the third tied at zero.
With two out and two on, Wacha hit Jonny Gomes with a 1-1 pitch, bringing up Shane Victorino and queuing his walk-up music, “3 Little Birds.” Ever since it became clear mid-summer that the Sox were here to stay, the fans have been singing the refrain, “Every little thing, is gonna be alright!” with gusto. Tonight, with the World Series on the line, was the best rendition yet. Victorino had missed the last two games in St. Louis with a bad back. But the Flyin’ Hawaiian was ready for action and ready for a 2-1 fastball from Wacha that he belted off the Monster for a three-run double. 3-0 Sox, and Fenway was pandemonium. The blanket of nervous silence evaporated in an instant and suddenly Fenway was pulsing. Xander Bogaerts lined out to end the frame, but the Sox were up. Lackey got a 1-2-3 fourth and the Sox were back to the dish. Who but Stephen Drew leading off. And Drew, lost at the plate since the ALCS, took the first pitch from Wacha and demolished it into the Sox pen. Carlos Beltran didn’t even move. And that was when we knew. The planets don’t align for Stephen Drew to hit that home run without also aligning for the Red Sox to win. Redemption was in the air. But for good measure, the Sox tacked on two more runs in the inning, setting in motion a parade of pitchers from the desperate Cardinals and setting the stands buzzing, counting outs. Jacoby Ellsbury, in what might be his final game for Boston, doubled in the inning and scored his second run of the ballgame. By the time Xander Bogaerts struck out swinging to end the inning against the third Cardinals pitcher of the frame, it was 6-0 Sox.
Jon Lackey continued to deal into the 7th, when he got two outs before letting two men reach base and then one score on an 0-2 hit from Carlos Beltran. Farrell emerged from the dugout, and the stands rose to give Lackey his due. But then Farrell was walking back to the dugout alone. Lackey stayed in the game. The crowd loved it, and even though he ended up walking Matt Holliday before being pulled, so did I. That’s what the Sox have done this season: fight for every out, never give in, and that’s what John Lackey told John Farrell he wanted to do. It didn’t work out. But (seeing as we won anyways) it’s the thought that counts. No harm, no foul when Junichi Tazawa got Allen Craig to ground out to end the 7th with the score 6-1 and Lack in line for the win. This was the closest the game had to a tense moment. After 4 games full of them, I was expecting a few, and even hoping for some. But now that I think about it, I didn’t really mind. This postseason has had enough suspense to last a lifetime. The final innings were like the end of the decathalon, when the result is already decided but the wait to finally and deservedly achieve it is a thrill nonetheless.
But the game wasn’t over yet. The crowd sang “Sweet Caroline” at the top of their lungs in the middle of the inning, knowing it would be the last chance to do so for a while. And then when the top of the ninth rolled around, they yelled themselves hoarse as Koji Uehara emerged from the bullpen amidst a constellation of cellphone camera lights in the stands. I took off my jacket to reveal the Uehara shirt I had bought for this very moment. The first pitch was a strike.
And suddenly there were two outs, two pop flies having settled into the glove of Jonny Gomes, co-captain of beards. Matt Carpenter at the plate. Koji fell behind 2-1, then evened it to 2-2, where Carpenter kept it with a few weak tricklers. Every time Koji brought home the potential season-ending strikeout pitch, the stands hushed for a millisecond. And every time, they re-inflated with cheers as Carpenter tipped it foul. Until the hush fell again as Koji brought home a 2-2 splitter, that danced under Carpenter’s bat and into David Ross’ glove for strike three.
And that was it. The stands and dugout erupted simultaneously with the first notes of “Dirty Water” from the PA. The Jumbotron flashed “2013 World Champions.” David Ortiz, who hit .688 with an OPS of a googleplex, got the series MVP. Bud Selig presented the Series trophy, and then presented the team: “Ladies and gentlemen, your 2013 World Champion Boston Red Sox!”
It was Jonny Gomes, Co-Captain of Beards, who had the most pithy remark after the game. We know this club is built on Sabermetrics, he said. We know about WAR (Wins Above Replacement). But when the playoffs come, on this team, it’s less about WAR, and more about who you want to go to war with.
This team did not win by numbers, and maybe it’s the unpredictability and spirit with which they found ways to win all season that has made this such a special team. That clutch play and heart is what has made these playoffs so much fun. But now we can change tenses: clutch play and heart is what made these playoffs fun. Because there is no one left to Fear the Beard. They’ve all been vanquished. The season is over, and the Red Sox are somehow, some way, World Series champions. Who knows if they will ever shave again. It’s been fun.
The celebration after the came wasn’t chaotic or riotous. It was filled with still more high-fives and yelling, traffic jams and horns honking out of a combination of impatience and jubilation.The throngs from the park mixed with people spilling out of bars and wandering the area. The streets around the park were closed to traffic, and eventually the last crowd of the season at Fenway drifted along them towards home, surveyed by news helicopters hovering overhead, gathering shots for a special late edition. Worst to First. Redemption achieved.
But this was more than redemption. The Sox could have redeemed themselves with a solid season, and certainly with a playoff appearance. They did far more. And that they won it at home wasn’t just a footnote, it was the essence of this postseason and this team, convincing us to believe and root again, delivering a championship on the lawn at Fenway that will certainly go down as one of the great moments not just in the history of Boston sports, but of Boston itself. ESPN, the Globe, everyone agrees: a World Series at Fenway was more than just baseball. But the baseball was pretty damn good too.
My phone was dead before I got to the park, but I would later find that I had 32 text messages about the result of the game. People have been congratulating me personally, as if I won the World Series. I guess I’ve kind of made myself into “Red Sox Guy.” There are worse things to be, especially this season. As the game approached its end, I thought back on the games I’d seen this year, starting from the second of the season at freezing Yankee Stadium, which the Sox won 7-4 behind Clay Buchholz. I even remembered having Spring Training games on in the background while doing homework or kicking off a weekend night back in March. This has been a long and involved season for me, whether I was watching David Ortiz’s ALCS grand slam sail into the bullpen or waiting for Rodrigo to return from a walk while listening to Joe and Dave call some nondescript midsummer game on the radio. Like Yogi Berra said, it ain’t over ’till it’s over. But now it’s over, and it ended in the best and least expected way possible. Same time next year?