The Red Sox win the first
ON THIS DATE (October 30, 2013) ... The 2013 Red Sox -- wait, wait, let's go with the formal title and make that the 2013 World Champion Red Sox -- had an answer to just about everything this season.
Is John Farrell the right choice as manager? Yes. Can David Ortiz stay healthy and put up big numbers? Double yes. Is Jon Lester capable of being an ace? Affirmative. Did Ben Cherington make the right moves in the offseason? Hell yes, multiplied by six, maybe seven.
They had the answers to the Rays, Tigers and Cardinals, never needed a winner-take-all game to secure a series. They had the answers to Carlos Beltran, Prince Fielder and Miguel Cabrera. They had the answers to Justin Verlander, Max Scherzer, David Price, Matt Moore, Adam Wainwright and Michael Wacha.
They took on every challenge that came their way and survived, even thrived, until they were celebrating as one in the end. The trophy and the champagne and all of the joy in the ballpark and streets and living rooms tell us they were the champions. Every piece of evidence accumulated along the way, concluding with the Red Sox' nearly suspense-free 6-1 victory in Game 6 tonight confirms it.
A strong team, and one hell-bent on redemption. It was only appropriate that John Lackey, an accomplice in the 2011 chicken-and-beer fiasco and submitter that same season of the worst performance by a starting pitcher in Red Sox history, would be the pitcher to deliver the victory. Lackey was pitching injured that lost season, missed '12 after surgery, and came back this year a new and trimmer man. He became the first starting pitcher ever to clinch a World Series for two different teams. He truly is Beloved Fan-Favorite John Lackey now, and as he ambled off the mound in the seventh inning, having allowed nine hits but just a single run, he tipped his hat to the roaring crowd, something he had refused to do all season long.
Shane Victorino, whose three-year, $39 million deal in December was panned as the worst of the offseason in some respected corners, has had himself a memorable few weeks. His grand slam in Game 6 against the Tigers sent the Red Sox to the World Series. A sore back kept the Gold Glove right fielder out of Games 4 and 5 in St. Louis, and he was 0 for 10 in the series when he came to plate with the bases loaded in the third inning of a scoreless game.
His rocket to left came up four feet or so shy of the Monster seats. Three runs scored, and you couldn't help but think: That Victorino at-bat music, "Three Little Birds,'' the pleasant new Fenway sing-a-long? Might want to change it to another Bob Marley classic. "Redemption Song" is the right tune and the perfect tone.
To a lesser degree, the same goes for Stephen Drew, the maligned shortstop who entered Game 6 with four hits in 50 at-bats this postseason. He gave the Red Sox a 4-0 lead with a solo homer into the Red Sox' bullpen in the fourth inning.
The only tense moments for the Red Sox arrived in the seventh. With two outs, Lackey gave up a single to Daniel Descalso and a double to Matt Carpenter. Beltran, a storied postseason performer who was mostly held in check in his first World Series, singled in the Cardinals' first run, then moved to second on a wild pitch. Farrell visited the mound, and Lackey pleaded for one more batter, the ever-dangerous Matt Holliday. Farrell relented, and New England fans who still traffic in cynicism surely had Grady Little flashbacks. But when Lackey walked Holliday, and Farrell did not hesitate to remove his starter, bringing in Junichi Tazawa, who got Allen Craig to ground to first base. Six outs later, exhilaration. Uehara's final act in arguably the greatest season a relief pitcher has ever had was to retire Carpenter on an unsolvable 81-mph splitter.
As the Fenway crowd roared and reveled at the first World Series clinching on home soil since 1918, Uehara raised his right arm triumphantly, then both arms, then leaped into catcher David Ross's grasp. The improbable was now official, the worst-to-first tale a reality.