The 2004 Fall Classic saw the Boston Red Sox offer their fifth attempt to erase the "Curse of the Bambino" and win their first World Series title since 1918. The Red Sox had tremendous momentum entering the series, coming off a historic victory in the ALCS in which they became the first team in baseball history and only the third team in the history of major American sports to come back from a 3-0 deficit in a seven-game playoff series, defeating their archrival New York Yankees four games to three to avenge a heart-breaking game seven loss in the 2003 ALCS.
But the Red Sox faced a formidable opponent in the mighty St. Louis Cardinals, who had the major league's best record at 105-57, the National League's best offense and second-best pitching staff, and no less than three legitimate MVP candidates in the heart of their batting order in the menacing trio of first baseman Albert Pujols, third baseman Scott Rolen, and centerfielder Jim Edmonds.
But the Sox simply overpowered the stunned Cardinals in all aspects of the game, sweeping them with authority in four games. The biggest reason for the Red Sox victory was the dominant pitching of the Red Sox's three aces, Curt Schilling, Pedro Martinez, and Derek Lowe, who combined to toss 21 innings without allowing a single earned run between them in winning games 2, 3, and 4 respectively. Meanwhile, the offense did enough to get the job done, outscoring the Red Birds 24-12.
Schilling's performance was particularly amazing, as he pitched for the second straight start with a torn tendon sheath in his right ankle, thanks in part to a revolutionary medical technique in which doctors sutured his skin to his deep tissue to keep the tendon from rubbing against the bone. Doctors said that any other person would have been on the operating table very next day after such an injury, but Schilling insisted on pitching and told them to find a way to get him on the field, and then responded with not one but two gutsy performances, pitching a combined 13 innings in his two starts while allowing only two runs and earning crucial victories each time. It is safe to say that Schilling sufficiently rewarded general manager Theo Epstein and the rest of the Boston front office for their wisdom in making him their primary target the previous off-season. Did I mention he also had won 21 games during the regular season to lead the majors?
Although they didn't have the highest payroll or the most individual superstars like the Yankees, in the end they won it all in 2004 because they were the best team. Although it was surprising and verging on miraculous how they came back from the 3-0 deficit in the ALCS, in retrospect it was not surprising that they won the championship in the end because they were superior to the competition in almost every aspect of the game, with the best pitching, the best lineup one through nine, and quite clearly to all who watched them, the best team chemistry of the eight playoff squads. The only phase of the game where the Red Sox were lacking was on defense, making eight errors in the series, four each in the first two games, and having to play iron-gloved designated hitter David Ortiz at first base in St. Louis, but in the end the Cardinals had no answers for their lineup and their pitching prowess, and for all those die hard Red Sox fans who kept the faith for 86 long years, next year finally arrived.
The only question now is, what will they do now that their loudly proclaimed-identity as long-suffering masochists is shattered?
Game 1 - Fenway Park, Saturday, October 23, 2004
The Red Sox jump out to a early lead in the first inning on a three run homer by David Ortiz and an RBI single by Bill Mueller but then proceed to blow leads of 4-0, 7-2, and 9-7 while making 4 errors in a wild slugfest, before an 8th-inning two-run homer by Mark Bellhorn and 1 2/3 innings of scoreless relief for the victory by closer Keith Foulke seal an 11-9 victory. Red Sox Win!
Hero: Mark Bellhorn, 2-3, 3 R, 2 RBI, game-winning home run
Game 2 - Fenway Park, Sunday, October 24, 2004
Curt Schilling replicates his dramatic game 6 victory over the Yankees in the NCLS, bloody ankle and all, allowing only a single unearned run in 6 strong innings. Jason Varitek's 2 RBI triple in the first and Mark Bellhorn's 2-RBI double in the fourth, both off Cardinals ace Matt Morris, are the big blows in the game as the Sox cruise to a 6-2 victory, marred only by another four errors for the second consecutive day. Foulke gets the save. Red Sox Win!
Hero: Curt Schilling, 6 IP, 4 H, 0 ER, bloody ankle
Game 3 - Busch Stadium, Tuesday, October 26, 2004
After escaping a bases-loaded jam in the 1st inning, Pedro Martinez dominates the Cardinals lineup, pitching 7 strong innings of shutout ball while allowing only 3 hits en route to a 4-1 victory. The turning point in the game and perhaps the series occurs in the third inning when Cardinals starter Jeff Suppan runs the Cardinals out of a second-and-third, no-outs scoring chance by hesitating between third and home instead of scoring easily on a groundout by Larry Walker and getting thrown out trying to dive back into third for a rally-crushing double play. The Cardinals look deflated for the rest of the series and only score one more run over the next 15 innings. Red Sox Win!
Hero: Pedro Martinez, 7 IP, 3 H, 0 R
Game 4 - Busch Stadium, Wednesday, October 27, 2004
Derek Lowe is winning pitcher with 7 dazzling shutout innings. Johnny Damon leads off the game with a solo home run and Trot Nixon adds a two-run double in the third as the Red Sox finish off the Cardinals with a 3-0 victory. Foulke gets the save in his amazing 14th inning of work in 14 postseason games for the Sox. In those 14 innings, Foulke allowed only a single run for an ERA of 0.64. Red Sox Win!
Hero: Derek Lowe, 7 IP, 3 H, 0 R
Despite making two errors, Manny Ramirez received the World Series MVP award for his .412 series batting average (7 for 17), 4 RBI, and solo home run in game 3. Meanwhile, the vaunted Cardinals trio of Pujols, Rolen, and Edmonds went a combined 6 for 45 for a .133 batting average, with no home runs and only one RBI on a sacrifice fly by Rolen.
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