It might have been the last Fenway Park game of the magical 2004 season. And if it was, there'll be a parade in Boston sometime before Election Day . . . perhaps the grandest celebration in 374 years of Hub history.
Curt Schilling, the gifted, gritty veteran who has given a whole new meaning to red sock, last night hurled Boston's Laughing Gas House Gang to a 6-2 victory over the St. Louis Cardinals in the second game of the World Series. The Red Sox lead the best-of-seven series 2-0, and if they can win twice in the next three days at Busch Stadium, the Sox will have their first World Series championship since 1918.
In other words, put pink champagne on ice, but keep it corked. The Cardinals were 53-28 at home this year (plus 6-0 in the playoffs) and Red Sox Nation would do well to rememeber 1986, when the Sox won the first two games of the World Series at Shea Stadium only to lose four of the last five to the New York Mets. This is the Sox's first World Series since that fateful event.
The 37-year-old Schilling, who said he came to Boston to win a World Series, pitched six innings of four-hit, one-run (unearned) ball, working again while blood seeped into the white sanitary hose that covered his sutured right ankle. The surgical procedure, designed to stabilize a dislocated tendon in Schilling's right ankle, worked for the second time in less than a week.
"It was the most unbelievable day of my life," said Schilling. "So many things happened. I woke up at 7 o'clock this morning. I couldn't walk. I couldn't move. I don't know what had happened, but I knew when I woke up that there was a problem. I wasn't going to go out on the mound the way I felt . . . I don't know the medical science behind it . . . I honest-to-God did not think I was going to take the ball today."
It was a franchise-record, sixth consecutive postseason win for Boston. The Red Sox have not lost since a 19-8 humiliation put them in the 3-0 hole in the American League Championship Series against the Yankees. Meanwhile, the National League champion Cardinals have been dreadful and it looks like the Sox could run the table.
The truly wild-card Sox (can you be a team of destiny and density simultaneously?) have been able to crush the Cardinals despite committing eight errors in the first two games of this Fall un-Classic. Boston committed four blunders in Saturday night's 11-9 win and four more last night, but this time only one of the miscues led to a run.
"Maybe four's our lucky number." joked Sox manager Terry Francona. "I'd like to try it without it. We made some errors, but I didn't think we played a sloppy game. It's almost snowing out there."
Schilling got the offensive support he needed in the form of RBI hits from Jason Varitek (two-run, first-inning triple), Mark Bellhorn (two-run, fourth-inning double), and Orlando Cabrera (two-run, sixth-inning single).
Any time Schilling takes the hill this month there is concern about the tendon in his right ankle. It looked like the injury would end his season after the Yankees routed him in the first game of the ALCS, but Sox medical director Bill Morgan was able to neutralize the problem with an experimental procedure involving temporary sutures. Schilling had the 20-minute procedure the day before his Game 6 win over the Yankees and again on Saturday.
"I thought he was very, very good," said Francona. "I don't think you're quite seeing the velocity you would see under normal circumstances . . . He looked to me, especially in the sixth, like he was starting to labor a little. I think he's getting a better understanding of his body and he's able to compete a little better."
If last night's game was the Fenway farewell, the Sox left the Nation smiling.
Continuing the "Mighty Wind" theme of introducing bust-out acts from the 1960s, Sox choreographer Dr. Charles Steinberg brought back The Standells to perform "Dirty Water" on a makeshift stage in front of the center-field bleachers. While this was going on, Schilling was getting the Charles Lindbergh reception from the bleacherites as he stretched and commenced with warmups.
"Regardless of what happens, I'll never get that feeling again in my life," said Schilling.
After James Taylor sang the national anthem, 1946 teammates Johnny Pesky, Dom DiMaggio, and Bobby Doerr threw ceremonial first pitches. All strikes.
It was 48 degrees when Schilling threw his first pitch, a called strike, to Edgar Renteria at 8:17 p.m. Schilling threw 24 pitches in the first inning and yielded a two-out double to Albert Pujols, but the Cardinals didn't score.
In the bottom of the first, Varitek staked Schilling to a 2-0 lead with a long, two-run triple to the 420-foot sign in center off Cardinals starter Matt Morris after back-to-back walks to Manny Ramirez and David Ortiz.
There is mounting evidence that the cosmic forces are riding with the Sox. Schilling got out of the first when Scott Rolen lined a bullet to third baseman Bill Mueller. An inning later, with two on and one out, both runners took off as Schilling threw and Reggie Sanders ran into a double play as Mike Matheny hit a liner to Mueller.
"Early on he wasn't quite as hard and we had hard-hit balls," said Cardinals manager Tony La Russa. "We did enough offensively to get more than two runs. We had some hard-hit balls, but it just went against us."
The Cardinals broke through in the fourth as Boston's shaky defense cost the Sox a run. Pujols led off with a double to left, took third when Rolen flied to right, and scored on a two-out, hard-hopper to third that Mueller could not handle. It was one of Mueller's three errors on the night.
With two on and two out in the fourth, Bellhorn, who had homered in his previous three games, crushed a double to deep center to give Schilling a 4-1 lead. Bellhorn (2 for 25 with 10 strikeouts in his first seven postseason games) was being booed at Fenway one week ago, but is emerging as an early World Series MVP candidate. Cabrera's wall-ball in the sixth made it 6-1. All the Sox runs were scored with two outs.
The Cardinals reached reliever Mike Timlin for a run in the eighth, but Francona summoned Keith Foulke and the Sox closer slammed the door, fanning Jim Edmonds. Time for "Sweet Caroline." Foulke got the side in order in the ninth and the night ended the way it began, with "Dirty Water" blaring from the loudspeakers.
The 100th World Series moves to St. Louis tomorrow night as the Sox play their first game at Busch since Oct. 9, 1967, when Jim Lonborg beat the Cardinals, 3-1, in the fifth game of the World Series. Lonborg surrendered a home run to Roger Maris and the game, played in daylight, lasted only 2 hours, 20 minutes.
Tomorrow it'll be Pedro Martinez making his first career World Series start with a chance to put the Red Sox ahead, 3-0. Only one team in baseball history has recovered from a 3-0 deficit: the 2004 Boston Red Sox.