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Red Sox pitcher Pedro Martinez pointed to the heavens after shutting out the Cardinals on three hits in a seven-inning stint.
Red Sox pitcher Pedro Martinez pointed to the heavens after shutting out the Cardinals on three hits in a seven-inning stint. (Globe Staff Photo / Barry Chin)

One win to go for the crown

Page 2 of 2 -- Suppan did not score. He went halfway down the line, then stopped. By the time he got back to third, third baseman Bill Mueller was holding the baseball. The always-loyal St. Louis fans booed when the inning ended.

Cardinals manager Tony La Russa, who managed the Oakland A's when they were swept by the Cincinnati Reds in the 1990 World Series, said, "I think when you're in a championship competition, and the other team is playing well, you can't make mistakes. You can't miss opportunities. It was an easy read. It was a big miss."

According to La Russa, Suppan thought he heard third base coach Jose Oquendo yelling, "No, no," when the coach was yelling, "Go, go." In 1975, Boston's Denny Doyle was gunned down in Game 6 because he thought third base coach Don Zimmer was yelling, "Go, go," when Zim was yelling, "No, no."

Again, this is the reverse of all the bad things that have happened to the Sox.

The Cardinals, hardly cloaking themselves in October glory, tried to keep the media out of the clubhouse after the game.

After the key play, Martinez got into a rhythm. He never allowed another base runner. He was masterful. He made them pop up. He made them ground out. He struck them out. He struck out three of the last four batters he faced, including Albert Pujols and Jim Edmonds.

"We got a break," said Martinez. "Once they didn't score in that inning, I said it's up to me now and I got a couple of runs to work with."

Martinez's final pitch, his 98th, was a strike three (swinging) to Reggie Sanders in the bottom of the seventh. Francona was hired after Grady Little was fired for not taking Martinez out of Game 7 against the Yankees last October. There would be no repeat of that mistake. Mike Timlin was summoned to pitch the eighth and got the Cardinals in order. Keith Foulke gave up a homer to Walker in the eighth but caught Scott Rolen looking at a third strike to end it at 11:35 p.m. EST.

Almost too easy.

Martinez, in his inimitable style, used his midnight press conference to try to sell himself to Sox management for next season.

"It's been great," he said. "I hope everybody enjoyed it as much as I did. Even with the struggles up and down during the season, I enjoyed every moment of the season. I enjoyed my career in Boston. I hope I can have a chance to come back with this team. I hope people understand that I wasn't the one that wanted to leave. If they don't get me, it's because they probably didn't try hard enough. I consider Boston my house. I hope everything works out OK."

If it was his last outing for the Red Sox, he certainly left in spectacular fashion.

Meanwhile, folks in Missouri are waiting for the home team to show them something. The vaunted sluggers in the middle of the Cardinal lineup have done almost nothing in the first three games. No St. Louis starting pitcher has finished the fifth inning. And now St. Louis has a baserunning mistake that will live as the evil twin to Enos Slaughter's mad dash from first base that beat the Red Sox in the 1946 World Series.

There's no bad luck for Boston this time. This year, it's the other guys who are making the mistakes.

It could happen tonight or tomorrow, or back at Fenway this weekend. But it is going to happen. The Red Sox are going to win the World Series. The planets are in line. 

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