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Thursday, October 31, 2013

Red Sox Complete an Incredible Turnaround in 1 season, Capturing Their 8th World Series Title

If you had told me in 2003 right after the Red Sox lost in heartbreaking fashion to the Yankees in Game 7 of the ALCS that the next year they'd win the World Series (for the first time in 86 years) then twice more in the next decade, I would have laughed for about an hour. Tonight was one of those special moments that sports singularly provides as Boston beat St. Louis 6-1 in Game 6 of the 2013 World Series to win the series 4-2. They are the first team in MLB to win three titles in the 21st century.

The Cardinals finally figured out they didn't have to pitch to David Ortiz, he walked in four out of five plate appearances (two intentionally) but still scored two runs and picked up the World Series MVP trophy. John Farrell became only the sixth manager in MLB history to win a title in his first year with a club (last one ironically was Terry Francona here in 2004). Red Sox became only the second team in MLB history (Twins, 1991) to finish in last place in their division one season then win the World Series the following season.

This was the first time since 1918 that the Red Sox had won the title at Fenway Park, giving the night some legit historical significance. Red Sox also became the first team in MLB to win three times in the past decade and this was their eighth title in franchise history. You can't help but be astounded at how much changed in one season: Boston was the worst team in the AL in 2012 and now they're back on top for the eighth Boston sports title since 2000 (3 for Patriots and Red Sox; 1 for Bruins and Celtics).

The easy storyline is John Lackey (6.2 innings, 1 earned run, 9 hits, 5 strikeouts, 1 walk) who picked up the clinching win. I think that's well established by now so I'd rather focus on Koji Uehara getting the last three outs in a 1-2-3 9th capping his insane run as Boston's closer. You want more unlikely heroes? How about Stephen Drew (2 hits) hitting a solo homer and Shane Victorino driving in four runs after he missed Games 4 and 5 with back problems.

Michael Wacha is a great young pitcher, one of the best in MLB, but his magic carpet ride came to a screeching halt as he allowed six earned runs in 3.2 innings. Boston actually scored all the runs they needed on Victorino's bases-loaded double in the third to make it 3-0. The Red Sox tacked on three more runs in the fourth on Drew's solo homer into their bullpen, Mike Napoli's RBI single and an RBI single by Victorino. In past years, you'd worry about something bad happening to the Red Sox but I have to admit that once they got up five or six runs, I was very confident that it was all but over.

In probably his last game for the Red Sox, Jacoby Ellsbury was 2 for 4 with a double, walk and two runs scored. St. Louis' only real chance to threaten (or at least make it interesting) came in the bottom of the seventh, Junichi Tazawa came in with the bases loaded and two outs but he got one-legged Allen Craig to ground to first. Did you know his foot was hurt? The only run for the Cardinals came on Carlos Beltran's RBI single earlier in the seventh.

Rookie Brandon Workman had a 1-2-3 eighth which set the table for Uehara's last appearance of the season. Fittingly, this incredible journey ended with him striking out Matt Carpenter (3 for 5, double) to end it.

Every championship is different and I hate to compare them; you have to appreciate each one and I think we will certainly do that after all the garbage and drama of the last few seasons on Yawkey Way. 2004 is what everyone will always remember for obvious reasons, 2007 was complete domination and this year was about restoring pride in this beloved team. Mission accomplished, what else can you say? The Red Sox exceeded all expectations except their own, they were a likable team that had fun playing baseball and enjoyed being around each other. What more do you want? Enjoy the parade on Saturday.

UPDATE 11/2: The Red Sox picked up Jon Lester's option for 2014 ($13 million) and declined Matt Thornton's.

UPDATE 11/4: Boston made qualifying offers (1 year, $14 million) to Jacoby Ellsbury, Mike Napoli and Stephen Drew. They didn't make offers to Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Joel Hanrahan and John McDonald so they are free agents that can sign with any team and that club doesn't have to give up a draft pick.

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