|After finishing last in their division a year ago, Boston is number one (LATimes)|
They made it official with last night's 6-1 win over the St. Louis Cardinals, a relatively stress-free game that was almost anti-climactic after the string of tight games that preceded it. Boston scored early and often in this one, jumping all over rookie Michael Wacha, who had been all but untouchable this postseason until last night, when he left in the fourth and suffered his first October loss. Shane Victorino--the hero of Game 6 in the ALCS--delivered a huge bases-clearing double in the bottom of the third to make it 3-0 Red Sox. The next inning saw Boston score three more runs on a solo home run by Stephen Drew, then two-out RBI singles from Victorino and Mike Napoli after Lance Lynn replaced Wacha.
The Cardinals had plenty of chances to stage a comeback, but simply couldn't come up with any key hits. They went 1-for-9 with runners in scoring position and left nine men on base; two in the second, fourth, fifth, and three in the seventh (ouch). Sometimes it was bad luck--balls scorched right at Red Sox fielders who, had they been a few feet to either side, would not have made the play. Instead, they snagged these screaming liners for hard-luck outs. But when you hit .330 with runners in scoring position during the regular season, as the Cardinals did, your luck is going to run out at some point. It just happened at the worst possible time.
The Redbirds' last real chance to do damage was the top of the seventh, when they had a faltering John Lackey on the ropes. Lackey had been getting himself into and out of trouble all night long, but St. Louis finally got on the board when Carlos Beltran (who else?) singled Daniel Descalso home with two outs. A wild pitch and walk to Matt Holliday followed, loading the bases and driving Lackey from the game to a roaring applause. That brought up Allen Craig, who had already singled twice--including a rocket off the Monster--and was looking suddenly dangerous at the plate. He was unable to get the big hit here though, grounding out against Junichi Tazawa to end the frame.
The Cardinals, utterly defeated, did not manage another baserunner the rest of the night. They went down 1-2-3 versus Brandon Workman in the eighth and were no match for Koji Uehara, who fanned Matt Carpenter to end the game and launch the World Series victory party, one that Fenway Park had not experienced since 1918.
The series MVP was David Ortiz of course, though there was certainly a case to be made that he should've shared it with Jon Lester. Ortiz was the dominant offensive force in this series, reaching base in nine consecutive at-bats at one point and batting an otherworldly .688/.760/1.188. He instilled so much fear in Mike Matheny and Cardinals pitchers alike that he was walked four times--three intentionally--in Game 6. But Lester, who won Games 1 and 5 by allowing just one earned run, also deserves his share of credit. With Clay Buchholz hurting and Jake Peavy ineffective, Lester needed to be at his very best (especially against Adam Wainwright), and he was, racking up 15 Ks against one walk in a pair of masterful starts.
And so because of Big Papi, Lester, and others, the Red Sox--the weirdos with the beardos--are champions of the world. At this point there's not a whole lot that can be said about them that hasn't been said already. There was a different hero every night, it seemed; Napoli in Game 1, Jonny Gomes in Game 4, David Ross in Game 5 and Victorino in Game 6. The pitching, minus Peavy and a few hiccups from Craig Breslow, was stellar. Their defense was pretty good too, much sharper than the Cardinals who were done in by their own miscues on multiple occasions. John Farrell made his share of head-scratching moves (Letting Workman hit? preferring Gomes over Daniel Nava?), but for the most part he pushed the right buttons even when his strategies seemed unconventional (using Lackey in relief, sticking with a slumping Drew at short). He clearly outmaneuvered Matheny, who rode his starters too long and did not deploy his devastating bullpen as well as he should have.
In the end, the Red Sox were simply the better team. They got the big hits when they needed them, made the big pitches to get out of jams, and made dazzling plays in the field. They capitalized on more opportunities than St. Louis did. The best team won. There's really nothing more to say.