They did it, and in fine fashion, too. Not only did the Red Sox jump on the angst-ridden Kevin Brown early, Derek Lowe pitched like it was 2002. Six innings, one hit, one run, 44 strikes in 69 pitches. Lowe had averaged 11.5 pitches per inning and was cruising when he was inexplicably removed from the game at the start of the seventh inning by Terry Francona. Either the move was a) determined before the game; or b) Francona wanted to limit Lowe because he had pitched two days before. I think Francona should have rolled the dice in the seventh and kept Lowe in there for at least another inning--if 'b' wasn't the issue, then Lowe's pitch count was hardly a problem. Sixty-nine pitches is nothin' for a starter. Why not see if he can at least go seven innings and save your over-used bullpen? Francona followed up that mistake by making another--he inserted Pedro Martinez. Not only did the crowd at the Bronx quickly get back into the game, the Yankees pounded out two quick doubles. They scored two runs in the inning before Martinez eventually ended it.
To the relief of everyone, the comeback was never meant to be. Pedro was replaced by Mike Timlin in the eighth (good move by Francona there) and Timlin didn't have too much trouble. Bellhorn cranked a solo shot in the top of the eighth to quiet the crowd once more. In the ninth, up seven runs, Timlin and Alan Embree finished the job. And the Red Sox won the pennant, completing the most amazing comback in playoff sports history. Absolutely amazing.
Johnny Damon certainly picked a good day to wake up at the plate ... good god. When he hit the grand slam, the game was still painfully young. Once you got the sense that Lowe was going to be solid, though, I think a lot of fears were eased. The Yankees shouldn't have been able to make up a 6-0 deficit, and they didn't.
David Ortiz won the ALCS MVP honors in a slam dunk of a decision. Ortiz has been a monster in the playoffs, especially in the ALCS. His reputation as a god in Boston is secured forever--he crushed Yankees pitching to the tune of three homeruns and two walk-off hits. His first inning homerun in game seven was easily the biggest of the game considering that it came immediately after Johnny Damon had been thrown out at the plate.
The issue in the NL remains undecided, and the Red Sox really can have no preference. The Astros are playing great baseball, while the Cards have that murderous lineup. Question is: did Pedro's mini-relief effort spoil his chances for starting game one on Saturday? If so, Francona's error looks worse. Schilling is going to have to find a way to pitch effectively a couple more times if the Sox are going to bring the championship home.
Here's hoping that they do manage to win it all. I am really tired of having to endure all the self-pity emanating from New England.
"Woe is us! We go to the playoffs every year! Who would curse us with such a plight?"
Please, please stop. Just freaking stop. Color me unsympathetic, but I don't want to hear it.
The bad news is that regardless of the outcome of the World Series, the Red Sox bandwagon just got bigger. If they lose, the cries will only get louder.