It was a season of change. It was a season of hurt, devastation and empowerment. A season of new faces, a city full of the most passionate fans, and shifting expectations. There was one goal for the 2013 Boston Red Sox; to relentlessly win, to win relentlessly.
After the Boston marathon bombings back in April, and David Ortiz’s subsequent speech that let the people know that ‘this is our f—ing city!’, the Red Sox have come together, perhaps more than we’ve seen in any single team.
It’s been inspirational, and now they are World Series champions for a third time since 2004. Last night, in beating the Cardinals 6-1 in Game 6 of the Fall Classic, Boston won their first World Series crown at Fenway Park since 1918.
No one in the ballpark last night had witnessed such an event; the commissioners’ trophy being hoisted in what Jonny Gomes described as ‘a baseball cathedral’. Not even Michael Wacha, who has been so good in this postseason, could save the Cardinals season, and no one player like Ortiz has dominated a series like this.
The Red Sox legend should not be allowed to hit like this on such a big stage. This is the major leagues, not slow-pitch softball but Ortiz has played the game and seen the ball as if he is superhuman.
Heck, he might be. Ortiz hit .688 this series, reaching base 19 times in 25 plate appearances even when facing some of the best and most powerful young pitchers the game has seen. St. Louis consistently churned out power arms, and Ortiz continued to just crush everything he saw.
Game 1 was Boston’s first victory in this series and it was Ortiz who fired the first shot. Left-handed reliever Kevin Siegrist – who hadn’t given up a home run to a lefty all season – witnessed Big Papi hit the first pitch he saw, a 96-mph heater, into the right field seats. There goes that streak.
In Game 2, in which the Red Sox lost 4-2, Ortiz hit a two-run home run off Michael Wacha on a 3-2 changeup. The 22-year-old pitcher hadn’t given up a home run on his changeup all season, but, well, you know how that one ended.
In Game 6, the Cardinals and manager Mike Matheny finally decided that they weren’t going to pitch to Ortiz all together. They walked him a World Series record four times – including three intentional walks – and it didn’t work with Ortiz coming round to score on two of the four free passes.
Boston manager John Farrell had anticipated such a decision. With the return of Shane Victorino after a two-game absence through a lower back injury, Farrell was able to put him in the sixth spot to, in his words, ‘lengthen the lineup behind David’. It was a move that proved inspirational. Victorino drove in four runs behind Ortiz’s walks, including a three-run triple in the third inning which cannoned off the Green Monster. The Red Sox led 3-0 and after that you knew, you just knew, that the home team were bringing it home.
The fans were loud, excited and wondering how it would feel to witness a championship in Boston.
Make no mistake, this will be remembered as Ortiz’s World Series.
While he hit .688, the rest of the team hit .169. Before the Classic began, the slugger invited everyone over to his house for a barbecue, the third such event he had held this season. Papi must do a decent burger, because the players keep going back.
That .169 average from all other hitters in this series was in fact just enough to repay Ortiz’s barbecue spread, whereas the Cardinals didn’t have one another’s backs enough. St. Louis’ 6-7-8-9 hitters batted just .146 with no RBIs in 82 at-bats.
Stephen Drew, who was 1-for-16 in the World Series coming into the fourth inning, hit a solo home run in what was also a three-run inning to really rub salt into the wounds of the dented Red Birds.
John Lackey was brilliant from the mound, giving up just one run on nine hits over 6 2/3 innings, and what happened when he was pulled from the game was nearly as surprising as this redemption season for the Red Sox.
Lackey, who has been mediocre at best since his big-money move from the Angels, walked off to a standing ovation and cries of ‘Lac-Key! Lac-Key!’. Ready for the best bit? Lackey, nearly at the dugout steps, tipped his cap in recognition, something he has never done in a Boston uniform.
He said afterward that it was to say thanks for the fans accepting what he has been through during his tenure on the east coast.
Even more appropriately, 38-year-old closer Koji Uehara needed only 13 pitches to record the final three outs. Matt Carpenter whiffed for the final out as the players and crowd rose in unison to celebrate what they had just achieved. Catcher David Ross ran to Uehara and performed a jump and hug in mid-air, which has been seen a lot this season with the Japanese closer coming to prominence.
Dustin Pedroia, who found out before the game that he was the Gold Glove winner at second base in the American League this year, said: “I’ve never felt anything like that here.
“It’s just a special place and we wanted to win so bad here, and it worked out. Obviously we want to win first off. To do it here is unbelievable.”
Ortiz is the first player since Jim Palmer of the 1966, ’70 and ’83 Orioles to win three rings without playing for the Yankees. Although Ortiz has been a part of all three since 2004 and felt similar waves of emotion after each one, he realises like everyone else that this one is different.
“I would say that because this is a team that we have a lot of players with heart,” he said.
This is a team who came together during spring training and rallied around the city of Boston after the marathon tragedy during the first month of the season. Their first-year manager John Farrell inspired them to fight each and every day, with the same level of commitment and passion as the one before.
They finished their season less than an hour before midnight on Halloween eve. The ghosts of the past and the years in which this hasn’t been seen in Boston is all over with.
A team of warriors, Ortiz embodies everything about this Red Sox side. They love one another, they play for one another, and now they have a championship which has forever put these bearded spirits in the history books. Boston waited. And Boston, in 2013, most certainly delivered.