Monday, October 29, 2007

World Series Game 4: We Are The Champions

Final Score: Boston Red Sox 4, Colorado Rockies 3

I've paid my dues/Time after time/I've done my sentence/But committed no crime

I've been trying to figure out what to write about last night ever since Papelbon threw that final strike and leaped straight up in the air like a caricature of a celebration, as the people all around screamed and shouted for joy, as I jumped from my seat like I was shot from a gun. Three years ago, I couldn't process it all at once; bits of happy kept leaking out and I'd start grinning for no good reason. This time around, the feeling is different; I'm satisfied, like I've just eaten a good meal with a fine wine, and I'm sitting on a screen porch watching the sun go down on a warm summer evening. This Red Sox team was the team intended to win it all, with a catalyst for winning hidden like genetic coding in Pedroia's swing and Ellsbury's feet and Lowell's glove work. That catalyst finally ignited when the Sox had their backs to the wall in Game 5 of the ALCS, but looking closely you could see that ability to win everything was there from the start.

And bad mistakes/I've made a few/I've had my share of sand kicked in my face/But I've come through

As for the game itself, well...before last night, Jon Lester hadn't thrown a ball in anger about a month, a length of time that seems inconceivable in a World Series starter until you look at his opponent, Aaron Cook, who hadn't pitched since August. Lester's reputation for high-risk, five-run outings with low inning totals and high pitch counts made a loss a very real possibility, but the results were otherwise: nearly six innings of scoreless, three-hit ball, a night spoiled only by losing the plate before he departed to Terry's wonderfully quick hook. The overused Okajima might regret the placement of the pitch that Garrett Atkins smashed over the wall in left, but excellent bullpen management and the sheer awesome factor embodied by our godlike closer (no runs, two hits, three strikeouts, and three saves in four and a third innings? There is no stopping the Cinco Ocho!) meant that we can now define a "Colorado Rally" as "not quite good enough."

I've taken my bows/And my curtain calls/You brought me fame and fortuen and everything that goes with it/I thank you all

On the hitting side, there was plenty to enjoy, too. Draw first blood? Check: Ellsbury and Papi connecting in the first for a double/single combo to score Boston's last first run of 2007. Contributions from the all-pistons firing lineup? Check: solo shot from MVP Lowell, RBI single by Varitek, a .333 batting average and a .936 OPS as a team through the Fall Classic. Random off-the-bench contributions? Check: Bobby Kielty, coming off the bench to hit the home run that made the difference in one of those odd baseball events that make great trivia and stories for the grandkids ("I remember when Bobby Kielty hit that home run that won the Red Sox the championship in one expected it to make a difference...").

But it's been no bed of roses/No pleasure cruise/I consider it a challenge before the whole human race/And I ain't gonna lose

All in all, this game, this series, and the championship with it are confirmation of the transition of the Red Sox from hard-luck underdogs or misguided over-spenders who tinkered with their winnings to winners, pure and simple. As the winter progresses and you pine again for Spring and baseball, remember: the Red Sox have a built a powerhouse in Fenway; a group of guys capable of going the distance for years to come. It's time to revel in what they've put together. GO SOX!!!

We are the champions - my friends/And we'll keep on fighting - till the end/We are the champions/We are the champions/No time for losers/'Cause we are the champions - of the world