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Sports

From the archives | Oct. 23

Red Sox outlast Cardinals in error-filled Series opener

Mark Bellhorn’s homer rescues sloppy Sox

Mark Bellhorn watches his home run sail out of the park late in the Game 1 victory.

Jim Davis/Globe Staff

Mark Bellhorn watches his home run sail out of the park late in the Game 1 victory.

The last Red Sox manager who reached the World Series expressed a memorable measure of relief after his team survived Game 1 at Shea Stadium in 1986.

Had any of his moves blown up like a trick cigar, John McNamara said after the Sox edged the Mets, 1-0, “My body might be in the Charles River.”

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Terry Francona did all he could to avoid a watery fate by pulling on his uniform at 10:10 a.m. and preparing for the first World Series in the Hub since McNamara’s Sox plunged in seven games against the Mets. Francona’s happy band of bad boys did the rest as they overcame a wobbly outing by Tim Wakefield and a goofy array of defensive gaffes to outlast the Cardinals, 11-9, before 35,035 in the Fens in an ugly affair that all but shattered the image of a Fall Classic.

Style points mattered little to the Sox after Mark Bellhorn blasted a cathartic, two-run shot off Pesky’s Pole with one out in the bottom of the eighth to break a 9-9 tie and erase an embarrassing pair of costly blunders by Manny Ramirez in the top of the inning.

”This team has a lot of heart and character,” Bellhorn said. “Somehow I think we had the confidence to come back, so we did. Bellhorn struck a 1-and-2 slider off righthander Julian Tavarez at 11:56 p.m., moments after Jason Varitek reached on an error by St. Louis shortstop Edgar Renteria.

The Cardinals committed one error and the Sox made four, tying a World Series record set by the Brewers against the Cardinals in Game 6 of the 1982 World Series.

The winner of Game 1 has won six of the last seven World Series and 59 of 99 overall. And, as everyone knew, the Sox were chasing their first world championship in 86 years.

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One down, three to go, with Curt Schilling on the mound in Game 2.

With the Sox clinging to a 9-7 lead in the eighth, their chances of securing the first win suddenly turned dicey when Ramirez almost singlehandedly let it slip away by committing a pair of errors. First, he bobbled a routine single by Renteria, allowing Jason Marquis to score and pull the Cardinals within a run. Then he tried to make a sliding catch on a shallow fly by Larry Walker, only to let the ball bounce off his glove as he caught his cleats on a drain and cartwheeled out of control, allowing the tying run to score.

After the chaos created by Ramirez’s goofs, Keith Foulke salvaged the victory by getting the final five outs. The Cardinals brought the tying run to the plate before Foulke got Yadier Molina to pop out and fanned Roger Cedeno.

While Wakefield and the Sox’ defense faltered, the mightiest offense in the game rescued them. Before Bellhorn struck, Senor Octubre, David Ortiz, led the way by launching a three-run shot in the first inning -- the first World Series homer in the Fens since Carlton Fisk’s historic blast in Game 6 of the ‘75 Classic -- and singling home another run in the seventh to match Carl Yastrzemski’s ‘67 club record for RBIs (four) in a World Series game.

Ramirez, despite his frolics in the field, helped by breaking out of his postseason RBI drought and knocking in a pair, including a go-ahead run to snap a 7-7 standoff in the seventh. Ortiz followed with a bad-hop single off Tony Womack’s collarbone for a two-run lead.

Thanks largely to Ortiz’s homer and a three-run rally in the fourth, the Sox led, 7-2, when the sky began to fall. Unable to spot his breaking ball, Wakefield opened the inning by firing 12 of his first 13 pitches for balls to load the bases. After a sacrifice fly to right, Kevin Millar exacted an additional toll by firing a relay to third on a couple of bounces that got away for an error, helping the Cardinals creep back to within 7-4.

Still, the Sox prevailed, as frightening as it was at times.

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