ANAHEIM, Calif. - Unlike the late Frank Sinatra, your Boston Red Sox get plenty of kicks from champagne.
The Red Sox enjoyed another bubbly bacchanal yesterday clinching their Division Series against the anemic Angels with a 9-1 drubbing before 45,262 mostly numb witnesses in Orange County. The muscle-flexing Franconamen open the American League Championship Series Friday night at Fenway Park.
Still a postseason warrior, 40-year-old Curt Schilling (9-2 lifetime in the playoffs) pitched seven innings of shutout ball and got all the runs he needed when David Ortiz and Manny Ramírez - Boston’s new-age Ruth and Gehrig - crushed back-to-back home runs in the fourth inning. Ortiz hit .714 in the series and the duo reached base 19 times. Boston put it away with a seven-run eighth, and a contingent of Red Sox fans hung around the first base dugout to salute the winners after J. D. Drew caught the final out in right field.
Minutes later, the Sox cracked open more champagne and doused one another just as they did after winning the American League East at Fenway Sept. 28.
”It’s the wettest I’ve ever seen it,” said owner John W. Henry, who has witnessed a lot of postgame celebrations in his six-year tenure.
This is a pretty good time to be a sports fan in Boston. The undefeated Patriots are the best team in the NFL, the Boston College Eagles are ranked fourth in the country in the latest AP football poll, and the popular local baseball team is going to the ALCS - just four wins away from another trip to the World Series.
It’s too bad the Sox have four days off before their next game. They are white hot as they head into the ALCS and aren’t likely to benefit from too much time away from the ballpark.
”We’ll take it as it comes, have our workouts, and try to stay sharp and get ready for Game 1,” said veteran Mike Lowell. “I don’t think there should be any letdown. It’s going to be a tough series and hopefully we can be ready for it.”
Given the way the Division Series unfolded, it’s surprising the Sox didn’t check out of their hotel California early yesterday morning. There appeared to be no way they could lose to the Angels. Josh Beckett blanked the Halos on four hits in Game 1 at Fenway and Ramírez won Game 2 with a blast over the Fenway Coke bottles 44 minutes into Saturday morning. Game 3 never seemed close, even though it was 2-0 in the top of the eighth. Los Angeles hit only .192 for the series and three of the mainstays of the Angels lineup were on the shelf for the finale. Going back to 1986, the Sox have beaten the Halos nine straight times in playoff competition.
”They’re a great ball club,” Angels manager Mike Scioscia said after the sweep. “We just couldn’t match up with them. They played great baseball and took it to us. They beat us. It wasn’t because of our health. Those guys went out there and beat us.”
The Angels hit the ball hard in the early innings, but couldn’t do anything with men on base. Los Angeles starter Jered Weaver got out of a second-and-third, no-out jam in the second, but paid the price when he tried to throw the ball past Ortiz and Ramírez in the fourth.
Ortiz’s shot was a routine parabolic homer to right. Ramírez’s was a monstrous clout into the Disney rock/waterfall display in center. Ramírez’s homer came on his first official at-bat (he walked in the second) since his walkoff shot at Fenway. There was some grumbling about Ramírez’s show-off stylin’ after the shot in Boston, but it’s pretty clear Ramírez does not care because he raised his arms again after connecting off Weaver and took eight steps, admiring his work, before breaking into his home run trot. The Angels had no answer.
Schilling knows what to do with a lead and the big righty mowed down the Angels like so many dandelions once he had the 2-0 cushion. He gave up only one hit in the middle three innings and got out of a runner-on-third-with-one-out jam in the seventh.
Ordinarily there are not many big moments in a 9-1 game, but this was one. It was still 2-0 in the seventh when Maicer Izturis led off with a double (almost caught by a diving Coco Crisp) to left-center. Izturis took third on a grounder to the right side, but was stranded when Schilling got Juan Rivera to pop up, then fanned Mike Napoli on his 100th and last pitch of the game.
Buoyed by the work of the erstwhile ace, the Sox erupted for seven off three Angels relievers to put it away in the eighth. Crisp’s two-run single made it 9-0 as many of the 45,262 beat feet for Orange County’s ever-clogged roadways. Thousands of Red Sox fans, meanwhile, moved closer to the first base dugout, preparing for the party after the final out.
The 9-0 lead gave Francona a perfect spot to try out the beleaguered Eric Gagné in the ninth. Gagné coughed up the shutout almost immediately as Izturis led off with a double, took third on a wild pitch, and scored on a sacrifice fly by Howie Kendrick.
Pinch hitter Robb Quinlan ended it with a lazy fly to right and the Sox were on their way home with plenty of time to sleep off any champagne hangover.