DENVER - When it happened the first time, in 2004, Terry Francona was stricken with temporary amnesia.
”I actually don’t remember getting out to the field,” the Red Sox manager said of a moment burnished deep in New England memory banks. “You wait your whole life for that minute, and I don’t know where the hell it went.”
A minute that used to recur like a comet, once every 86 years or so and missed by generations of Sox fans, is beginning to feel like a birthright. For the second time in four seasons, the Red Sox are World Series champions, Francona and the rest of the Sox dugout borne onto Coors Field by the same wave of euphoria that struck in 2004.
The Sox completed a four-game sweep of the Rockies with a 4-3 win before 50,041 witnesses, the Rockies succumbing as swiftly as the Cardinals did in ‘04.
The seventh world championship in franchise history comes in a year in which the Sox were mighty in spring - leaping to a 10-game lead by the middle of May - and splendid in autumn, knocking aside the Angels, Indians, and Rockies.
”It’s a little different,” said Sox general manager Theo Epstein when asked to compare that championship feeling. “But this one was sweet because it was a top-to-bottom organizational effort.”
”Maybe, just maybe, we’re prepared to compete at a very high level for a long time to come. Baseball will humble you in a hurry. Just when you think you have something, it turns on you.
”No one wants to sit here, spray champagne, and talk about how we’re going to be great for a long period of time. We have a foundation now, and let’s see what we do with it.”
The Sox join the Yankees as the only American League teams to sweep in successive Series appearances, and the third team overall, Cincinnati doing it in 1976 and 1990. The Sox became the 20th team in 103 years of World Series play to win by sweep.
The Sox won their final seven games of the postseason. Their longest winning streak of the regular season was five.
The Rockies, playing in their first World Series in the 14-year history of the franchise, closed to within a run when Garrett Atkins hit a two-run home run off a spent Hideki Okajima in the eighth. But Jonathan Papelbon, who did not allow a run in 10 2/3 innings in the postseason, made it three saves in four games by getting the last five outs. Jamey Carroll, who hit just two home runs in the regular season, sent Jacoby Ellsbury back to the wall for a leaping catch in left field for the second out of the ninth. “I thought it would be a double,” Papelbon. “Ellsbury played it great.”
Moments later, with Curt Schilling poised to lead the charge onto the field, Papelbon struck out pinch hitter Seth Smith to end it, his glove soaring into thin air, while Jason Varitek, sticking the ball in his back pocket, lumbered out to leap into Papelbon’s arms.
”I’m spent, man,” said Papelbon, who last September was contemplating life as something other than as Sox closer because his shoulder popped out of joint. “It’s been an amazing ride. Hopefully, with the guys we have in this clubhouse, and with our front office, we have a chance to be here year after year.”
Jon Lester, the cancer survivor who began the spring with Gabe Kapler in the low minors, brought a lump to the throat with 5 2/3 scoreless innings. “His ability to go out and focus on what he had to tonight, after all that he’s been through and the road he has traveled, it’s a storybook ending to a great year,” said Francona.
Manny Delcarmen, the kid from Hyde Park, had a big strikeout to end the sixth. Mike Timlin, in what may have been a last hurrah, struck out Kaz Matsui and Troy Tulowitzki to finish the Colorado seventh.
Ellsbury, who began the season in Double A, doubled and scored the first run. Mike Lowell, who came to Boston as ransom for Josh Beckett, doubled and scored the second run and homered for the third. Varitek, the 35-year-old captain, singled home Lowell. And Bobby Kielty, grandson of a Fitchburg mail carrier and picked up off the scrap heap in August, hit the home run in the eighth that was the deciding run.
Lowell was named the Series MVP after batting .400 (6 for 15) with six runs and four RBIs.
”I mean, that’s a player there’s no way you can get rid of,” said David Ortiz.