ST. LOUIS -- On the eve of the 18th anniversary of Bill Buckner’s fateful error in Game 6 of the 1986 World Series, the Red Sox knew they were battling history as well as the Cardinals as they pursued the franchise’s first world championship in 86 years.
After all, the Sox seized a 2-0 lead in the ‘86 Series on the road before they lost in seven games to the Mets. And the last thing they wanted to do after going up, 2-0, in the 2004 Series against the Cardinals was give St. Louis a chance.
But the 2004 Red Sox aren’t worried about the past, not after a stirring performance by Pedro Martinez, who pitched seven dazzling innings, limiting the powerful Cardinals to three hits in a decisive 4-1 victory in Game 3.
Mike Timlin (scoreless eighth) and Keith Foulke closed the door, although Foulke allowed a homer in the ninth to Larry Walker.
Martinez, making his first appearance in a World Series, silenced the Cardinals, in part because the Cardinals ran into two costly outs in the first four innings. First, Manny Ramirez threw out Walker trying to score on a fly to left in the first inning. Then David Ortiz doubled up Jeff Suppan in the third inning in one of the ugliest base-running gaffes in postseason history.
Ramirez also led the offensive attack, launching a solo homer off Suppan in the first inning and singling home another run in the fifth. Trot Nixon and Bill Mueller also chipped in with RBI singles.
The Sox became the 21st team in World Series history to grab a 3-0 lead in the best-of-seven classic. No team has blown a 3-0 lead in the World Series.
”We can’t take anything for granted,” Alan Embree said. “We proved it last series.”
With two outs in the first inning, Ramirez belted a 91-mile-per-hour fastball on a 2-and-2 count from Suppan for his first World Series home run since 1997 with the Indians. The estimated distance, into the left-field seats, was 386 feet, though it looked longer. In any case, the homer was the 18th of his career in the postseason, tying him with Reggie Jackson and Mickey Mantle for second all-time. They trail Bernie Williams, who has 22.
Staked to the 1-0 lead, Martinez struggled to hold it in the bottom of the first. He contributed to the challenge by sandwiching walks to Walker and Scott Rolen around an infield single to third by Albert Pujols, loading the bases with one out.
But just when it seemed as if the Cardinals might counter, Ramirez came up big in the field. He caught a fly by Jim Edmonds at medium depth in left field and, with Walker breaking from third, fired a one-hop strike to Varitek in plenty of time to nail Walker.
At that, Suppan silenced the Sox over the next two innings, surrendering only a harmless walk to Orlando Cabrera with two outs in the third.
Then things got dicey again for Martinez. Suppan started trouble by legging out a perfectly placed bunt down the third base line. The situation worsened for the Sox when Edgar Renteria followed with an opposite-field double to the warning track in right, sending Suppan to third.
But once again fortune smiled on the Sox in their moment of need. This time Walker bounced a routine grounder to Mark Bellhorn at second. Bellhorn, who was prepared to allow Suppan to score from third, fired to first to retire Walker. But in a crucial blunder, Suppan ran halfway for home, only to reverse direction in no-man’s land, prompting first baseman Ortiz to throw to Mueller at third in time to double up Suppan and kill the Cardinals rally. Suppan aggravated matters by returning to the base tentatively.
This time, the Sox gathered some momentum as Mueller doubled to left-center with two outs in the fourth inning and raced home on Nixon’s single deep to right for a 2-0 lead.