When Red Sox starter John Lackey left the dugout alone at 7:38 p.m. to warm up for Game 6 of the World Series on Wednesday night, the fans along the first base line at Fenway Park stood and applauded.
Every fan in the old ballpark was cheering as Lackey arrived in right field and he smiled, just a little.
Exactly three hours later, when Lackey left the mound in the seventh inning with glory well in hand, the applause was thunderous.
The redemption of a pitcher and his team is complete. The Red Sox finished their improbable last-to-first journey with a 6-1 victory against the St. Louis Cardinals before a crowd of 38,447.
Most Valuable Player David Ortiz was walked four times, three intentionally. But Shane Victorino drove in four runs and Stephen Drew homered to give Lackey all the run support he needed.
Ortiz reached base 19 times in 24 plate appearances in the Series and drove in six runs.
The Red Sox became the first team since the 1991 Minnesota Twins to go from last place in their division to a World Series title in the span of a year. From the ashes of a 69-93 season, the Sox won their eighth championship, this one under first-year manager John Farrell.
It was the first World Series won at Fenway Park since 1918.
The game ended, appropriately, with closer Koji Uehara getting the final out with a strikeout of Matt Carpenter. He jumped into the arms of catcher David Ross and pointed to the night sky.
In all, the Red Sox played 178 games this season and won 108 of them.
St. Louis starter Michael Wacha, a 22-year-old rookie righthander, had allowed three earned runs over 27 innings in the postseason while striking out 28. That included six innings against the Red Sox in Game 2, when he gave up two runs.
Going back to Aug. 22, Wacha had a 1.25 earned run average over 65 innings. It was an impossible standard to maintain, and he could not.
Wacha was done after 3 2/3 innings. He was charged with six runs on five hits, four walks and a hit batter.
The Red Sox broke through against Wacha in the third inning. Jacoby Ellsbury, a pending free agent playing what may have been his last game in a Red Sox uniform, led off with a single. The Cardinals then intentionally walked Ortiz with one out.
Wacha struck out Mike Napoli for the second out but he hit Jonny Gomes in the shoulder with a 93 mile-per-hour fastball to load the bases. The ball got the worst of it.
Fenway Park seemed about to burst as Victorino walked to the plate, almost every seat unoccupied as the crowd stood in anticipation of a game-changing moment.
Victorino, who had missed the two previous games with a lower back strain, got ahead in the count 2-and-0, took a fastball for a strike, then lined a fastball high off the wall in left field for a double.
Three runs scored as Gomes sprinted around the bases and eluded the tag of Yadier Molina at the plate. Victorino took third on the throw and pounded his chest when he got there having given his team a 3-0 lead.
The Sox took control of the game in the fourth inning, scoring three more runs and knocking Wacha out of the game.
Stephen Drew led off with a home run into the Red Sox bullpen in right field, a satisfying shot that had him raising his fist to the sky as he rounded first base.
Drew had been 4 for 51 before the blast and 1 for 16 in the Series. Farrell has been playing him for his steady glove at shortstop and accepting the lack of production at the plate. But with a championship to be had, Drew delivered.
Ellsbury doubled to right field with one out. Pedroia then flied to right field and Ellsbury advanced to third. With two outs and first base open, Wacha intentionally walked Ortiz again.
Lance Lynn, the Game 4 starter, replaced Wacha. Napoli dropped a single into center field to score Ellsbury. Gomes extended the inning by drawing a walk. Victorino came through again with an RBI single to left field.
That gave Victorino 12 RBIs in the postseason. Before the double and the single, he had been 0 for 10 in the Series.
By the end of the sixth inning, Cardinals manager Mike Matheny had his fourth reliever in the game. The bullpen slowed the Red Sox hitters down, but with Lackey controlling the Cardinals, it was fruitless for St. Louis.
Lackey left two runners stranded in the second inning and two more in the fourth. He took a 6-0 lead into the seventh.
Daniel Descalso singled with two outs and went to third when Matt Carpenter doubled. When Carlos Beltran singled to drive in a run, Farrell came out to the mound. But after an animated discussion with Lackey, he left his starter in the game.
Lackey walked Matt Holliday to load the bases and Farrell came out again. As Lackey left the game, for the first time all season he tipped his cap to a crowd that once booed him mercilessly in 2011.
Junichi Tazawa came in and got Allen Craig to ground to first base to end the inning.
Lackey scattered nine hits and allowed the one run. He walked one and struck out five.
Lackey became the first pitcher in history to start and win the clinching game of a World Series for two different teams. He won Game 7 for the Angels in 2002 as a 24-year-old rookie.
Lackey also is the 11th pitcher to win two games to clinch a Series, joining such luminaries as Bob Gibson, Lefty Gomez, and Sandy Koufax. Lackey had a 2.77 ERA in the postseason and against the Cardinals allowed four runs over 14 innings.