Red Sox 4, Cardinals 1
ST. LOUIS (AP) -- The Boston Red Sox are making this look too easy.
Because at this rate, only a curse can stop them. So far, the St. Louis Cardinals canï¿½t.
With their baseball stars and lucky stars aligned, the Red Sox moved within one victory of their first World Series championship since 1918, cruising past the Cardinals 4-1 Tuesday night.
No one knows better than Pedro Martinez, Manny Ramirez and the wild-card Red Sox that a 3-0 lead can be overcome; they just became the first team to do it in the postseason, against the New York Yankees.
But no one knows better than the Red Sox how elusive that last win can be; four times since that last title theyï¿½ve been one victory away, and four times theyï¿½ve lost.
ï¿½Weï¿½re not going to relax that much,ï¿½ Martinez said. ï¿½I donï¿½t think our teamï¿½s going to relax as much as the Yankees were.ï¿½
Martinez made his long-awaited Series debut a special one, bailed out when Ramirez and David Ortiz did as much damage with their arms as bats.
Backed by the surprising show of defense, the Red Sox got in position to sweep the club that led the majors in wins this year. And to think that last week, they were three outs from getting swept in the AL championship series.
ï¿½Itï¿½s something youï¿½ve got to notice. Itï¿½s possible,ï¿½ Cardinals manager Tony La Russa said. ï¿½Hard not to get discouraged. They didnï¿½t.
ï¿½I think the one thing Iï¿½m absolutely confident about is that weï¿½ve come too far to give an effort that will embarrass anybody tomorrow.ï¿½
Derek Lowe will try to finish it off for Boston on Wednesday night, starting against Jason Marquis in Game 4.
ï¿½We donï¿½t want people to think this Series is over,ï¿½ Lowe said.
Still, Red Sox fans gathered around the Boston dugout and chanted ï¿½One more win! One more win!ï¿½ after the final out. Meanwhile, this sign curiously was posted on a side scoreboard at Busch Stadium: ï¿½Thanks for a great 2004 season.ï¿½
Then again, the Red Sox have seen something similar before.
When they were within one strike of the 1986 title in Game 6, a message popped onto the Shea Stadium scoreboard congratulating them on winning the World Series. A couple of days later, the New York Mets beat them in Game 7.
Pitching a day after his 33rd birthday, Martinez threw seven innings of shutout ball, holding the limp Cardinals to three hits and retiring his last 14 batters. He did it without the blazing fastball that made him a three-time Cy Young Award winner, instead mixing his deliveries.
ï¿½He has a history of being pretty good,ï¿½ Red Sox manager Terry Francona said.
Larry Walker homered in the ninth off Boston closer Keith Foulke. By then, it was too late as St. Louisï¿½ big hitters fell short.
Scott Rolen again went hitless, leaving him at 0-for-11. Albert Pujols, Rolen and Jim Edmonds, the 3-4-5 guys for the Cardinals, are 5-for-33 with one RBI.
Ramirez put Boston ahead with a first-inning homer and Martinez held it, helped by superb defense and shaky baserunning. Added up, the Red Sox set a team record with their seventh straight postseason win, bettering the streak of six capped off by Babe Ruthï¿½s win in the 1916 Series.
That Martinez won was hardly amazing. That Bostonï¿½s defense contributed was downright shocking.
The Red Sox made eight errors and still won the first two games. This time, they were flawless in the fieldï¿½and maybe even better than that.
Ramirez, coming off two gaffes in Game 1, threw out Walker at the plate from left field to end the first inning. The lumbering Ortiz, in the lineup because Boston did not have the DH slot, alertly caught losing pitcher Jeff Suppan later.
ï¿½I was really happy to see Manny, not even thinking about what happened at Fenway,ï¿½ Martinez said.
The Cardinals loaded the bases with one out in the first and crowd sensed a big hit coming.
Edmonds lofted a fly ball to shallow left and Walker decided to make a run for it, but Ramirez was equal to the challenge and made an accurate throw home. Catcher Jason Varitek decoyed, standing as if there was no play before suddenly catching the ball and slapping on the tag.
Ahead 1-0, Boston did it again with defense in the third.
Suppan started it with a swinging-bunt single and Edgar Renteria hit a double that sent Trot Nixon sliding feet first into a warning track puddle, a pratfall right out of a Wet&Wild Ride&Slide.
The crowd came to its feet, but Walker rapped a weak grounder to second baseman Mark Bellhorn, which should have easily been enough to advance the runners and score the tying run.
With third-base coach Jose Oquendo urging him to run, Suppan made a quick break for the plate and then stopped while Renteria took off for third. Ortiz caught Bellhornï¿½s throw, took a second and noticed the Cardinalsï¿½ confusion on the bases.
Ortiz made a perfect throw across the diamond to nail Suppan, and a grounder by Pujols ended the inning and brought out the boos.
ï¿½Jeff heard, ï¿½No! no!ï¿½ and Jose, he was yelling, ï¿½Go! go!ï¿½ï¿½ La Russa said.
Bill Mueller and Nixon hit consecutive doubles with two outs in the fourth, and Boston scored twice in the fifth for a 4-0 lead.
Ramirez singled home a run and Mueller later chased Suppan with an RBI single. Of Bostonï¿½s 20 runs in the Series, 10 have come with two outs.
Notes: Ortiz started 32 games at 1B this year. He has a .991 career fielding percentage, and is not known for his range. ... St. Louis has given up a first-inning run in 11 of 14 postseason games this year. ... Ramirez tied Reggie Jackson and Mickey Mantle for second place on the postseason homer list with 18. Bernie Williams leads with 22.