BOSTON (AP)—All that was missing was Mark Bellhorn lingering at home plate, trying to wave the ball fair.
He created his own October memory by recalling a Fenway Park moment frozen in time: Carlton Fisk’s home run in Game 6 back in 1975.
Bellhorn hit a drive off the screen attached to Pesky’s Pole in right field in the eighth inning, and the Boston Red Sox held on to take the highest-scoring opener in World Series history, beating the St. Louis Cardinals 11-9 on Saturday night.
“I’m not here trying to be a hero, I’m just here trying to win four games,” he said.
Right after pulling a long foul, Bellhorn lofted the two-run shot off Julian Tavarez that decided a game in which the Red Sox blew an early five-run lead.
Fisk was in the old ballpark for this game, and surely he was smiling. His 12th-inning homer off the left-field foul pole beat Cincinnati, and is considered one of baseball’s most dramatic drives.
“In the playoffs, everything seems like a critical moment,” Bellhorn said. “Any game can be a pivotal game or a pivotal play.”
Cardinals right fielder Larry Walker was in position to make a play on Bellhorn’s homer, standing at the 302-foot mark.
“If the pole wasn’t there and if the stands went in about 50 more feet, I would have caught it. Unfortunately, it didn’t work that way for us,” he said.
“Just one bad pitch. Just one mistake,” Tavarez said.
Ortiz kept up his October rampage, hitting a three-run drive for Boston’s first Series homer at Fenway since Fisk’s famous shot. The ALCS MVP wound up knocking in four runs—and knocking out second baseman Tony Womack with a shot to the collarbone.
Walker did his best for the Cardinals, and still they lost their seventh straight Series road game. He homered, doubled twice, singled and hit a fly ball to left field that Ramirez muffed, helping St. Louis make it 9-all in the eighth.
“That’s why you play the game. Those are tough breaks. It’s a challenge, but you know what? We’ve had to deal with challenges all year. It’s just another challenge that we’ve overcome,” Red Sox closer Keith Foulke said.
Foulke got five outs for the victory as the Red Sox won their fifth straight postseason game, a surge that started when they came back from a 3-0 deficit to beat the New York Yankees in the ALCS.
The Cardinals beat Roger Clemens and Houston in Game 7 of the NLCS, led by sluggers Scott Rolen and Albert Pujols. But Rolen, Pujols and Jim Edmonds were held to 1-for-12 by Boston and left five runners in scoring position.
It was certainly not the best baseball ever played, with 14 walks and five errors. Still, it was entertaining.
“That was not an instructional video,” Red Sox manager Terry Francona cracked. “That was a little rough.”
Bellhorn, who struck out a Red Sox-record 177 times this season and bats ninth, connected after an error by shortstop Edgar Renteria on Jason Varitek’s grounder. Foulke worked around Marlon Anderson’s double in the ninth to finish it.
Down 7-2, the Cardinals eventually tied it when Renteria and Walker hit RBI doubles in the sixth.
Right after Ramirez singled home the go-ahead run in the seventh, Ortiz hit a wicked grounder that took a bad hop, clocked the drawn-in Womack in the collarbone and sent him to the hospital for X-rays, which were negative.
Ramirez’s RBI single made it 9-7, not that the team that led the NL with 53 comebacks wins was worried, especially with the erratic Ramirez out in left field.
Because on consecutive plays in the eighth, Ramirez let St. Louis tie it. Two singles brought Foulke from the bullpen, and Renteria hit a single that Ramirez overran for an error that scored a run.
Walker followed with his fly to left. Ramirez tried to make a sliding catch, but his spikes appeared to catch in the grass. He suddenly popped up and the ball glanced off his glove for another error and the tying run.
“The playoffs are a weird game,” Ramirez said.
The sellout crowd groaned at Ramirez’s misplays. Moments later, the fans were delirious when Bellhorn struck.
At the start, the game became a classic NL vs. AL matchup—bunts against blasts. No surprise, the boppers went ahead because of Ortiz’s shot off Woody Williams.
But Tim Wakefield’s wildness let the Cardinals rally from the 7-2 deficit. The first knuckleballer to start a Series game since Gene Bearden in 1948, he couldn’t control his floater in the blustery conditions and tied a Series record with four walks during a three-run fourth.
At 49 degrees with a 21 mph wind, it was a bit nippy. Plenty of players put on ski caps for batting practice and Cardinals manager Tony La Russa wore gloves on the bench. Commissioner Bud Selig bundled up in a heavy coat and scarf next to the Boston dugout, three rows in front of cuddling couple Jennifer Garner and Ben Affleck.
Williams, however, took the mound in short sleeves. After posting Game 1 wins in the first two playoff rounds, he struggled in the cold and soon St. Louis had someone warming up.
Boston chased him in the third on Johnny Damon’s bases-loaded single. Dan Haren relieved, Orlando Cabrera hit an RBI single on the first pitch and Ramirez had a run-scoring groundout for a 7-2 lead—the Boston slugger did not have an RBI in the ALCS.
That’s when Wakefield committed a pitcher’s sin—he walked the bases loaded to begin the fourth.
Boston’s defense messed up for the first time starting with Mike Matheny’s second sacrifice fly of the game. Cutoff man Kevin Millar hesitated, then skipped his relay into the stands while trying to get a runner at third.
Defensive whiz So Taguchi, playing left field to let Reggie Sanders be the DH, got an RBI when third baseman Bill Mueller couldn’t cleanly grip a grounder, and just like that it was 7-5. Wakefield left after his fifth walk, and Bronson Arroyo relieved.
Ortiz kept up his penchant for key hits, launching his fifth homer of the postseason. The drive down the line sailed above the foul pole, right-field umpire Charlie Reliford emphatically signaled fair ball and the Red Sox spilled out of the dugout to greet their big “Papi.”
A double by Millar and a two-out single by Mueller made it 4-0.
The Cardinals manufactured a run in the second. Edmonds bunted for a single down the third-base line against the extremely overshifted infield, Womack sacrificed and Matheny had a sacrifice fly that made it 4-1.
Walker, in the Series for the first time in a 16-year career, homered in the third.
“I think it was a great game for us. Down 7-2, we tied it,” he said. “In the end, they scored more runs than we did.”
Ortiz became the 28th player to homer in his first Series at-bat. Troy Glaus of Anahaeim (2002) was the last to do it. … Pitcher Jose Santiago was the only other Red Sox player to homer in his first Series at-bat, doing it against St. Louis’ Bob Gibson in 1967.