Red Sox Draw First Blood in Battle of Top Offenses

Going into the 100th edition of the World Series, featuring two of the most prolific scoring teams in their respective leagues, could we have expected anything less than a slugfest? The two powerful lineups provided the answer on Saturday night in Game 1 at Fenway Park with the Boston Red Sox drawing first blood over the St. Louis Cardinals, 11-9, in the heavyweight match-up of league champions.

Mark Bellhorn delivered the knockout blow in the bottom of the eighth inning with a towering two-run blast that knocked off the fair pole, Pesky's Pole as they call it in Beantown, breaking a 9-9 tie off loser Julian Tavarez.

"It was a battle up there. He threw a couple of pitches inside," said Bellhorn, whose homerun proved to be the game-winner. "That last pitch was a slider and I put a good swing on it."

Both the Red Sox and Cardinals put lots of good swings on pitches, with Boston taking an early 4-0 lead after one inning. ALCS hero David Ortiz picked up where he left off by hitting a three-run shot down the right-field line, sailing over Pesky's Pole, to set the tone early. Former Giant Bill Mueller later added a run-scoring single to cap off the four-run inning.

"We're in a situation that we have to give it everything we have," said Ortiz, who tied a Boston WS record for most RBI in a single game with four. "We have no choice. It's a short series and you have to come out with your best."

Unfortunately, the Red Sox did not come out with their best defense as four Boston errors led to four gift runs for St. Louis. After three full innings, the Red Sox had a commanding 7-2 lead, but a critical defensive error allowed the Cardinals to get back into the game.

After starter Tim Wakefield walked the bases loaded in the Cardinals' half of the fourth, Mike Matheny hit a routine flyball to right field which Trot Nixon caught and threw to home plate. On the relay, first baseman Kevin Millar cut the throw off and tried to get the runner out at third base, but threw the ball wildly into the Cardinals' dugout, allowing two runs to score on the play. It cut the Red Sox lead to 7-4.

"When you score [in your half of an inning], the last thing you want to do is walk somebody and [Wakefield] walked three," Francona said. "When you have a four-run lead, five-run lead, it's hard to walk people and get away with it."

After Wakefield walked yet another batter, Francona made a call to the bullpen and summoned Bronson Arroyo. A fifth starter during the regular season, Arroyo has done a decent job in relief this postseason and continued that effectiveness by retiring Albert Pujols on a ground-out with the bases loaded to end the scoring threat.

Arroyo cruised for another inning before running into the trouble in the sixth frame. After two outs, So Taguchi hit a weak grounder back to Arroyo which the right-hander picked up off-balance and threw wildly to first base, allowing Taguchi to take second base. Edgar Renteria followed with a double to left-center field, scoring Taguchi and cutting the Red Sox lead to 7-6. Larry Walker then hit another double to score Renteria and completed the Cardinals comeback to tie the ballgame at 7-7.

"They've got a nice lineup. We don't concede anything. Our lineup is dangerous, too," Cardinals manager Tony La Russ said. "You open the door, however you open it, guys are going to score."

After the Red Sox regained the lead with two runs in the seventh, left fielder Manny Ramirez opened the door for the Cardinals and allowed two runs to score on two consecutive errors in the eighth inning. He bobbled a ball on one play and fell on his knees on another, allowing St. Louis to tie the score at 9-9.

With the bases loaded and only one out, former Giant and Red Sox closer Keith Foulke slammed the door on the Cardinals' scoring threat in the eighth inning by retiring Scott Rolen on a pop-up and striking out Jim Edmonds.

"It's the same mindset all the time. I never shut it down mentally," said Foulke, who picked up the win in relief. "Two of the best teams in baseball, you know it's never going to be easy."

After Bellhorn recaptured the lead for Boston in the bottom of the eighth, Foulke capped off a scoreless ninth by striking out Roger Cedeno to end the game. The two teams set a WS record for most runs scored in a Game 1.

Despite committing four errors and blowing a five-run lead, the Red Sox will take the win. "It's big. It's a hell of a lot better than being down 0-3," Foulke said, referring to last week's ALCS.

"I didn't feel a lot of momentum until the game was over," said Francona, who tied a franchise record for most postseason victories (8) by a Boston manager. "That was not an instructional video to send to an instructional league. That was rough."

Hoping to keep the momentum going for the Red Sox will be Curt Schilling (2-1, 4.86 ERA this postseason) and all his bloodied "red sock" glory. The Cardinals will counter with right-hander Matt Morris (0-1, 5.29) on Sunday night for Game 2 at Fenway Park.

Notes around the Majors
* According to the Chicago Tribune, the Chicago Cubs will decline the $11 million club option on left fielder Moises Alou, son of Giants manager Felipe Alou. The report states that the Cubs will officially decline the option sometime in the next week. Alou will receive a $2 million buyout as a result.

* The Tribune also reported that right fielder Sammy Sosa continues to be missing in action. His agent, Adam Katz, has promised Cubs management that his client plans to apologize for his infamous early exit during Chicago's last game of the 2004 season. The Cubs are reportedly exploring trade options for the slugger.

* The Red Sox honored Victoria Snelgrove before the game with a moment of silence. Snelgrove was killed by a pepper-spray gun during a rowdy post-game celebration last Wednesday, which Boston Police later apologized for. The 21-year-old was a student at Emerson College.

* The Red Sox left pitcher Ramiro Mendoza off the series roster in favor of third baseman Kevin Youkilis. The move reduces the Boston pitching staff's total to 10, indicating that the Red Sox feel confident in Schilling's ankle.

* Actor and Red Sox fan Ben Affleck was in attendance at Fenway Park on Saturday. He was seen alongside actress Jennifer Gardner, sharing laughs and a Boston victory.



Phil Delacruz was a transplanted Giants fan, buried in the Southland. After four strenuous years in College, studying (read: partying), he's back in the beautiful "City by the Bay" – San Francisco. Do you think he should move back to LALA land? Or do you like him where he is now and appreciate the good reads? Either way, send him an e-mail at phildelacruz@aol.com to air out your frustrations or, more likely, songs of praise.

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