BOSTON -- Remember when we thought the Red Sox would never win one of these?
What a difference a decade makes.
The Sox completed the 10-year trifecta Wednesday night, romping past the Cardinals, 6-1, and clinching the 2013 World Series championship, their third Series title in the last 10 seasons. The Sox become the first team to win three championships in the 21st century -- they were also the first team to win two championships this century -- and now have eight Series crowns overall, the fourth-highest total in MLB history.
And while this Series wasn't as easy as the four-game sweeps they pulled over the Cardinals in 2004 and Rockies in 2007 -- St. Louis won Games 2 and 3 and put up hard battles in Games 4 and 5 -- Wednesday night was virtually a three-hour party.
Sox starter John Lackey was more workmanlike than wondrous over the early going -- he wiggled out of a second-and-third, two-out jam in the second, and was the beneficiary of a double play in the third -- but that was all the Sox needed from him. After knocking on the door against the Cardinals' Michael Wacha over the first two innings, stranding three runners, they knocked it down in the third.
Jacoby Ellsbury got it started with a single to right, and he moved to second on a grounder by Dustin Pedroia. The Cardinals finally came to their senses and intentionally walked David Ortiz, and it looked like the strategy would pay off when Mike Napoli fanned for the second out. But then Wacha hit Jonny Gomes, loading the bases, and Shane Victorino cleared the bases with a double high off the wall in left, making it 3-0.
Then, in the fourth, they delivered the knockout punch.
It started when Stephen Drew -- yes, Stephen (4-for-51 in the postseason to that point) Drew -- homered into the bullpen, making it 4-0. After David Ross struck out, Jacoby Ellsbury doubled to the base of the wall of the Cardinals' bullpen in right. He moved to third on a fly to right by Pedroia, after which the Cards again intentionally walked Ortiz. And again it backfired, as Napoli singled home Ellsbury, Gomes walked, and Victorino singled home Napoli. 6-0, Boston, and celebrations started all over New England.
The Cardinals made one last gasp in the seventh against Lackey, who had shut them out on six hits over the first six innings. But with two outs they rallied, as Daniel Descalso singled, Matt Carpenter doubled and Carlos Beltran singled, making it 6-1. When Lackey walked the next hitter, Matt Holliday, manager John Lackey came out with the hook.
As Lackey left, the Fenway songmeisters blasted Frankie Valli's 'I Love You Baby' over the P.A. as the sellout crowd screeched its salute. Lackey -- burned, perhaps, by the grief he took from the fans and media during his first three years in Boston -- had steadfastly ignored the cheers of the crowd all season. He walked off this time with the same eyes-down, purposeful stride toward the dugout that he'd shown all year . . . until just before he reached the steps. Then he slowed, looked up, took off his hat, and waved it to the fans.
The decibel level, if possible, went up.
It would have been a shame if his replacement, Junichi Tazawa, ruined the moment by giving up a hit to tighten the game. But he played his part, retiring Allen Craig on a groundball to retire the side.
And six outs later -- for the third time -- the parties started in earnest.