BOSTON (AP) -- The Boston Red Sox took a raucous ride into the
playoffs, slugging their way to the AL's last postseason berth and
setting off a party that hints -- they hope -- at bigger ones to
Friday, Sept. 26
As the Red Sox's celebration waned Thursday night, someone mentioned that there were nearly 10,000 people in the streets surrounding Fenway Park.
So Kevin Millar, Derek Lowe, Todd Walker, Lou Merloni and Gabe Kapler -- their cleats and uniforms still on -- bolted the clubhouse, ran out into the streets and began running down Yawkey Way. By the time they turned onto Brookline Avenue, there were more than 500 people chasing them, chanting, "Bring on Oakland."
"It was like Rocky Balboa," Millar said.
They planned to run a lap using the streets that circle Fenway, but stopped at the Cask 'N Flagon, a bar across Lansdowne Street from The Green Monster. The five players made their way through the crowd, hurdled the bar and began bartending -- handing out drinks to everyone in the bar.
After 10 or 15 ninutes, they left the bar and finished their run through the streets ... again with more than 500 people chasing them.
"It's incredible. I can't imagine if we win a World Series what
it would feel like," said John Henry, a billionaire who has owned
the long-suffering franchise for just two seasons. "We just won
the wild card, and it's one of the greatest moments of my life."
With a sellout crowd standing to cheer, flashbulbs popping and
the Red Sox perched on the dugout steps, Ramiro Mendoza struck out
Brian Roberts to put Boston in the playoffs for the first time
Players poured out of the dugout -- subdued at first, but
gradually gaining celebratory steam as they sprayed each other and
the crowd with champagne and vowed to the frenzied and frustrated
fans that this year will be different from all the others since the
team's last championship in 1918.
"This is the reason why a player chooses Boston, the way they
support you," center fielder Johnny Damon said. "We're definitely
going to do it this year."
The Red Sox are four games ahead of the Seattle Mariners in the
AL wild-card race with three games remaining.
Boston's win wraps up the AL matchups for the first round:
Minnesota will play against the Yankees starting Tuesday in New
York, and Boston will open the following day at Oakland.
"We've had a pretty successful September," Red Sox president
Larry Lucchino said. "Now we want a successful October."
Gabe Kapler and Tim Wakefield sprayed the fans with bubbly,
while Garciaparra went out to the outfield to applaud the fans.
Millar took a microphone to the pitcher's mound and reprised his
embarrassing "Rally Karaoke Guy."
"It's time to 'Cowboy Up," said Millar, a Texan who inspired
the team's motto. "We're going to take this thing to the next
Playing before a full ballpark for the 64th consecutive home
game, the Red Sox quickly gave the crowd of 34,526 something to
cheer about. It was 12-0 after four innings, and the rest of the
night was just a prelude to the celebration.
Manager Grady Little emptied his bench after five innings, and
Derek Lowe (17-7) left after holding the Orioles to two hits
through the sixth.
The Red Sox won't be back at Fenway Park until Game 3 of the
playoffs, on Oct. 4.
Lowe did not give up a hit through 4 1-3 innings. He wound up
allowing one earned run and four walks while striking out one.
Bill Mueller went 3-for-5 to raise his league-leading batting
average to .327, adding two runs and three RBI for Boston.
Garciaparra, who had been slumping all month, had a run-scoring
groundout to go with his three-run homer.
Omar Daal (4-11) has not won since May 30, a span that includes
two months on the disabled list with tendinitis on his left rotator
cuff. He allowed seven runs and seven hits, getting just five outs.
"The Red Sox did what they do best -- score runs," Orioles
manager Mike Hargrove said. "They're an awfully good ballclub and
they deserve what they've gotten because they've worked hard for it
Baltimore couldn't muster so much as a hit against Lowe until
there was one out in the fifth and Luis Matos hit a high bouncer
that stopped about halfway to third base. Lowe, who pitched
Boston's last no-hitter on April 27, 2002, appeared disappointed,
so Varitek went out to the mound to talk to him and give the fans a
chance to cheer.
Boston had its first chance to clinch a playoff berth on
Wednesday night, but Baltimore scored seven runs off John Burkett,
who only got one out in the first inning.
Thursday's game was over almost as quickly.
Varitek led off the second with a homer, then Kapler and Damian
Jackson doubled. One out later, Daal hit Mueller with a pitch and
then Garciaparra it a three-run shot to make 7-0.
Mueller added a two-run double in the third to make it 9-0. In
the fourth, Millar hit a three-run homer to make it 12-0.
The Orioles end their season with a four-game series
against the Yankees in New York, starting with a twi-night
doubleheader Friday. ... Jackson stole his 16th base of the season
after getting just his 37th hit, a double in the second inning. ...
Garciaparra's three-run homer in the second followed a 1-for-19
slump. It was his 27th homer of the season and first in six games.
... One night after setting the major league record for total bases
in a season with 2,750, the Red Sox had 20 through the first three
innings Thursday with two homers, four doubles and four singles.
The previous record of 2,748 was set by Colorado in 2001.