BOSTON — Buckle up, folks, because this ride through the 100th World Series could be a bumpy one, filled with chills, thrills and spills -- did you see St. Louis pinch-runner Jason Marquis take a digger going into second base and Boston left fielder and resident flake Manny Ramirez fall all over himself trying to catch a fly ball in the eighth inning Saturday night?
But what the Red Sox and Cardinals lacked in style -- they combined for five errors and 14 walks in Game 1 on the wind-blown tundra that was Fenway Park -- they more than made up for in drama.
After St. Louis erased a five-run, third-inning deficit and a two-run, seventh-inning deficit, Boston second baseman Mark Bellhorn drove a two-run home run off the right-field foul pole in the bottom of the eighth to lift the Red Sox to an 11-9 victory in front of a chilled-to-the-bone crowd of 35,035.
Boston closer Keith Foulke, who escaped a bases-loaded, one-out jam in the top of the eighth by getting Cardinal cleanup batter Scott Rolen to pop out to third and striking out Jim Edmonds, gave up a one-out double to Marlon Anderson in the ninth but retired Yadier Molina on an infield pop and struck out Roger Cedeno to end the game.
The series now sets up nicely for Boston, which has its top two starters, Curt Schilling and Pedro Martinez, going in Game 2 tonight and Game 3 Tuesday night in St. Louis, but the Red Sox can't afford to commit four errors and walk six and expect to win games as they did Saturday night.
"That was not a video to send to the instructional league or something," Red Sox Manager Terry Francona said. "We did some things wrong, but we persevered and we won. We set out to win today, so it's really a great day, but we did make some mistakes that we need to clean up."
As ugly as it got at times -- Ramirez committed two eighth-inning errors that led to two Cardinal runs, and first baseman Kevin Millar's error, a wild relay past third, keyed St. Louis' three-run fourth -- the Red Sox dugout was filled with good vibes throughout the evening.
"We had a feeling on the bench we were going to get a win someway, somehow," center fielder Johnny Damon said. "We battled through some mistakes, fought through some adversity and survived Larry Walker [Cardinal right fielder who had four hits] hitting everything in sight. Hopefully, we'll clean it up [tonight]."
Bellhorn, who struggled so much during the American League championship series that he was booed in his home park, made sure the ending wasn't messy. With the score tied, 9-9, and Jason Varitek aboard on an error, Bellhorn hit a 1-and-2 slider from reliever Julian Tavarez off the foul pole for a two-run homer.
Bellhorn also had the decisive three-run homer in Game 6 of the ALCS against the Yankees and he ripped a homer off the right-field foul pole in Game 7 against the Yankees, giving him home runs in three consecutive postseason games.
"I think we forget that the mind is a powerful thing and sometimes we just lose our confidence," said Bellhorn, who batted ninth Saturday night.
"You know, these games, you want to win so bad that you sometimes put too much pressure on yourself, and that's when you start to struggle. You've just got to battle through it."
St. Louis had tied the score, 9-9, in the top of the eighth thanks to Ramirez, who butchered two balls in left. With runners on first and second, Ramirez bobbled Edgar Renteria's routine single, and Marquis, who stopped at third, came home
Walker, who had two doubles, a home run and a single in his first four at-bats, followed with a fly to shallow left.
Ramirez tried a sliding catch when he didn't really need to, his left knee stuck to the ground like a lawn dart, and the ball bounced off his glove toward foul territory, allowing the tying run to score and the Cardinals to put runners on second and third with one out.
Foulke walked Albert Pujols intentionally to load the bases before retiring Rolen, who was hitless in five at-bats and bounced into a double play, and Edmonds.
"We brush a lot of things off in here," Millar said. "I mean, my throwing error was ridiculous. I almost hit [Cardinal Manager] Tony La Russa in the dugout. Manny, he was joking that he went from a Silver Glove to a Purple Glove. I went from a Bronze Glove to a Green Glove. But we pick each other up, and we pulled out a win."
It looked like it would be easy way back in the first inning, four hours before the final pitch.
The Red Sox, in search of their first World Series championship since 1918, seemed intent on unloading 85 years of frustration on the Cardinals in the first when they scored four runs, as Damon led off with a double, Orlando Cabrera was hit by a pitch and ALCS most valuable player David Ortiz hit a three-run homer to right.
Millar hit starter Woody Williams' next pitch off the Green Monster for a double and scored on Bill Mueller's single, giving the Red Sox a 4-0 lead.