Red Sox have familiar '04 aura
Boston in no mood to wait around another 86 years for title
"This is the team. This was our team this year. You can't do anything else about any other year, so we'll celebrate this together."
Red Sox manager Terry Francona
Oct. 27, 2004
BOSTON -- This is not 2004.
But it's starting to feel more and more like it.
The Red Sox just won the first two games of the 103rd World Series at home, in impressive fashion, with Curt Schilling getting the win in Thursday's Game 2 just as he had done in that historically easy sweep of St. Louis.
Boston, taking advantage of the home-field advantage it received by virtue of another American League victory in the All-Star Game in San Francisco in July, is doing to Colorado pretty much what it did to that fateful year's National League opponent.
It's another year, but it is feeling so similar now. If you go back to that Series, here are the runs allowed in each of the Red Sox's last five World Series games: 2, 1, 0, 1, 1. The last pair of ones were posted by the Rockies in this series, the latest in a 2-1 loss at America's Most Beloved and Stress-Free Ballpark.
The Red Sox were saying the same kinds of things now that they were then.
Catcher Jason Varitek, before leaving for Denver: "We have to approach things the same way as we have, and we have to go out there and try and outplay them."
The NL opponent was saying the same kinds of things now that the Cardinals did then.
Rockies shortstop Troy Tulowitzki: "Obviously we didn't want to come in here and lose two games. It hurts. But it's a seven-game series for a reason and we've still got a shot. ... We have our work cut out, but we can do it. I like our home-field advantage at Coors Field. Our fans will be loud, and they have to get the [rally] towels going."
The statisticians were putting out the same kinds of numbers now that they did then. The home team has won it all in 27 of 34 World Series when taking a 2-0 lead. There have been 51 teams that have jumped out to 2-0 leads, and 39 of the previous 50 have won it all. The last time a team won a World Series after losing the first two games on the road was 1981, when the Dodgers beat the Yankees.
There was even a magnificent moon hanging over the ballpark again, although it was not pumpkin-orange like in 2004.
"Let's not wait another 86 years to win it again."
2004 Red Sox reliever Alan Embree
Embree is gone from the current Red Sox team. So are Mueller, Millar, Pedro, Gabe, Trot, Johnny, Bellhorn, D-Lowe, Bronson and his golden cornrows, Foulke, Mientkiewicz and Cabrera, among others.
The fans didn't go anywhere.
"I don't think they'll be coming back to Boston to play any more of this Series," said David O'Sullivan of Brookline, N.H., the spokesman of the moment for Red Sox Nation amid a mass exodus of revelers leaving Fenway. "2004 was really special, but this time we almost expected to come back from Cleveland and take the last series. There is definitely an expectation of winning now."
How does it feel right this moment to be a Sox fan?
"It feels almost as though the Red Sox are really a winner," he said.
"Like we've finally made it."
They haven't made it made it, but you knew what he meant. There is work to be done, but the feel is undeniable. The Rockies had won 21 of 22 games entering this World Series. They had been the first to start a postseason 7-0 since the mighty Big Red Machine of 1976. They were making it look so easy.
Daisuke Matsuzaka, winning pitcher in the AL pennant clincher on Sunday, will start for the Red Sox in Game 3 against Josh Fogg, the "Dragon Slayer." Fogg has a reputation of beating big-name pitchers. At this point, they are all big games. That game starts at 8 p.m. ET on Saturday, following this travel day and a chance for the Rockies and their public to do some collective soul-searching and come out fighting.
Two games, two runs. For that Rockies offense? There is no way this is all due to an eight-day layoff. The Rockies have been playing since February. Boston has just done its thing so far. When Matt Holliday goes 4-for-4 and then gets picked off at first, frozen like a snowman, the first pickoff of Jonathan Papelbon's Major League career, you know they aren't waiting another 86 years to make their move.
The pair of two red socks that were mowed into the infield grass at Fenway reminded you of 2004 in the first two games of this World Series. Schilling's sock back in those days was even more memorable; it had been bloody red that postseason. This time, he was a little bit of a different pitcher, but with similar Game 2 results. Schilling hit the first batter of the game, Willy Taveras, who scored on a 3-1 putout, and it was all zeros after that, with Hideki Okajima earning the hold and Papelbon the save.
"With Schilling, you know what you're going to get," Rockies first baseman Todd Helton said. "He's always been the type of pitcher who challenges you. But now it seems when he gets in a jam, he uses his offspeed a little more."
"This changes the image of the franchise. It doesn't diminish it, but it will transform into something much different from what it had been known for."
Red Sox president Larry Lucchino
All those years.
O'Sullivan, standing right outside the Red Sox clubhouse, can't forget.
"I was here for '75, '86, '04 and this year," he said. "It was never easy. Now I think the next time I'll see them is when they raise another flag on Opening Day."
Did you forget the story? Does it matter anymore? Boston won it all in 1918, and then owner Harry Frazee sold Babe Ruth to the Yankees. The Yankees became the epitome of success in professional sports, and the Red Sox endured generations of suffering in the worst way, supposedly bearing the Curse of the Bambino.
That curse was said to have been reversed in 2004. That is what is missing most right now in this picture. The collective angst is what is missing, at least in Red Sox Nation. Rockies fans, perhaps you will know it. Your team, nee 1993, is trying to win its first World Series championship, and it was Emily Dickinson who once wrote, "Success is counted sweetest by those who ne'er succeed." That is what Red Sox lived and breathed for a long time.
Unless the Rockies can return to the form that commanded the attention of everyone around baseball from mid-September to the start of this series, it could be just another taste of sweetness for those who went so long without succeeding. There is certainly reason for hope in Colorado. That was only a 2-1 loss, and you had to like Brian Fuentes and Manny Corpas in relief again.
But right now the feeling is strong.
It feels like 2004 again in this World Series. Only that one was practically anticlimactic for Red Sox fans, coming off The Comeback against the Yankees, and this one feels almost like an entitlement at this point if you ask around.
"I've lost two games before," Helton said. "It's been a while since we lost two games in a row. But that's baseball. You look at a seven-game series as a mini-season, and hopefully we turn it around."
"This is what we've all been waiting for. We can die happy."
Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein
He said that after the curse was reversed.
They're still alive and happy right now.
Mark Newman is enterprise editor for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.