For one night, Sox can relax, celebrate
Boston's mission not complete, but Fenway parties after Game 4
BOSTON -- As his ground ball slid perfectly between first and second base through the infield dirt, Jed Lowrie had little time to react to what he knew could be the game-winning hit that sent the Red Sox to the American League Championship Series.
Keep your emotions under control? Check. Touch first? Check.
"Watch Jason [Bay] score and jump up and down," Lowrie said with a smile. "And watch everyone mob you."
And so it was at approximately 11:30 p.m. ET at Fenway Park that the Red Sox advanced to the ALCS for the second consecutive year, defeating the Los Angeles Angels, 3-2, at home to clinch the AL Division Series in four games.
The Red Sox rushed out of the dugout, as Bay slid across home plate just in front of a Reggie Willits throw from right field, knowing full well that these celebrations are becoming a fairly annual occurrence while realizing the fun can stop at any second.
So as the Boston players doused each other with champagne in the clubhouse and turned the volume up to a near-deafening level, everyone knew that a matchup with AL East foe Tampa Bay was on the horizon.
Just for this one night, the Sox didn't care. Boston just defeated the Major League's best regular-season team, and it did it with unwavering poise.
"Anything can happen in the playoffs," pitcher Paul Byrd said. "To have a team like this who had 100 victories and we go out and play well and take two at their place, that says a lot about our club."
Players dashed from one crowd to the next in the clubhouse during the rowdy postgame celebration, with goggles topping soaking-wet heads and members of the organization racing back and forth between indoors and the field.
A select crew of die-hard fans lined the first 10 rows of seats between first and third base, greeting the players and their families as they paraded around the infield in celebration for the second time in two weeks.
Byrd and fellow veteran right-hander Mike Timlin tossed baseballs to fans in the crowd, while others embraced in hugs and acknowledgment of those still screaming in attendance.
Clearly, this team has developed a knack for how to act in these situations.
"I think when you get to the postseason, you start to breathe that mentality of winning," said Sean Casey. "I think, around here, they expect to win. They expect to win now.
"I know for me, this is my second postseason ever. I don't take it for granted. This kind of stuff doesn't happen every year [for everyone]."
Boston will have a day off on Tuesday before a Wednesday workout at Fenway and a trip to St. Petersburg to begin the ALCS on Friday at 8:37 p.m. ET on TBS. It wasn't escaping the team's mind this is the first step toward the ultimate goal.
"It's going to be a lot of fun, and it's going to be an exciting series," Casey said. "And [in St. Petersburg], cowbells [will be] everywhere. If I never hear another cowbell again, I'll be OK with that."
With one swing of the bat by a rookie shortstop who filled in for injured veteran Julio Lugo in mid-July, the Sox -- once again -- discarded the Halos for the third time in five years and advanced to the next round. Celebrations ensued, likely not stopping till the early morning in Boston.
But even the heroic young shortstop knows that once the last drop of champagne sprayed the final player, it's back to business as usual -- back to working toward another clubhouse party.
"You've got to enjoy the moment the way it is, but when it's over, you've got to prepare for Tampa," Lowrie said. "I'm having a great time, but at the same time, we've got to get ready for the next series."
Mark Remme is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.