'Rockie' Road Ahead for Series-Bound Red Sox

The Boston Red Sox complete a thrilling comeback against the Cleveland Indians to claim the American League title. They will meet the red-hot Colorado Rockies in the World Series.

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ALEX CHADWICK, host:

This is DAY TO DAY. I'm Alex Chadwick.

MADELEINE BRAND, host:

I'm Madeleine Brand.

In Boston on Wednesday, the Red Sox will host the Colorado Rockies in Game 1 of the World Series. It will be the Sox's second World Series in four years.

NPR's Anthony Brooks reports from the heart of the Red Sox nation.

ANTHONY BROOKS: For most of the past century, Boston fans could usually count on the Red Sox to disappoint. But their team has given up its losing ways and embraced dramatic come-from-behind victories.

Just four years ago, the Sox stunned the New York Yankees, coming back from a three-games-to-nothing deficit to win the American League Championship and then its first World Series in 86 years. This year, the Cleveland Indians had a commanding three games to one lead in the best-of-seven series, but the Sox even the series and by the ninth inning last night, the Indians were down nine runs facing the Sox hard-throwing closer Jonathan Papelbon.

(Soundbite of game)

Unidentified Man #1 (Announcer): Swing and a high-fly ball, right centerfield. Papelbon going back. Still going back to the triangle. Going back. He makes a great catch at the triangle. Boston hangs on. The Red Sox have won the pennant! Coco Crisp with another sensational play!

BROOKS: That's how WEEI Radio called the win, which prompted a late-night party by some 37,000 at Fenway Park. And in the Red Sox locker room the players uncorked champagne and doused each other in a wet and happy celebration.

Unidentified Man #2: That's pretty damn cold champagne. Oh.

(Soundbite of laughter)

BROOKS: John Farell, the Red Sox pitching coach gave credit to the team's ace pitcher, Josh Beckett, who was named the series Most Valuable Player for sparking the comeback. Beckett won the first game of the series. Then Cleveland won three in a row. But Beckett won Game 5 in Cleveland, which brought the series back to Boston, where the Red Sox usually win.

Mr. JOHN FARELL (Red Sox Pitching Coach): We felt that Beckett's performance was one that he was capable of and it would allow us to swing the momentum back to us. You know, and particularly bringing it back home to these fans here, which, let's face it, home field advantage was a huge thing here in the series.

(Soundbite of cheering)

BROOKS: The Red Sox won last night despite erratic pitching from their $100 million Japanese rookie Daisuke Matsuzaka, who allowed two runs in five innings. Cleveland made it a one-run game through six innings, until the Red Sox rookie Dustin Pedroia smacked a two-run homer in the seventh and then struck again in the eight with a three-run double.

Red Sox manager Terry Francona praised his players for not panicking when they were on the brink of elimination.

Mr. TERRY FRANCONA (Manager, Red Sox): You know, when things aren't going well, they don't take a deep breath and feel sorry for themselves. It doesn't insure that you're going to win, but it insures that you give yourself a chance, and we have good players. And guys kind of dug deep. We had to. We got pushed.

BROOKS: The Indians shared the season's best record with the Red Sox and beat the Yankees in the first round of the playoffs. But last night, Cleveland players like pitcher Paul Byrd had to pack up quietly and acknowledge sadly that their impressive season was over.

Mr. PAUL BYRD (Pitcher, Cleveland Indians): You know what, I mean right now, your head's spinning. You know, everybody knows we had a great year. Everybody knows it's going to go away and we look upon the year, it's going to be a great, great memory. But you know, the bottom line is, you know, we were a game away from going in the World Series and came up short, so a lot frustration right now. It's kind of bittersweet.

(Soundbite of cheering)

BROOKS: For Red Sox fans, it was only sweet. Long after the game had ended, Fenway Park was still full as pitcher Jonathan Papelbon danced a wild jig on the infield. But the Sox will have to get back to baseball in the World Series against the red-hot Colorado Rockies. The contest will feature the Red Sox's huge payroll and well-known stars against a relatively unknown Colorado team, which has won 21 of its last 22 games, including all seven in the postseason. The Rockies got the best of the Sox in June, when they took two out of three games and outscored them 20-5.

Anthony Brooks, NPR News, Boston.

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