In a game as ugly as a Yawkey Way gutter, it took a windblown poke down the line from second baseman Mark Bellhorn -- a guy who struck out 177 times this season -- to finally decide it.
A mere 12 pitches after the Red Sox had coughed up their second lead of the night, Bellhorn turned on a 1-2 slider from Cardinals reliever Julian Tavarez and pumped a two-run homer off the foul pole down the right-field line -- the famed Pesky's Pole that came into play so often in Game 1.
Boston's David Ortiz ripped one deep past the pole in right in the first inning, too, and Cardinals right fielder Larry Walker finessed a blast to the left side of the pole in third. But it was Bellhorn, who happens to be on a postseason tear, who really played it close.
His eighth-inning job hit high on the pole, 310 feet down the line, and was the difference in the 11-9 Boston win.
Bellhorn -- who homered in Games 6 and 7 of the American League Championship Series, too -- had a rough start to the postseason, but he has been working with hitting coach Ron Jackson and his friend, center fielder Johnny Damon, to smooth things out. Bellhorn was so bad at one point in the ALCS -- 10 strikeouts in 20 at-bats -- that fans were screaming that the Red Sox pull him for Pokey Reese. Manager Terry Francona dropped Bellhorn from the No. 2 spot in the order, but he moved him back after a couple of games in the ALCS, and he responded.
Saturday, from the No. 9 spot, he had two hits, including an opposite field single.
"He has a tendency to swing and miss," Francona said. "You're not going to hit every game, and you don't play him, [he] is certainly not going to get hot. So we kept him in there and he's got some real big hits for us."
Said Bellhorn: "Everybody kept trying to pump me up and keep my confidence up because you never know what could happen or when you're needed. That's what happened. Got a couple of good hits."
From the Bench
Tony La Russa made a semi-surprising lineup change, inserting So Taguchi in left field in place of veteran Reggie Sanders, though Sanders remained in the lineup as a designated hitter. La Russa praised Taguchi's play under pressure, and also said he expected him to do well against knuckleballer Tim Wakefield, the Boston starter. Mainly, though, Taguchi was in front of the Green Monster because La Russa considers him a better defensive player than Sanders. Taguchi struck out and grounded out in his two at-bats against Wakefield. ... La Russa also changed his rotation, with Matt Morris going Sunday, Jeff Suppan in Game 3 on Tuesday and Jason Marquis being pushed back to Game 4 on Wednesday. It's a good move that gets Marquis, who has struggled this postseason, out of a start at Fenway and into the more familiar surroundings of Busch Stadium. Marquis also will get only one start if the Series goes the full seven games. ... Cardinals center fielder Jim Edmonds led off the second inning by laying a bunt down the third base line against the shift for an easy base hit. The next time up, the Sox moved third baseman Bill Mueller much closer to third, though the alignment was still shifted a lot to the right. Edmonds walked that time up, and the Red Sox relaxed the shift from there on out.
Curt Schilling, the Game 2 starter, had the skin around the floppy tendon in his ankle sutured on Saturday in the same procedure used successfully before Game 6 of the ALCS. ... Seen in the stands at Fenway Park, actress Jennifer Garner and BoSox superfan Ben Affleck. Garner was being flirty with Affleck, which I guess is OK considering they're going out and all. ... Red Sox icon Carl Yastrzemski, who won the last triple crown in baseball in 1967, threw out the ceremonial first pitch. ... Speaking of pitch, Steven Tyler needs some work on his. The national anthem singer and Aerosmith frontman was a tad on the brutal side. And not to sound like an old fogey -- like I could sound like an older fogey than Tyler -- that end-of-anthem rock-n-roll scream was uncalled for. ... David Ortiz became the 29th player to hit a home run in his first World Series at-bat, and the first Boston player to do it since Jose Santiago in Game 1 of the 1967 World Series. ... Novelist Stephen King was caught on camera reading a book between innings. All in all, a good use of downtime. And there was a lot of that. ... Wonder how the Cardinals felt when Manny Ramirez raised his hand and pointed his finger on an RBI single to left field?
Sox fans were a little worried about a team hangover after the party that was the ALCS win over the Yankees. But Ortiz's home run in the first put a lid on that talk. And if the Sox needed more snapping out of it, they got it when the Cardinals, down 7-2, came back to tie the score. Believe it: They're awake now.
This one has to sting a little for the Cardinals, who almost stole one from the Sox. Boston committed four errors, walked six and left 12 men on base. But the Cardinals couldn't shut down the Boston offense when it mattered. In 5 2/3 innings of relief, the Cardinals' pen gave up five hits (including Bellhorn's game-winning homer), four runs and five walks.
It was an inauspicious start for first baseman Albert Pujols, too, who went 0-for-3 with a strikeout in his first World Series game. It was even worse for Scott Rolen, the third baseman. He was 0-for-5, including a popup with the bases loaded and one out in the eighth. A fly ball to the outfield there could have given the Cards the lead.