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Idiots' defense

After eight errors in first two games, Red Sox flash leather in 4-1 win

Posted: Wednesday October 27, 2004 12:21AM; Updated: Wednesday October 27, 2004 1:20AM

  Bill Mueller
Bill Mueller throws out Scott Rolen in the fourth inning.

ST. LOUIS (AP) -- These idiots can play after all.

After winning two error-filled games in spite of themselves, the Boston Red Sox improved their defense and won pretty, for a change, beating the St. Louis Cardinals 4-1 to move within one victory of their first World Series title since 1918.

"We played a lot cleaner game," said outfielder Dave Roberts, one of the players brought in during the season to improve the team's defense. "The first two games of the Series were just a fluke. We showed the way we were capable of playing tonight."

The Red Sox committed a record eight errors in those first two games. Then they put a glove on designated hitter David Ortiz and moved Manny Ramirez from Fenway's cozy and familiar left field to Busch Stadium's spacious pasture.

Funny thing happened: They started playing better.

Ramirez threw out a runner at home (who shouldn't have been running). Ortiz threw out a runner at third (who should have been going home). Boston played error free on the field, and even manager Terry Francona helped out, taking Pedro Martinez out with a four-run lead after seven innings to avoid a repeat of last year's Yankee Stadium debacle.

"The first two games, although there was a bunch of errors, they ended up in wins, and that's what we set out to do," Francona said.

The Red Sox dubbed themselves "idiots" at the start of the playoffs, a bunch of players who reveled in their carefree style of play and dress. And now their stunning run continues -- a record-tying seventh consecutive postseason victory. One more, and they will be World Series champions.

"Johnny Damon called us a bunch of idiots, but it really isn't that far off," said Derek Lowe, who was in the bullpen at the start of the playoffs but now will start the potential World Series clincher. "Our clubhouse is the same way whether we're down 0-3 or up 3-0.

"It doesn't matter how you win. We weren't going to make four or five errors a game; we haven't done that all year. The big thing is that we won today. And we have a chance to do something tomorrow that's pretty special."

The Red Sox led the league in unearned runs during the season, but the gap shrunk after they dealt a hobbled Nomar Garciaparra at the trading deadline and acquired former gold glovers Orlando Cabrera and Doug Mientkiewicz.

You wouldn't have known it by watching when they opened the Series at Fenway.

Ramirez alone had two errors -- on consecutive plays in the second game to allow the Cardinals to tie it. But after homering in the top of the first in Game 3, Ramirez made a nice throw to the plate to cut down Larry Walker, who tagged up on a shallow fly ball to left.

Despite allowing St. Louis to load the bases with one out, Martinez got out of the inning with his 1-0 lead intact.

"I was really happy to see Manny, not even thinking about what happened at Fenway, and being able to come up with a big throw and a very good throw to put somebody out in a key situation," Martinez said. "It was important to us and that got us going, and he hit the home run to complement whatever he was doing."

In the third, Cardinals pitcher Jeff Suppan reached on a swinging bunt and made it to third on Edgar Renteria's double. But when Walker hit a grounder to second, Suppan didn't run home. Ortiz took the throw from second baseman Mark Bellhorn and seemed surprised to find Suppan halfway home.

Ortiz threw to third, and Bill Mueller applied the tag to complete the odd double play.

"My teammates did the work for me, did the dirty work, played some defense, that gave us a little bit of a break in the third-inning play," Martinez said. "And after that I just used my experience and threw strikes and got them swinging."

Copyright 2004 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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