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Updated: Sunday, October 24, 2004 3:03 AM EDT
MLB RECAP
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BOSTON 11, ST LOUIS 9
 

BOSTON (Ticker) - The only poll people care about in Boston tonight is the Pesky Pole.

Mark Bellhorn 's two-run homer with one out in the bottom of the eighth inning lifted the Red Sox to a wild 11-9 triumph over the St. Louis Cardinals in Game One of the 100th World Series.

Despite the excitement surrounding Massachusetts senator John Kerry's quest for the presidency, Bellhorn became the state's favorite son with an arcing blast off the right field foul pole. Bellhorn's third homer in as many games hit the netting on the pole, which is just 302 feet away and affectionately known for one of the most popular players in team history.

The 85-year-old Johnny Pesky was in attendance for the game.

After a pair of awful defensive plays by left fielder Manny Ramirez enabled St. Louis to score twice in the top of the eighth to tie the game, Julian Tavarez (0-1) took over in the bottom of the inning and easily retired Bill Mueller .

Jason Varitek reached on an error by shortstop Edgar Renteria before Tavarez quickly got ahead of Bellhorn. But the Boston second baseman was able to golf a pitch off the screen, sending the Fenway Park faithful into a frenzy.

"It was unbelievable, I wasn't sure it was even going to stay fair," Bellhorn said.

"Just one bad pitch, just one mistake," said Tavarez, who allowed a go-ahead homer to Houston's Carlos Beltran in the National League Championship Series. "It was a slider down the middle that I wanted a little further in. I won't let myself get down."

Keith Foulke (1-0), who was charged with a blown save because of Ramirez's miscues, notched the win.

"It was a weird game," Foulke said. "I came into a tough situation and had to make my pitches to get the job done. ... I was not as sharp as I wanted to be but I kept the ball in the ballpark."

Game Two is Sunday night with the Red Sox sending ace Curt Schilling to the mound. The Cardinals counter with Matt Morris on three days' rest.

Bellhorn snapped a prolonged slump with a key three-run homer in Game Six of the American League Championship Series and tacked on a shot off the right field foul pole at Yankee Stadium in Game Seven.

With the local media calling for Bellhorn's head, manager Terry Francona stood by his strikeout-prone second baseman.

"If you watched him all year, he's really been a pretty good player," Francona said. "He has a tendency to swing and miss, that is part of his game, but he is a very good player. He has been a very clutch player for us all year."

"He has had huge hits for us all year and has always played very aggressive," Boston center fielder Johnny Damon said. "He's a tough kid, goes out and plays hard."

Bellhorn was asked about the turnaround.

"It is just confidence," he said. "I think we forget that the mind is a powerful thing and sometimes we just lose our confidence. You want to win so bad that you sometimes put too much pressure on yourself and that is when you start to struggle."

Bellhorn's dramatic homer took Ramirez off the hook as the erratic left fielder misplayed two balls in the top of the eighth. Ramirez first booted a single, allowing St. Louis to draw within 9-8, then totally botched a line drive by Larry Walker , turning an out into a game-tying two-base error.

The two errors gave Boston four in the game, the most by a team in the World Series since the Milwaukee Brewers also committed four in Game Six of the 1982 Fall Classic.

The defensive disasters, which occurred on back-to-back at-bats, offset a solid night at the plate for Ramirez, who snapped a seventh-inning tie with a single.

Ramirez and David Ortiz , the top two sluggers on the most prolific offense in the sport, had big nights as Boston pounded out 13 hits. Ramirez, who has hits in all 11 of Boston's postseason games, had three and collected two RBI while Ortiz added two hits - including a homer - and drove in four.

"They have a nice lineup," Cardinals manager Tony La Russa said. "If you make good pitches you will get outs. You open the door, however you open it, and guys are going to score. They have a nice lineup, a real good lineup."

The biggest of Ramirez's hits came in the seventh. Facing Kiki Calero with runners at first and second, Ramirez singled into center field for an 8-7 lead. Ortiz then greeted reliever Ray King with a sharp grounder that hit second baseman Tony Womack in the left collarbone and rolled into shallow right field.

Womack, who already was battling a bad back, had to leave the game. Initial X-rays were negative, but his availability for Game Two remains in question.

Ortiz staked Boston to a 3-0 lead with a three-run homer to right in the opening inning. His 19 RBI this postseason tie the record set by Cleveland's Sandy Alomar Jr. in 1997 and matched by Anaheim's Scott Spiezio five years later.

The Red Sox pounced on St. Louis starter Woody Williams right from the start as Kevin Millar followed Ortiz's fifth homer of the postseason with a double and scored on a base hit by Mueller for a 4-0 lead.

A sacrifice fly by Mike Matheny in the second got the Cardinals on the board and Walker ripped a solo homer to right in the third to halve St. Louis' deficit.

Playing in the World Series for the first time in his 16-year career, Walker had a huge game with a single, two doubles, a homer and two RBI.

"I'd be happy to go 0-for-6 if we had won the game," Walker said. "I was just trying to stay within myself."

Boston scored three times in its half of the third with Johnny Damon 's RBI single finishing Williams, who was tagged for seven runs and eight hits in 2 1/3 innings.

"No blame, no excuses," Williams said. "I just didn't pitch well. I just didn't execute. They had a good game plan."

With a 7-2 cushion, Tim Wakefield could not hold the Cardinals in check, walking the first three batters of the fourth inning. All three came around to score and the veteran knuckleballer - starting for the first time in 22 days - was pulled with two outs in the frame.

Bronson Arroyo , who got the final out of the fourth, committed a throwing error in the sixth that contributed to two runs.

After battering Williams, Boston could not do much with Dan Haren, who logged 3 2/3 scoreless innings before giving way to Calero to start the seventh.

Wakefield surrendered five runs in 3 2/3 innings.


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