BOSTON - This city was poised to celebrate here like it hadn't since 1918 and the Red Sox didn't disappoint.
The celebration, in fact, kicked off early.
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Bludgeoning the previously dominant Michael Wacha almost from the start, the Red Sox won their third World Series crown in 10 years with a 6-1 victory over the Cardinals Wednesday night in front of 38,447 at Fenway Park.
It was the first title clinched in the historic ballpark since 1918 and completed a remarkable turnaround from last season's 69-win campaign that had Red Sox Nation's relationship with its team at a historic low.
"We've reconnected with our fans . . . in a way, the bloom was off the rose after that 13-month period," Red Sox CEO Larry Lucchino said of the stretch that started with the September collapse of 2011 that cost manager Terry Francona his job and continued in 2012. "We had to reboot and reconnect with our fan base and I think we were successful at doing that."
The Series title helped but that process truly started to take hold in the spring after the tragedy of the Boston Marathon bombings and the role the club played in fans' eyes in contributing to the healing.
"It's a moment in time that we'll never forget and we should never forget," first-year manager John Farrell said. "There are people that lost their lives and you think of so many people that contributed -- the first responders, everyone involved. I think our players really understood that it was their opportunity to reach out, try to help a city heal and hopefully along the way we've been able to do that here in Fenway."
Shane Victorino, among the veterans signed by GM Ben Cherington last offseason, called Fenway "the cathedral of baseball" before the game, and if it wasn't for David Ortiz, the Series MVP, might be remembered for delivering the biggest hits of the postseason.
Victorino, who had four RBIs Wednesday night and whose grand slam led the Red Sox to victory in Game 6 of the ALCS, hit a bases-clearing double with two outs in the third off Wacha, who came in 4-0 with a 1.00 ERA this postseason, to make it 3-0.
"Whenever I have a poor outing like that, it hurts me even worse," said Wacha, who allowed six runs and five hits in 32/3 innings. "I feel like I just let the team down. It's not a very good feeling, that's for sure."
The double brought in Ortiz, intentionally walked in the inning, and whom Cardinals manager Mike Matheny finally grew tired of pitching to. Ortiz went 0-1 with four walks -- three intentional -- and was awarded Series MVP honors after he went 11-for-16 for a .688 batting average and .750 OBP.
"We probably don't have the talent that we had in '07 and '04, but we have guys that are capable to stay focused and do the little things," said Ortiz, the lone holdover from the two previous championship clubs. "And when you win with a ballclub like that, that's special."
A few timely hits in the first few innings against winner John Lackey, who allowed one run and nine hits in 62/3 innings, might have made things different.
"I was locating pretty much everything pretty well," said Lackey, himself a story of redemption after poor 2010 and 2011 seasons before missing last year recovering from surgery.
Second baseman Dustin Pedroia said the Series win was special for several reasons.
"We got together in spring training and everyone cared about each other so much," he said. "The stuff that happened in this city, we wanted to do something special. Hopefully we did that."