DENVER - They ran onto the field like kids fleeing school at the start of summer vacation. They whooped and hollered and laughed and jumped up and down and doused each other with champagne and beer.
The Boston Red Sox, in other words, did all the things that baseball teams do after winning the World Series. And they did more than just stake their claim to another championship last night by completing an impressive sweep of the Colorado Rockies with a 4-3 win last night at Coors Field.
They took a giant step toward backing up the cheeky boast that began to appear on T-shirts around Fenway Park after they won the World Series for the first time in 86 years three Octobers ago.
The Drought Is Over, The Reign Begins.
The Red Sox aren't just good. They look like they could be good for a long time.
In the previous 7 years, seven teams had won the big trophy. Now the Sox have won twice in four seasons.
They became just the fourth franchise to record sweeps in consecutive World Series, having dusted off the Cardinals in 2004.
They scored a total of 29 runs. Only the 1989 Athletics (32) and 1932 Yankees (37) scored more in a four-game series.
They reduced a Rockies team that had lost only one game in 38 days as it got on a late roll that carried them through the Division Series and NLCS into little more than a speed bump by beating Colorado four times in 5 days.
And staff ace Josh Beckett is only 27 years old. So is Daisuke Matsuzaka. Second baseman Dustin Pedroia, 24, is front-runner for AL Rookie of the Year.
Boston was 7-0 in the postseason after Jacoby Ellsbury, a blue-chip prospect who has been brought along cautiously, replaced Coco Crisp in the lineup. He's also 24.
Lefthander Jon Lester, 23, pitched 5 2/3 shutout innings and earned the win in his first-ever postseason start last night.
"I'm so proud of him," said manager Terry Francona. "The way he pitched, the way he competed, it was very appropriate that he got the win."
Lights-out closer Jonathon Papelbon is 26. He came in to get the final five outs to nail down the game and earn a save.
"It's just phenomenal, man," he said moments after the game ended.
Heck, righthander Clay Buchholz, who is 23, didn't even make the playoff roster. All he did was pitch a no-hitter in his second big-league start.
The only significant free agents Boston has this winter are righthander Curt Schilling and third baseman Mike Lowell. They both want to return and the Red Sox, if they choose, can afford to sign them both.
The Red Sox have money and smarts. Even in an era where dynasties seem to be obsolete, that's going to be a tough combination to beat.
Lowell, who batted .400 for the series and scored twice and hit a crucial home run in the seventh inning last night, was voted Most Valuable Player of the World Series. "I'm on Cloud 9," he said. "For us to come through and do what we thought we were capable of is unbelievable."
The Rockies were up against it last night. Not only had they lost each of the first three games, but they were coming off a defeat that lasted 4 hours, 19 minutes. That's the longest nine-inning game in World Series history, taking 5 more minutes than Game 4 at the Vet in 1993 between the Phillies and Toronto Blue Jays. And in the back of their minds they knew that, even if they won last night, they would run into Josh Beckett, who has dominated in each of his postseason starts, tonight.
Not only that, starter Aaron Cook was making his first appearance since Aug. 10. After that he went on the disabled list with a strained oblique.
It wasn't surprising, then, that the Red Sox came out playing like a team with a getaway car idling outside the stadium.
Ellsbury, who a night earlier became just the third rookie in World Series history to have four hits in a game, wasted no time getting it started when he led off with a double to left and scored the first run of the game.
Cook found a groove after that, though. He got Manny Ramirez to ground into an inning-ending doubleplay and then went on to retire 10 straight before Lowell opened the fifth with a double.
At that point, the game settled into a pitchers' battle between Cook, who survived life-threatening blood clots in his lungs in 2004, and Lester, who earlier this season was still working his way back from offseason treatment for lymphoma.
Cook was pretty good. Lester was better.
"Jon has a way, as a lot of young pitchers do, of working himself into trouble," Francona observed before the game. "What's sort of special about him is that he has a way of working himself out of trouble."
Lester demonstrated the point early. In the second, he gave up a leadoff double to Todd Helton. In the third, he allowed a one-out double to Kaz Matsui. In both cases, he got out of the inning without allowing a run.
Matsui's hit was the first time in two games the Red Sox clearly suffered from being away from Fenway Park. Ramirez, who has become adept at patrolling leftfield in Boston and playing balls off the Green Monster, first broke in on the ball and then had it sail just over his glove as he scrambled backward.
And when it was all over, it was the Red Sox rushing onto the field to celebrate.
"The Rockies battled to the end," Francona said. "I hope nobody forgets that. They battled to the end."
The Rockies may have been a very good team this year. But it's the Red Sox who figure to be very good for a while. *