Every team wants to end the season on a winning streak -- especially if the last game clinches the 2004 World Series. The 2004 Boston Red Sox did just that. A rough and tumble aggregation, the Sox shucked the "Curse of the Bambino" and steamrolled to the world championship, winning their last eight games.
After finishing a strong second in the American League East to the Yankees, wildcard Boston wiped out West champ Anaheim in a three-game ALDS. Meanwhile, the Yankees won their ALDS in four games against Minnesota, the Central champions, who despite good starts from Cy Young winner Johan Santana twice blew leads in the late innings. Ruben Sierra delivered a key pinch homer in game four to break the Twins' backs.
While the nation anticipated a classic Red Sox/Yankees ALCS, the first three games were all New York. After taking 10-7 and 3-1 wins at home, the Yankees thoroughly embarrassed Boston, 19-8, in game three. When the Yanks went ahead 4-3 in game four, the Red Sox looked done.
But a ninth-inning rally, sparked by Dave Roberts's clutch stolen base, tied the fourth game, and David Ortiz won the contest with a 12th-inning homer. The next night, Boston again outlasted the Yankees, this time triumphing on Ortiz's 14th-inning single. Red Sox fans, deprived of a world title since Babe Ruth was dealt to the Yankees in 1919, rallied around a new slogan: Keep the Faith.
Back in New York, the Red Sox won game six behind Curt Schilling, who pitched seven strong innings despite a torn ankle tendon. With clear momentum, Boston wiped up New York 10-3 in game seven, completing perhaps the greatest postseason comeback in history. No major league team had ever won a postseason series after being down three games to none.
Some great performers watched the postseason on TV. Seattle finished last despite Ichiro Suzuki's .372 average and all-time record 262 hits. Barry Bonds took a staggering 232 walks and captured his seventh National League MVP Award, but the Giants finished second. Young arms Santana and Jake Peavy (of the Padres) served notice, while 40-year-old Randy Johnson authored a perfect game.
Roger Clemens won his seventh Cy Young Award, this one for Houston. Teammate Roy Oswalt's 20 wins propelled the Astros, who appeared dead in August before erupting in September. Wildcard Houston then took the Braves in a five-game NLDS.
In the NLCS, St. Louis (which had eliminated National League West champ Los Angeles) found holes in Houston's bullpen and eked out a league championship in seven tough games. Led by offensive bludgeons Albert Pujols, Scott Rolen, and Jim Edmonds, the Cardinals had finished 105-57.
Still high from their ALCS comeback, Boston took game one of the 2004 World Series, breaking a 9-9 tie on Mark Bellhorn's eighth-inning homer. After winning game two 6-2 at Fenway, Boston then shut down the Redbirds 4-1 and 3-0 in St. Louis for a convincing four-game sweep. Rolen and Edmonds combined to go 1-for-30. It was almost too simple. The surprising sweep set New England into another frenzy of celebration.
Far from the Spotlight, the Montreal Expos ended their tenure in Canada after yet another frustrating season of low attendance and poor performance. Washington, D.C., was scheduled to welcome the club for 2005. One thing Washington didn't welcome was baseball's growing steroid scandal. Steroid revelations sullied the reputations of Mark McGwire, Jason Giambi, and Barry Bonds, with no end in sight.
The next page provides headlines and summaries for some of the top stories of the 2004 baseball season.