The Boston Red Sox looked like they were trying to stamp out 81 years of October failure, all in one night.
In the most-lopsided postseason rout ever, the Red Sox set a record for runs while beating up the Cleveland Indians 23-7 Sunday night to force a deciding fifth game in their first-round AL playoff series.
"We're right back in that hunt now," Red Sox manager Jimy Williams said. "It's one game for both of us."
John Valentin had two homers, a double and seven RBIs as Boston broke the record for postseason runs set when Lou Gehrig and Joe DiMaggio led the Yankees to an 18-4 victory over the New York Giants in Game 2 of the 1936 World Series.
"Everything that we threw up, they hit," Indians manager Mike Hargrove said. "Any time you score (23) runs, you got a whole lot right. And a whole lot wrong is going on for the other team."
The Red Sox, who have not won the World Series since 1918 despite several close calls some say it's a curse overwhelmed the Indians less than 24 hours after winning just their second postseason game in 20 tries.
Pitching on three days' rest for the first time in his career, Indians ace Bartolo Colon allowed seven runs on six hits and a walk. He left after allowing a two-run homer to Offerman with nobody out in the second the first of Boston's two five-run innings.
"It was embarrassing. It was humiliating," Indians catcher Sandy Alomar said. "But the good part about it is that none of those runs mean anything tomorrow."
The teams return to Cleveland for Game 5 on Monday night, and with Pedro Martinez nursing a sore back, neither team will have its ace. Charles Nagy will start for the Indians and Bret Saberhagen will pitch for Boston.
Only once since the division series was added to the playoffs in 1995 has a team won the best-of-5 series after losing the first two games Seattle did it to the Yankees that first year.
And now the Red Sox of all teams have a chance to make it two.
The very same Red Sox who lost the 1948 AL pennant in a one-game playoff with the Indians, and blew a 14 1/2-game lead over the Yankees in 1978 to lose a one-game playoff on Bucky Dent's home run.
And the very same Red Sox who lost the 1946 World Series after leading the St. Louis Cardinals three games to two, then blew a 3-2 lead in the '86 Series after the Bill Buckner's notorious Game 6.
But in the Indians, who haven't won a World Series since 1948 despite making the playoffs in each of the last five years, Boston may be meeting a team more cursed than itself.
"We had to win. That was our basic position. We had to win or go home," Williams said. "So now we have another shot against a good club. Hopefully it works out for us."
After Cleveland took a 2-0 lead in the series and came to Boston prepared to sweep especially after the Red Sox lost All-Star shortstop Nomar Garciaparra for a game they return home hoping merely to move on. Valentin, who twice committed costly errors at third base earlier in the series, homered to help Boston win Game 3 and added another in the first inning on Sunday to make it 2-1.
|Bartolo Colon was one of the many Indian pitchers lit up on the Red Sox record-breaking night.|
Red Sox starter Kent Mercker, who was making his first career postseason start after 12 playoff relief appearances, didn't have much luck, either. He allowed single runs in each of the first two innings before he was pulled with two out and two on in the second.
But the Boston bullpen came through where Cleveland's couldn't. Rich Garces relieved Mercker and got Roberto Alomar to ground out to first base to end the second; Garces went 2 1-3 innings, allowing one run on one hit and a walk, striking out one to earn the victory.
Boston answered with three runs in the bottom of the fifth when Stanley hit an RBI triple into the gap in right-center field that Manny Ramirez kicked towards center. Varitek followed with a two-run home run to make it 18-6.
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