Matsuzaka, Pedroia put BoSox back in World Series

Young guns: Daisuke Matsuzaka held Cleveland to two runs in five innings while Dustin Pedroia drove in five runs for Boston.

Figure this: After grabbing a 3-1 series lead, the Indians never led at any point in Games 5, 6 or 7.

Quotable: "We worked too hard all year long to have our season get cut short. Nobody wanted to go home, nobody wanted to say goodbye to
everybody. So once we got that win in Cleveland, brought us back
here, we started to believe." -- Pedroia

Moving forward: Boston hosts Colorado in Game 1 of the World Series on Wednesday.

-- ESPN.com news services

Red Sox 11, Indians 2

BOSTON -- Daisuke Matsuzaka and Hideki Okajima stood on the
Fenway Park mound, posing for pictures with Boston general manager
Theo Epstein, a Japanese flag and the American League championship

This is what these Red Sox rookies came halfway around the world
for: the World Series.

Three years after ending its 86-year title drought, Boston
completed another October comeback by overpowering the Cleveland
Indians 11-2 Sunday night in Game 7 of the AL Championship Series.

Having rallied from a 3-1 deficit against Cleveland, the Red Sox
now play the streaking Colorado Rockies starting Wednesday night in

This time, the Red Sox are bringing a bunch of guys who weren't
around for the fun when they won it all in 2004.

"We've never been through this. This is on the biggest stage,"
said rookie second baseman Dustin Pedroia, who hit his first
postseason homer and drove in five runs.

"We worked too hard all year long to have our season get cut
short. Nobody wanted to go home, nobody wanted to say goodbye to
everybody. So once we got that win in Cleveland, brought us back
here, we started to believe."

Matsuzaka pitched five solid innings, and Okajima and Jonathan Papelbon each threw two scoreless innings in relief. Boston also got some help by a key blunder by an Indians base coach when
Cleveland trailed just 3-2 with a chance to tie the game.

"We won three games in a row and they won three in a row,"
Indians manager Eric Wedge said. "I'm disappointed, obviously, we
weren't able to finish it off."

After digging out of a 3-0 hole against the Yankees in the '04
ALCS, the Red Sox needed three straight wins to advance this time.
The Rockies, who have won 10 in a row and 21 of 22, will come back
from a record eight days off.

"The Rockies are on a magical run and we are going to have our
hands full. We're going to try and represent the American League
the best we can," Epstein said. "We haven't grown up any since
'04. That's part of what keeps these guys so good. It keeps us all
loose and we never stop believing."

Colorado outscored Boston 20-5 in winning two of three during an
interleague series at Fenway in June. The Red Sox did even better
in winning the last three games against Indians, outscoring them
30-5 in that span.

While Manny Ramirez, David Ortiz and ALCS MVP Josh Beckett
helped the Red Sox win their 12th pennant, the Indians only added
more misery to a city that hasn't celebrated a World Series
championship since 1948.

Cleveland was a double-play grounder from winning the crown at
Florida in 1997. They appeared to take control of this series with
three consecutive victories, but aces C.C. Sabathia and Fausto Carmona couldn't win a single game between them.

Jake Westbrook settled down to offer a solid outing in Game 7,
and still the Indians came up short. They had a chance to tie it at
3 in the seventh inning, but third-base coach Joel Skinner
mistakenly held up speedy Kenny Lofton as he rounded the bag.

With runners at the corners, Casey Blake grounded into an
inning-ending double play.

Then, the Red Sox blew it open. Pedroia, who homered earlier,
hit a three-run double and Kevin Youkilis launched a bottle rocket,
a two-run drive off the giant Coke bottle above the Green Monster.

Jonathan Papelbon pitched two innings for the save, finishing
things off when center fielder Coco Crisp raced back into the
center-field triangle, crashing into the wall to catch Blake's

Crisp was still on the ground when Papelbon chucked his glove
into the air and then waited, crouching, for catcher Jason Varitek
to leap into his arms.

The Red Sox poured out of the dugout for their first playoff
clinching celebration at home since the first round in 2004.

"The champagne tastes sweeter at home," they chanted in the
clubhouse later.

Twenty minutes after the last out, the ballpark still full,
slugger David Ortiz walked onto the field carrying the AL trophy.
He walked to the mound, held the prize up in the air for the crowd
to see and then planted it on the ground like an explorer claiming
new territory.

The ballpark hushed when Ortiz picked up a microphone to address
the crowd, but bedlam returned when Papelbon reprised his Irish
step dance from the regular-season clincher. Players took their
turns posing for pictures with the trophy while their kids ran the

"When things were not going well, we just took a deep breath.
Young guys like Pedroia played a big part in this series," Boston
manager Terry Francona said. "It's not over. We deserve a little
bit tonight to celebrate. This is a special time and a special
place, but it's not over."

Boston kept the bases busy early against Westbrook, but three
double plays in the first four innings kept the Indians in the game
while their starter settled down. The Red Sox scored once in each
of the first three innings, and Matsuzaka retired the first eight
batters he faced.

Cleveland cut the deficit to 3-2 through five, then had a chance
to tie it in the seventh when Red Sox shortstop Julio Lugo dropped
Lofton's seemingly harmless popup in shallow left. Lugo drifted
back, tracking the ball with his glove in the air and holding off
incoming left fielder Ramirez with his right hand.

But the shortstop let the ball bounce off his glove, and Lofton
was safe on second.

Franklin Gutierrez hit a sharp grounder over third base that
bounced off the photographer's box in front of the grandstand and
into shallow left. But Skinner held up both hands for the speedy
Lofton, and the 40-year-old outfielder skidded to a stop.

Lofton looked back for the ball and, seeing it in no man's land
in shallow left, snapped his head back to stare at Skinner.

"The ball was behind me. It's not my job. My job is to pick up
the third base coach. He stopped me. I just got to do what he says.
He's the third base coach," Lofton said.

Said Skinner: "The ball kicked off hard there and it's hard to
tell exactly where it is."

"I've seen it bounce right back to the shortstop. When you have
to make a decision and that's what I did. The ball ended up a
little deeper than I thought. But it was one out, runners at first
and third. We were OK," he said.

A star in big games throughout his career in Japan, Matsuzaka
followed two sub-par playoff outings with his first American
postseason victory. He allowed two runs on six hits in five
innings, striking out three and walking none.

"I thought he pitched his heart out," Francona said. "Those
were some tough innings. He gave us what we needed."

Fellow Japanese rookie Okajima pitched two innings of
shutout ball. Papelbon closed, sending the sold-out Fenway into a

Westbrook settled down after spotting Boston a 3-0 lead,
retiring seven consecutive batters before Jacoby Ellsbury -- another
rookie -- bounced a chopper through third baseman Blake for an
error. After Lugo's sacrifice bunt, Pedroia was up.

The diminutive second baseman, with eight major league homers to
his credit, hit an 0-1 pitch into the first row of the Monster
Seats to make it 5-2. He also doubled to clear the bases after
Boston loaded them in the eighth against Rafael Betancourt.

Youkilis, who was a rookie when Boston won it all in '04,
followed with a two-run homer to make it 11-2.

Cleveland's Game 4 starter, Paul Byrd, was forced to defend
himself before the finale when the San Francisco Chronicle reported
that he bought nearly $25,000 worth of human growth hormone and
syringes from 2002-05. Byrd said he took HGH under a doctor's

"I do not want the fans of Cleveland or honest, caring people
to think that I cheated," Byrd told a throng of reporters before
the game. "Because I didn't."

Game notes
Boston is 5-5 all-time in decisive Game 7s. ... The Red Sox
were already the only team to have rallied twice from a 3-1 deficit
to win the LCS, in 1986 and '04. It was the first winner-take-all
in the baseball postseason since the 2006 NLCS. ... Boston Game 4
starter Tim Wakefield was unavailable to come out of the bullpen.

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