Game 2 of the 2004 World Series is probably best thought of as the moment it became likely that the Red Sox would finally win it all. It would not have felt that way. It would have still felt like an amateur tightrope walk, where the winds always had the power to knock you off at the last moment, as they had done so many times before. This time, they had been conspiring to keep you upright, and now were easily at your back, and the clouds had parted.
It had looked like this before. Shea Stadium had flashed a congratulatory banner on the scoreboard, quick on a trigger finger that would never be necessary. I don't want to talk about 1975, despite having not yet been born. I was there, and it was bad. After that, Bucky Dent, Bill Buckner and Aaron Boone, it was easily to remain aggressively paranoid.
Still, in purely mathematical and semantic terms, it became likely that the Red Sox would win the World Series after Game 2. According to this site, which I'm going to go ahead and trust, coming into Game 2, they had a 64 percent likelihood of winning it all. They came out around 80 percent. If 80 percent sounds "likely" to you -- and it does to me, far more than "more likely than not" 64 -- this is a fact. If not, it's just semantics, and screw it.
Reliving 2004 Must Reads
It was time for a regression to the mean, and was the quality of the baseball games, which had been at a fevered level for both teams. The NLCS was crazy, too, and the standout in nearly every other historical comparison. It was literally baseball on the best drugs available, piled onto the most popular teams, and it was thrilling for longer than it had any right to be -- not in the sense of "right" and "wrong," but in the sense that what baseball ultimately does best is produce regular-ass games, no matter who is playing them (Barry Bonds exception).
Game 2 wasn't even that -- only in comparison to what had come before. It was a "Bloody Sock Game," but it was not the Bloody Sock Game; picking up where Game 1 left off and where Games 3 and 4 would continue, the Red Sox led at some point in every inning. There was only one inning -- the sixth inning of Game 1 -- that ended in even a tie. The Red Sox had led going in, and would score two runs in the bottom of the seventh. They would end every inning thereafter ahead. This is true and you should tell everyone.
If nothing else, Game 2 of the 2004 World Series is the finest game pitched by someone who would blow $75 million of Rhode Island's money on decent video game with his ankle tendon stitched into place, a stoner-hack medical procedure that made a Truther out of Joe Torre. Torre has said he didn't bunt against Curt Schilling in Game Six of the ALCS because he didn't believe the bloody sock story -- I've always assumed he was lying and just trying to piss Schilling off by beating him straight.
In fairness, Schilling was hamming it up in Game 2, even when he wasn't fighting the effects of his injury:
In another bit of obvious gamesmanship, he had said he expected the Cardinals to bunt on him; they wouldn't. He later said, in an interview I can't find, that he wouldn't have pitched later in the series had it continued. I've never really believed that, but it costs him nothing to say that he left it all out there, having martyred himself before the real goddess of baseball: the camera. Guess where he works now?
Albert Pujols doubles with two outs in the bottom of the first, but Scott Rolen's line drive found Bill Mueller, because that's just how things are going at this point. Do we understand when, in the bottom of the inning, Jason Varitek triples in Manny Ramirez and David Ortiz, who were both walked by Matt Morris, that this game will be the same? wWPA understands, with Varitek's back corner shot swinging the odds 17 percent in favor, a game high.
The Cardinals would lose their best shot in the in the next frame when Mike Matheny would also line out right to Mueller, who turns a double play by tagging out Reggie Sanders, second-to-third. If it atones for a dropped popup earlier, he keeps it interesting by committing hits second error of the night in the fourth on another Pujols double, leading to a run.
But... the Sox immediately struck back with two more on a Mark Bellhorn double, at 15% wWPA their second most-valuable play, and took another pair to make it 6-1 in the seventh on singles by Trot Nixon, Johnny Damon and Orlando Cabrera. Schilling went six, struck out four and gave up an unearned run -- regular-ass baseball numbers.
After that, it was a blur of Alan Embree, Mike Timlin and Keith Foulke, the latter for a four-out save that started with an eighth-ending strikeout of Jim Edmonds, adding to a resume that would just about win him the the World Series MVP (but wouldn't). Manny would win it, and the free car on which Foulke wanted to plant his own vanity plates. As he told Gordon Edes in 2012, it would have been all he had:
"It took me a couple of years to appreciate what happened," Foulke said. "I couldn't watch the video because it was painful for me. My wife left me in September that year. I'm going home to an empty house. That was one of the reasons I liked pitching so much. My personal life was going to hell. I needed my professional life.
"Brutal. I made some bad decisions. I chose to try and go the family route; that's what killed me. Now I don't have a career or a family."
So... yeah. That sucks, and It's not hard to blame him on a professional level, especially in light of what came after, which was almost nothing. Foulke was terrible in 2005, and out of the game after 2006. Having finished his quote above with a "mirthless laugh," Edes wrote, Foulke had nevertheless learned to celebrate the positive part of the experience.
He looked so happy. They all did. I'm glad he's decided that it's okay to remember. It's all we can do now, and none of us will forget who was on the mound when it happened. At this point, though, it's on to St. Louis, and Pedro's last start in a Boston uniform and the only one he pitched fully outside of daddy's shadow.