BOSTON -- The Red Sox did everything possible to give away Game One of the World Series Saturday night but the St. Louis Cardinals couldn't take advantage of the gifts.
Despite making four errors and blowing a five-run lead, the Red Sox survived thanks to a fortuitous clank off one of the landmark spots in ancient Fenway Park.
Mark Bellhorn's two-run homer in the bottom of the eighth, a shot that dinked off Pesky Pole in right field, snapped a tie and gave the Sox a goofy 11-9 victory in the opener of the 100th Series.
With Jason Varitek on first after reaching on an error by St. Louis shortstop Edgar Renteria, Bellhorn drove a 1-2 pitch from St. Louis reliever Julian Tavarez high off the pole, 302 feet from home plate, that's named for Sox legend Johnny Pesky.
Bellhorn pointed to the pole in glee as if to say thanks to it while Tavarez spun in frustration in front of the mound cursing his luck.
Cursing? That's what Sox fans must have been doing as a five-run lead evaporated during Boston's first Series game in 18 years. Boston fans looking for a good omen to end the team's 86-year title drought should note that the Sox also won Game One in 1975 (against Cincinnati) and 1986 (against the Mets) but lost both series in seven games.
Bellhorn's shot made a winner of Boston closer Keith Foulke, who retired St. Louis sluggers Scott Rolen and Jim Edmonds to end the eighth and leave the bases loaded. Foulke gave up a one-out double in the ninth to Marlon Anderson but ended the game by inducing a pop up from Yadier Molina and striking out Roger Cedeno for the final out.
The cozy neighborhood around the ballpark was abuzz with activity in the hours before the game but the crowd of 35,035 inside Boston's 92-year-old home was oddly subdued for the first Series game here since 1986. With the Yankees no longer in town, there wasn't much confrontation in the stands and the uneven play on the field didn't make for a lot of drama either.
Perhaps things will heat up tonight when the series continues here because Sox ace Curt Schilling will be on the mound, injured ankle and all, against St. Louis right-hander Matt Morris.
Eleven pitchers combined for 13 walks in the game and Boston's damage tab could have been worse, if not for the fact the Red Sox left 12 men on base. The Sox managed to win despite blowing a 7-2 lead, built through three innings.
Boston's defense, which made just one error in its seven ALCS games, nearly gave this one away. Left field Manny Ramirez committed back-to-back errors in the eighth to help the Cardinals score two runs and tie the game at 9-9.
First, he overran the ball on a Renteria single allowing pinch-runner (and pitcher) Jason Marquis to score. Then he butchered a slicing liner by Larry Walker as the ball bounded off his glove during an odd Ramirez slide. Cedeno scored the tying run on that play.
Walker led the St. Louis attack by going 4 for 5 with two doubles and a home run. But No. 3 man Albert Pujols went 0 for 3, leaving five men on base, and cleanup man Rolen was 0 for 5, including a pop up with the bases loaded with one out in the eighth.
Both starting pitchers were brutal as St. Louis' Woody Williams gave up seven runs in 2 innings and Boston knuckleballer Tim Wakefield was touched for five runs in 3 innings and walked five.
The Sox led, 4-0, after the first inning and seemed in control through three. But a throwing error by first baseman Kevin Millar aided the Cardinals in a three-run fourth and another errant throw by pitcher Bronson Arroyo sparked a two-run St. Louis fifth that pulled the visitors even at 7-7.
David Ortiz's four RBIs equaled the most by a Boston player in Series play, first achieved by Carl Yastrzemski in Game Two of the 1967 matchup with the Cardinals. Ortiz has 19 RBIs in the postseason, equaling the major-league record set by Scott Speizio of Anaheim in 1992 and Sandy Alomar of Cleveland in 1997.
Ortiz collected three on a booming home run inside the Pesky Pole in the first and another on a bad-hop single in the seventh that drilled Cardinals second baseman Tony Womack in the left collarbone; Womack left the game after the blow and was taken for precautionary X-rays.
The Sox quickly made life miserable for Williams with their four-run first -- the most runs in the first inning of Game One since Baltimore put up five against Pittsburgh in its first at-bat in 1979.
It was the most runs Boston has ever scored in the first inning of a Series game but there were 16 more runs to come before the bizarre night was over.