Are you ready for November baseball?

The 2016 World Series, a Fall Classic that has captivated the country, resumes Tuesday night in Cleveland. The Indians, an overlooked team entering the series, are one win away from sticking a dagger into the hearts of Chicago Cubs fans from coast to coast.

Most people thought a Cubs championship was a given after they took care of business against the Dodgers. Watching the city celebrate its first National League pennant in 71 years made it feel an awful lot like Boston in 2004.

The difference, of course, is that the ’04 Red Sox never gave the St. Louis Cardinals a chance to get up off the mat and make that World Series a battle. That Red Sox team made it to the World Series by becoming the first baseball team ever to rally from a 3-0 deficit in a best-of-seven series when they beat the Yankees.

As the country got ready for that 2004 series, it seemed a fait accompli that the Sox would roll to victory. In fact, the Cardinals weren’t happy about everyone’s obsession with Boston’s chance to break the long-dreaded “Curse of the Bambino.”

Before the series began, Dan Shaughnessy of The Boston Globe wrote there was “some sentiment in St. Louis that the National League champions have been disrespected.”


It’s often forgotten now, but Game 1 of that 2004 World Series was its own epic struggle. The Red Sox jumped out to a 4-0 lead in the first when David Ortiz hit a three-run shot in his first World Series at bat. By the end of the third inning it was 7-2. Beers and tears flowed freely as Sox fans watched the beginning of the end of 86 years of disappointment.

Yet there was fear in the stands by the eighth. Manny Ramirez made errors on consecutive plays and the Cardinals tied the game at 9-9. Keith Foulke gave up the unearned runs in the eighth as Red Sox manager Terry Francona showed his willingness to tinker with the standard bullpen order in a playoff series. It’s something he continues to do now with relievers Andrew Miller and Cody Allen.

The Sox ultimately won that game thanks to a Cardinals’ error and a towering two-run shot by Mark Bellhorn that hit the upper reaches of the Pesky Pole in right. Had it been six inches to the right it would’ve been a foul ball. It wasn’t. The Sox survived the night and New England let out a sigh of relief.

From there, the self-proclaimed Idiots rolled through the Cardinals, outscoring them 13-3 over the next three games and beginning a party that would last through the winter.

That same party atmosphere was supposed to take place in Chicago this past weekend. Yet the Indians – feeling every bit as disrespected as the 2004 Cardinals – had other plans. Francona has been masterful with the use of his bullpen and led his team to two straight wins at Wrigley Field.

The Indians, however, were unable to put away the Cubs on Sunday night. This time it was Chicago Manager Joe Maddon pushing all the right buttons, getting 22/3 innings of scoreless relief from closer Aroldis Chapman to seal the win.


Madden admitted his team, and the city of Chicago, may have had a little trouble with the nervousness associated with ending a 108-year championship drought. He also thinks Sunday night’s 3-2 win got them past that. Now he must lead his team to two more wins at Progressive Field in Cleveland.

Francona knows a 3-2 series lead isn’t safe. In addition to leading his Red Sox back from the 3-0 deficit against the Yankees in 2004 he led the 2007 Sox back from a 3-1 deficit in the ALCS – against the Indians.

Now Tito will try to keep that from happening – and stop any more comparisons between the 2016 Cubs and the team he led to history in 2004.

Tom Caron is a studio host for the Red Sox broadcast on NESN. His column appears in the Portland Press Herald on Tuesdays.

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