ST. LOUIS - Get ready, Boston. There's no other outcome now: Pedro Martinez, Manny Ramirez and the Red Sox - up 3-0 in the World Series - will either win the World Series or add another historic collapse to their legend.
Derek Lowe (14-12) will try to close out the series Wednesday night, just as he did in Game 7 of the AL championship series, with Jason Marquis (15-7) looking to extend the St. Louis Cardinals' season.
The Red Sox moved within a victory of their first World Series title since 1918 with a 4-1 victory over the St. Louis Cardinals Tuesday night. Manny Ramirez drove in two runs, including a solo homer, and Pedro Martinez set down 14 straight batters.
Coming off 11-9 and 6-2 wins at Fenway Park last weekend, the Red Sox became the first team in World Series history to hold the lead after the first inning in Games 1, 2 and 3. The only other teams to score in the first inning of the first three games were the 1932 Chicago Cubs and the 1997 Cleveland Indians.
Larry Walker hit a one-out, solo homer in the ninth off closer Keith Foulke for the Cardinals' only run.
Martinez made his long-awaited Series debut a special one, bailed out when Manny Ramirez and David Ortiz did as much damage with their arms as bats. Backed by the surprising show of defense, Boston left a crowd that loves its Cardinals booing the home team.
"It is big, but we learned our lesson against the Yankees," Ramirez said.
Until this October, it was considered almost impossible for any baseball team to recover from such a deficit in the postseason. No one had ever done it - that is, until the Red Sox bounced back to stun New York in the ALCS.
"We're not going to relax that much," Martinez said. "I don't think our team's going to relax as much as the Yankees were."
And now, after being only three outs away from getting swept last week, Boston is on the verge of sweeping the club that led the majors in wins this year and claiming the ultimate prize.
"It's something you've got to notice. It's possible," Cardinals manager Tony La Russa said. "Hard not to get discouraged. They didn't."
"I think the one thing I'm absolutely confident about is that we've come too far to give an effort that will embarrass anybody tomorrow."
The Red Sox remained cautious.
"We don't want people to think this Series is over," Lowe said.
Still, Red Sox fans gathered around the Boston dugout and chanted "One more win! One more win!" after the final out. Meanwhile, this sign curiously was posted on a side scoreboard at Busch Stadium: "Thanks for a great 2004 season."
Then again, the Red Sox have seen something similar before.
When they were within one strike of the 1986 title in Game 6, a message popped onto the Shea Stadium scoreboard congratulating them on winning the World Series. A couple of days later, the New York Mets beat them in Game 7.
Pitching a day after his 33rd birthday, Martinez threw seven innings of shutout ball, holding the limp Cardinals to three hits and retiring his last 14 batters. He did it without the blazing fastball that made him a three-time Cy Young Award winner, instead mixing his deliveries.
Larry Walker homered in the ninth off Boston closer Keith Foulke. By then, it was too late as St. Louis' big hitters fell short.
Scott Rolen again went hitless, leaving him at 0-for-11. Albert Pujols, Rolen and Jim Edmonds, the 3-4-5 guys for the Cardinals, are 5-for-33 with one RBI.
Ramirez put Boston ahead with a first-inning homer and Martinez held it, helped by superb defense and shaky baserunning. Added up, the Red Sox set a team record with their seventh straight postseason win, bettering the streak of six capped off by Babe Ruth's win in the 1916 Series.
That Martinez won was hardly amazing. That Boston's defense contributed was downright shocking.
The Red Sox made eight errors and still won the first two games. This time, they were flawless in the field.