Finishing behind the Red Sox in the American League East felt bad for the Rays. Getting eliminated by the Sox in the Division Series, and having to watch them celebrate at the Trop, was worse. • And now they have to live with this: The Red Sox are World Series champs. • "I don't really know how to sum it up besides it's time to cue up the Duck Boats," said Sox outfielder Jonny Gomes, the former Ray. "Character and chemistry is where it starts, but in the end it's good ballplayers." • The Sox capped an interesting and intriguing Series somewhat uneventfully, beating the Cardinals 6-1 in Game 6 on Wednesday to complete a stunning worst-to-first turnaround. • Closer Koji Uehara struck out Matt Carpenter to end it and start the party, a massive celebration as the Fenway fans frolicked over the Sox's first championship at home since 1918. The celebrating was set to last into the night, if not for days, and the expected flaunting of the championship, the Sox's third in 10 years after going 86 without, will serve as a reminder for months.
"Winning this World Series is special," MVP David Ortiz said. "I think it might be the most special of all (three) World Series I've been a part of. … This is a team that we have a lot of players with heart."
What started as a tight Game 2 rematch of St. Louis rookie starter Michael Wacha and Sox veteran John Lackey quickly turned into a rout.
Shane Victorino, one of the seven key free agents brought in to resurrect the Sox after a dismal 2012, was the star of the night, with a pair of bases-loaded hits, and Lackey did his part, working impressively into the seventh.
Ortiz was the MVP of the Series, however, hitting .688 (11-for-16) and getting on base 18 of 24 times, leaving even his own teammates struggling for words.
"I'd probably rather let his bat do the talking, because it's pretty special," manager John Farrell said. "We're talking about a likely Hall of Fame player."
The Sox built their lead with three runs in the third, when Victorino doubled to clear the bases, then scored three more in the fourth, on a homer by Stephen Drew (who was 4-for-51 in the postseason to that point) and RBI singles by Mike Napoli and Victorino, who returned to the lineup after missing Games 4 and 5 with back tightness.
Down 6-0, the Cardinals had basically one chance to get back in the game, but three hits, a wild pitch and a walk netted only one run in the seventh as Junichi Tazawa came on with the bases loaded and got Allen Craig to ground out, and the countdown to the celebration was on, across the field and in the wet-and-wild clubhouse.
"When the fireworks went off at the presentation of the trophy out there, when the ballpark was filled with smoke, it was completely surreal," Farrell said. "To be in this position, given where we've come from, reflecting back a year ago at this time, there's been a lot that happened."
The Red Sox became only the second team to go from last place one year to World Series champs the next year, joining the 1991 Twins, winning 97 regular-season games and 11 more in the postseason. The Rays were a big part of that, as the Sox got 15 of those 108 wins against them.
A massive makeover of the roster, bringing in Victorino, Gomes and five other prominent free agents, and making several trades, including one to get Farrell from Toronto, keyed the turnaround that led to their eighth championship overall.
"Thankfully the guys that were here and the guys we brought in came together," general manager Ben Cherington said. "I don't think they thought they were a perfect team, they just were the best team."
The better results on the field, he said, were a product of having better guys in Sox uniforms.
"It's just a remarkable group of people in our clubhouse that truly put winning first and put each other first and had each other's backs," Cherington said.
There was also a reconnection with the fans, which became magnified as the Sox played a somewhat cathartic role in the aftermath of the Boston Marathon bombing, helping heal the community by taking many opportunities to acknowledge the survivors, responders and heroes of that day, and having the "Boston Strong" logo cut into the outfield grass.
"In a time of need, in response to a tragedy, I go back to our players understanding their place in this city. … They get it," Farrell said. "I'm sure everybody in our uniform, they'll look back at the events that took place and the way things unfolded as a special year. There's no way we can say it any other way."
Marc Topkin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @TBTimes_Rays.