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Jackie MacMullan

They're soaking it all in

ANAHEIM, Calif. - It was a frat party run amok, a band of delirious baseball brothers who raucously celebrated as if they had won the World Series.

The Boston Red Sox haven't done that - yet. But they unabashedly partied like it was 2004 yesterday afternoon after thrashing the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, 9-1, to complete a thoroughly humiliating sweep of the best the West had to offer.

As the smell of sweat and champagne wafted throughout Boston's clubhouse, the Red Sox let loose, hugging and shouting and dancing to the heavy beat of their victory tunes. Kevin Youkilis, clad in royal blue swim goggles, screamed with delight as he doused Mike Lowell with a champagne and Budweiser cocktail. Jonathan Papelbon screeched like a little kid with a liquor license, tormenting anyone and everyone in his path with a bath of liquid refreshments.

David Ortiz, who knocked yet another ball out of the park yesterday, traded some elbow high-fives, then quickly donned a rain poncho and retreated to the back of the room. Manny Delcarmen, the pride of Hyde Park, grabbed his own bottle of bubbly and promptly poured it down Papelbon's pants.

General manager Theo Epstein, who on this day did not have to answer questions about J.D. Drew's production or Eric Gagné's price tag, smiled broadly and proclaimed, "This is fun. The guys have worked so hard . . . "

Slugger Manny Ramírez interrupted Epstein's victory speech by drenching the young GM with a bucket full of ice water. With no Gatorade readily available, it was the next-best thing to the well-known postgame tradition.

With the Angels safely eliminated, the Red Sox happily put the playoff button on pause for a moment to enjoy their accomplishments. The beauty of these celebrations is it doesn't matter whether you were a playoff hero or a playoff scrub. Kyle Snyder and Curt Schilling were indistinguishable in the madness that unfolded late yesterday. Both were soaked in alcohol, and mobbed by teammates.

The question was raised whether such a spirited celebration was premature - and, perhaps, a bit overdone. After all, winning a Division Series was hardly the established goal when this team trucked its gear down to Fort Myers, Fla., in February. No one in the clubhouse is supposed to be truly satisfied until the Red Sox win another championship.

"We understand that," said manager Terry Francona. "We haven't accomplished all that we've wanted to yet. But I don't mind this. The emotion you see in here is real."

Who could help but notice Jon Lester quietly taking it all in, knowing one year ago at this time his life - never mind his baseball future - was so cloudy because of a shocking cancer diagnosis? And there was Delcarmen, who grew up idolizing the team of his native city, who shuttled back and forth to Pawtucket wondering if he would ever get his chance to prove he belonged in the big leagues.

"I'm living my dream right now," he said. "All I ever wanted was to play for the Boston Red Sox, to have a chance to be in a playoff series. It's even sweeter, too, because I'm here with Pap [Papelbon] and [Dustin] Pedroia. We were in the minors together, hoping for the day something like this would happen to us."

Red Sox owner John Henry visited the clubhouse and offered his congratulations to his ball club, upon which he, too, was subjected to a victory bath of Bud and bubbly. Asked to characterize his team, the owner answered, "Relentless. That's the word that came up today. The lineup we had out there was so perfect. When you drop Manny back into that four spot, behind Ortiz and ahead of Mike Lowell, I can't imagine anything better. And Schilling - every pitch sequence was so crisp. It was a joy to watch.

"This group totally reminded me of the teams from 2003 and 2004. But even those teams didn't have this kind of bullpen."

The stars appear to be aligned for the Old Towne Team. Schilling fired seven shutout innings, aided in the third inning when catcher Jason Varitek chased down a tricky pop fly, dived for it, bobbled it, then hung on for the third out to end a bases-loaded situation.

As they have done so many times before, Boston's batters gave their pitcher some subsequent breathing room. Ortiz led off the fourth with a towering home run to right field, then Ramírez followed with a shot to center field.

"Manny and I are the heart of this team," proclaimed Big Papi afterward. "This was our short series. We didn't want to waste any time. We wanted to win this one and get going. When Manny and I are swinging the bat like this, we are very tough to beat."

He is right. With timely hitting, timely pitching, and consistent defense, the Red Sox are peaking at the right time. There are a number of alumni from the 2004 championship team - Ortiz, Ramírez, Varitek, Schilling, Tim Wakefield, Youkilis, Mike Timlin, and Doug Mirabelli - but there are also a collection of kids who have heard all about the World Series wins, but were itching to create their own memories.

"It's a beautiful scene," said Papelbon, in between ripping open beers with his teeth. "It is what all of us have been working toward. And now we're here, and for a little while, at least, we're going to have some fun."

The fun is officially over this morning. The Angels must be relegated to the past, along with the champagne and the Budweiser and the buckets of ice.

If the frat boys want another party, they better be ready to get back to work.

Jackie MacMullan is a Globe columnist. She can be reached at macmullan@globe.com.

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