ANAHEIM, Calif - While Manny Ramírez and Julian Tavarez were dumping buckets of ice water on Mike Lowell, Curt Schilling and Theo Epstein were exchanging congratulatory embraces, and Jonathan Papelbon showed that his education at Mississippi State had not been entirely wasted, demonstrating an encyclopedic knowledge of how many ways beer may be shaken, sprayed, and poured, Red Sox CEO Larry Lucchino stood in a hallway outside of the visitors' clubhouse in Angel Stadium, munching on an apple.
"I really don't care one whit who it is, as long as we're there," Lucchino said when asked if he had a choice of opponent in the next round for the Sox, who advanced to the American League Championship Series with a 9-1 win over the outmanned Los Angeles Angels that completed a three-game sweep of their Division Series.
The Sox await the winner of the Indians-Yankees series.
"That surprises me a little," Lucchino said, "because in the past I've always felt you had to go through Yankee Stadium to validate your quest. I don't feel that way this year.
"Maybe it's a function of us being tested the way we've been the last few years - we've had a lot of intense experiences with them - but the train doesn't have to drive through the Bronx in order for us to get to the promised land."
The Sox remained on the fast track to hardball heaven behind Schilling, who enhanced an already spectacular October résumé with seven scoreless innings, back-to-back fourth-inning home runs by David Ortiz and Ramirez off loser Jered Weaver, and a seven-run uprising in the eighth inning that drained whatever air was left in Anaheim.
"We didn't come out of spring training to win the first round," said Lowell, who doubled and scored in the eighth, when the Sox sent 10 men to the plate against three relievers while matching the most runs they've scored in a postseason inning. "We want to win the world championship.
"I think we have to be extremely satisfied with the way we went about this series. We got great pitching, we swung the bats well, and I think we played a complete game of baseball."
The Sox outscored the Angels, 19-4, outhomered them, 5-0, and exposed the weaknesses of a team that could not afford to be missing two starting outfielders, Gary Matthews Jr. (patella tendinitis), Garret Anderson (conjunctivitis, which forced him to leave yesterday's game after two innings), and starting first baseman Casey Kotchman, who spent yesterday in the hospital because of a viral condition.
Ortiz and Ramírez each homered twice in the series, Ramírez's home run into the rock pile in center field in bright sunshine yesterday traveling maybe even farther than his moon shot Friday night. Ramírez has 22 postseason home runs, tying him with Bernie Williams of the Yankees for most in postseason history. Ortiz has 10 October home runs for the Sox, most in club history. Ortiz was on base 11 times in 13 plate appearances this series, Ramírez eight times in 13.
Where do they rank in all-time 1-2 slugging combos?
"I'm not good at that," manager Terry Francona said. "I think I know where I rank in doing that and it's probably last."
But Ortiz and Ramírez, as great as they were in this series, were not the ultimate difference-makers, according to Angels manager Mike Scioscia.
"[Boston's] pitching probably doesn't get as much notice as some of the guys on the offensive side of that team, but that's the heartbeat of that club," said Scioscia, whose team scored only twice in 27 innings in this series - three runs against Daisuke Matsuzaka in the second inning of a 6-3 Game 2 loss, and a run in the ninth off Eric Gagné, who clapped into his glove as J.D. Drew caught Robb Quinlan's fly to right for the last out of the series.
Yesterday, the pitching was all about Schilling, who wriggled out of a bases-loaded jam in the third, retiring Reggie Willits on a pop to Jason Varitek near the on-deck circle, then surrendered just one base hit - a single by Mike Napoli - until Maicer Izturis led off the seventh with a double. Manny Delcarmen and Hideki Okajima were warming in the bullpen, but Schilling kept them there, inducing Howie Kendrick to roll to second, Rivera to pop to first, and then striking out Napoli, banging his glove with gusto as he did a little twirl off the mound.
"Everybody knows how prepared he is, the notebook and all that," Lowell said, "but you can be the most prepared guy in the world and still have to execute. He did that. He threw the ball extremely well. That's why he's a big-game pitcher."
Schilling, who gave up six hits, walked one and struck out four while throwing precisely 100 pitches, 76 for strikes, is 9-2 for his career in postseason play. His winning percentage of .818 is the best all time for pitchers with at least 10 postseason decisions.
"Big Daddy came through," said Papelbon, who was called upon just once in this series - he became the winner of Game 2 on Ramírez's walkoff home run - because of Josh Beckett's shutout in Game 1 and the Sox breaking it open late yesterday afternoon.
"In my opinion we don't want nobody but Curt Schilling out there to decide that game. Regardless of the ups and downs he's been through this season, I think when it's all said and done, he's there to come through in big situations and that's what he did today."
Epstein delivered a variation of that message to Schilling in a private moment after the game.
"It was an awesome performance, fun to watch," Epstein said. "It's an unspoken thing, to do what he did with his stuff, which is good stuff but not the vintage Schilling stuff, there's not as much a margin for error as he's been accustomed to his whole career. It's just a remarkable display of focus and other mental attributes he possesses to go out and execute consistently, pitch after pitch."
Gordon Edes can be reached at email@example.com.