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Performance was priceless

Series MVP Lowell should soon have plenty of suitors

DENVER - Mike Lowell has some shopping ahead of him in the next few days and weeks, but last night the Red Sox third baseman strolled out of here with a World Series championship and the Series MVP trophy in his shopping cart.

Lowell went 2 for 4, including a double in the fifth inning and a solo homer in the seventh, helping the Sox to their 4-3 victory over the Rockies at Coors Field. The win, their fourth straight over the Coloradans, handed the Sox their second World Series title in four seasons.

"I'm on Cloud 9," said a beaming Lowell, his ballcap on backward, a beaming smile spread across his face in the postgame interview room. "This is unbelievable."

His performance last night, which also included scoring the run that brought the Sox to a 2-0 lead in the fifth inning, made Lowell 6 for 15 (.400) for the Series. He also had three doubles and four RBIs. The former Florida Marlin, now a two-time Series champion, was a key component in a very potent Boston offense that finished the Series with a 19-run advantage over the vanquished and frustrated NL champs.

"We have a lot of people to give credit to," said the humble and gregarious Lowell, without a doubt the most approachable and agreeable member of the Sox clubhouse. "I think, definitely, we have the ability to put together a lot of consecutive professional at-bats. We are patient and we are selective, and that gives us the ability to get into a lot of bullpens sooner than some clubs might."

Lowell will turn 34 during spring training, and right now, neither Lowell nor the rest of the baseball world knows what flannels he'll be sporting in the spring. The deal he signed in Florida, and brought with him to Boston in the trade that also sent Josh Beckett to the Hub of Hardball, has officially expired.

Lowell will soon be a free agent, about to hit the market with that shiny MVP trophy sticking out of his back pocket. Potential bidders? Take your pick. He may be getting on in years, but he has parlayed an outstanding regular season with a near-magical postseason, and if the Red Sox aren't willing to write him a three- or four-year deal, then there undoubtedly will be suitors willing to write those checks.

"I think I will take that step by step," said Lowell, almost sheepish when addressing the subject before a national television audience in the immediate wake of the triumph. "But I've never hid the fact that I like playing in Boston."

It would not be a stretch to see Lowell wearing Pinstripes, along with former Sox center fielder Johnny Damon. Yankee superstar Alex Rodriguez is leaving the Yankees, opting out of the final three years of his landmark 10-year, $252 million contract he signed with the Rangers before the 2001 season. Lowell is fluent in Spanish, adding to his marketability in the Bronx.

The key belt for Lowell last night was the homer off Rockies starter, and loser, Aaron Cook, who had limited the Sox to only two runs when Lowell stepped to the plate to lead off the seventh.

"The long ball is special," said Lowell. It was a 1-and-0 pitch off Cook that he sent over the wall.

"I know he's got a good slider, and he threw me one middle [of the plate] inside . . . it went out . . . just a great feeling."

The MVP award, along with making Lowell the hottest commodity in the free agency market, also put a pair of Chevrolet hybrids in his garage. Where he'll drive them, no one knows.

As the clock approached 1 a.m. in Boston, the Sox continued to pop champagne in their clubhouse, the floor a sea of foam bubbles. Meanwhile, thousands of Sox fans remained in the expansive lower deck of Coors Field, holding their own party a couple thousand miles from Kenmore Square.

In unison, members of Red Sox Nation chanted their night's final wish: "Re-sign Lowell! Re-sign Lowell!"

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