The St. Louis Cardinals are on life support, and the Boston Red Sox are standing on their air hose. Tomorrow, Derek Lowe will try to pull the plug. In doing so, the Red Sox will have finally vanquished all of their demons, and the Nation will be free at last of it’s long-standing misery.

The hopes of St. Louis began wilting early in Game 3. Manny-power provided the Sox a 1-0 first-inning lead on a no-doubt homer. Relentless hitting up and down the starting line-up would add three runs in the fourth and fifth. The Cardinals had chances in the first and third to get to Pedro. But horrific baserunning and heads-up defense picked Pedro up, helping him escape the third. Then he took over.

Martinez was on cruise control for the next four innings. Four perfect innings where he struck out five, including Edmonds and Sanders to end the seventh. It was vintage Pedro. Seven innings, three hits, two walks and six K’s. In what may have been his last outing as a member of the Red Sox, he silenced his critics, regained the respect he deserves, and carried his team one step closer to glory. Lights freakin’ out.

The shots of the St. Louis fans are becoming disturbing. They are wearing hangdog looks, holding their heads in their hands. They are desperately turning their hats inside-out and clinging to their “curse” signs. They are waiting for the ghost of the Babe with the same pathetic anticipation as Charlie Brown waiting for the Great Pumpkin. They are wringing their hands and looking around with glazed-over eyes devoid of hope. The scenes are disturbing because these actions are always by people wearing Red Sox shirts and hats. And these are the same looks I saw in the mirror last year at this time. And I have to keep reminding myself that it’s not happening to us this time.

It is not time to get poignant yet. There is a long winter coming and plenty of time for that. There is still work to be done. Nine innings. Twenty-seven outs. This is not the time to get soft. The Sox smell blood and must finish what they started so long ago. For Theo and the front office, it started the day after Game 7 of the 2003 ALCS. For others it was Spring Training and for some it was mid-season. But our time is coming, make no mistake about that. It may be as soon as 24 hours from now.