The Boston Red Sox, maybe more than any team, know the difference between winning and losing in the post-season can come down to bad breaks, bad bounces or bad karma.
But for a team haunted by so many ghosts of Octobers past, the 1998 postseason couldn't have begun on a brighter note.Boston, seeking its first World Series title in 80 years, opened its AL playoff series against Cleveland on Tuesday with an 11-3 rout of the defending league champion Indians.
The Red Sox played like a more confident, more disciplined team. In fact, they had a little Mo of everything.
Mo Vaughn, who couldn't wait to erase the frightful memories of his last playoff appearance, homered twice and matched a playoff record with seven RBIs as the Red Sox won in the postseason for the first time since Game 5 of the 1986 World Series - a losing streak spanning 13 games.
"We didn't make too much of the streak until everyone reminded us of it the last couple of days," Vaughn said. "But Game 1 is an important game in any series. I'm glad it broke the streak, but I'm more glad it was Game 1. If we push it and go after it, we could be in a pretty good set when we go home."
Nomar Garciaparra hit a three-run homer and Pedro Martinez pitched seven innings as Boston ended a playoff slide that began on Oct. 25, 1986, when Mookie Wilson's grounder to first skipped past Bill Buckner at Shea Stadium in the World Series.
That forced a Game 7 the Red Sox lost, and Boston - which hasn't won the Series since 1918 - was swept in four games by Oakland in 1988 and '90, and then in three by Cleveland in 1995.
"As players, I don't think the streak held any validity, because most of us weren't here," said Darren Lewis, who left the game in the fifth inning after being hit on the left ear flap by Jaret Wright.
Past failures weighed heavily on the Red Sox, and especially on Vaughn, who went 0-for-14 with seven strikeouts in '95 when Boston was swept in three games by Cleveland.
"It was nice to get off a lot of things," Vaughn said. ". . . We did all right, man. We did a lot of things individually and as a team. It was nice to get it done today."
Vaughn ended his streak of playoff failure in the first inning with a three-run homer off Wright, sending Cleveland on to its worst loss in 55 postseason games.
Garciaparra's three-run homer made it 6-0 in the fifth. Vaughn connected for a two-run shot in the sixth off Doug Jones, becoming the first Boston player to hit two homers in a postseason game since Rico Petrocelli in the 1967 World Series.
Vaughn added a two-run double in the eighth off Jim Poole to set a career-high for RBIs and tie Edgar Martinez's record for RBIs in a postseason game.
"I just wanted an opportunity to get here again," Vaughn said.
Kenny Lofton hit a two-run homer and Jim Thome had a solo shot for the Indians, who with Wright taking the mound were hoping to recapture some of the magic that carried them to Game 7 of the World Series last year.
Wright, however, couldn't get out of the fifth inning. The 22-year-old right-hander, who went 3-0 in the postseason in '97, was touched for six runs and seven hits in 4 1-3 innings.
Cleveland hoped to salvage a home split in Game 2 Wednesday. Dwight Gooden - coincidentally the loser the last time the Red Sox won a postseason game - was scheduled to start for the Indians against knuckleballer Tim Wakefield. Game 3 in the best-of-5 series is scheduled for Friday in Boston.