BOSTON -- If the gods truly had it in for the Boston Red Sox, as New England has assumed for seven decades, Tom Brunansky would have lost Ozzie Guillen's drive in the full moon that hung over Fenway Park last night.
Or he would have slipped as he stepped on the warning track. Or he would have dropped his glove as the ball hit the webbing.
But the gods did not make any of these things happen. Somehow, some way, they allowed Brunansky to hold onto a ball that should have tied the game and maybe even swung it in the White Sox's favor. And the franchise that has devised so many macabre ways to lose championships found an incredible way to win one.
Brunansky's tumbling snag of Guillen's shot ended Boston's 3-1 victory over the White Sox, giving the Red Sox their third American League East Division title in five years.
Still, the Red Sox are given little chance to handle defending champion Oakland in the AL Championship Series, which begins Saturday night in Boston.
"That exemplifies what baseball is all about," Wade Boggs said in the jubilant crush of the Boston clubhouse. "That was awesome."
The catch -- maybe it should be The Catch -- provided a bizarre ending to a series that proved the White Sox belong on the October stage, no matter what the standings say.
"It was like a mini-playoff for us," Guillen said in Chicago's clubhouse, where hearty goodbyes replaced any gloom over the defeat. "It was the biggest three games of my life. We showed we played like big-leaguers."
For several moments, it appeared Guillen's ball had come loose from Brunansky's grasp.
"I didn't know I had the ball until it hit my glove," Brunansky said. "I went back for my hat. The ump wanted to see the ball. I showed him. I said, 'Take it.' I wanted to go party with the guys."
Guillen, who drove in the White Sox's only run with a two-out single in the seventh, had promised his teammates he would tie the game if they could get him to the plate in the ninth.
Reliever Jeff Reardon retired the first two men as 33,637 neared hysteria in Fenway, but then Sammy Sosa singled and Scott Fletcher took a breaking ball in the back.
And New England looked at Guillen and saw Bucky Dent. Guillen took a big swing and fouled the first pitch away.
But the little shortstop wanted to atone for two errors. He turned on Reardon's fastball, but his poke couldn't find the ground fast enough.