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Francona led the Red Sox to a 98–64 record in 2004, the second-best record in the American League behind the division-rival Yankees. The club jelled in the second half and was the hottest team in baseball after the All-Star break.
As the American League wild card, the Red Sox dispatched the AL West champion Anaheim Angels, three games to none, in the Division Series. In the 2004 American League Championship Series, the Red Sox fell behind the Yankees, three games to none, including a 19–8 loss in Game 3 at home in Fenway Park. However, the club regained its composure and won the last four games of the series, the first time in Major League Baseball history that a team rallied from an 0–3 deficit to win a playoff series (only the third team to even make it as far as Game 6, and the only team to even force a game 7 after trailing a series three games to zero). The Red Sox swept the St. Louis Cardinals, 4-0, in the 2004 World Series, ending the so-called Curse of the Bambino, believed by many to be the reason behind the franchise's 86-year championship drought.