For Red Sox, 'special' night just a start
Appreciation of comeback blends with anticipation for Game 6
ST. PETERSBURG -- With bleary eyes but renewed hope, the Red Sox were more than happy to report back to work a day after the miracle.
Game 5 of the American League Championship Series doesn't have an official moniker yet, but "miracle" seems suitable enough given the circumstances. With seven outs left in the game -- and their season -- the Red Sox trailed, 7-0.
But they somehow found a way to pull out an 8-7 win, capped by a walk-off single by J.D. Drew with two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning that was set up by countless other crucial hits and pitches. It was the biggest comeback in a postseason game since the Philadelphia A's came back from an 8-0 deficit against the Cubs in the 1929 World Series.
Just like that, the Red Sox met with media members in the visitors' clubhouse at Tropicana Field on Friday instead of at Fenway Park in what would have been the morbid occasion of cleaning out their lockers.
"It was a big win -- I don't know how we did it, but we did it," said Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia. "We're here."
As for that flight from Boston to Florida in the wee hours of Friday morning?
David Ortiz remembers Game 6 starter Josh Beckett getting beaten badly at cards. Jed Lowrie remembers nothing, because he was asleep.
Though the Red Sox were, to a man, thrilled to still have some season left, they know that the whole process has to start anew in Game 6. In other words, they can't believe that Game 5 is going to have a significant carryover, as exhilarating as it was.
"Well, we haven't done anything yet," said Beckett, who will try to give the Red Sox their first quality start since Daisuke Matsuzaka pitched seven-plus shutout innings in Game 1. "I mean, last night was really, really special, one way or the other. But the big picture is still out there. We're trying to do something better than what we did last night. Obviously, for one day, that's about as good as it can get. But as far as an eight-month season, the only thing that would make us happy right now is for us to win our last game."
GAME 6: JUST THE FACTS
|Red Sox starter: RHP Josh Beckett|
|2008: 12-10, 4.03 ERA|
|2008 on the road: 7-5, 2.85 ERA|
|2008 vs. Rays: 2-1, 2.06 ERA (five starts)|
|Career vs. Rays: 5-3, 3.11 ERA (10 starts)|
|2008 ALCS vs. Rays: 0-0, 16.62 ERA (one start)|
|2008 postseason: 0-0, 11.57 ERA|
|Career postseason: 6-2, 2.85 ERA|
|Rays starter: RHP James Shields|
|2008: 14-8, 3.56 ERA|
|2008 at home: 9-2, 2.59 ERA|
|2008 vs. Red Sox: 2-2, 5.85 ERA (four starts)|
|Career vs. Red Sox: 2-4, 5.23 ERA (eight starts)|
|2008 ALCS vs. Red Sox: 0-1, 2.45 ERA (one start)|
|2008 postseason: 1-1, 3.29 ERA|
|Career postseason: 1-1, 3.29 ERA|
|Rays lead series, 3-2. This is the 12th time since the advent of the best-of-seven ALCS in 1985 that one team has held a 3-2 series advantage. Of the previous 11 times, the team with the 3-2 series lead has gone on to win the series seven times.|
|Game 1: Red Sox 2, Rays 0|
|Game 2: Rays 9, Red Sox 8 (11 innings)|
|Game 3: Rays 9, Red Sox 1|
|Game 4: Rays 13, Red Sox 4|
|Game 5: Red Sox 8, Rays 7|
|Did You Know? Tampa Bay suffered its first defeat of the season when establishing a lead of five or more runs. The Rays are now 38-1 in such games this year.|
After a while, one has to wonder how the Red Sox manage to consistently pull off the improbable in the ALCS. In 2004, there was the historic comeback from a 3-0 deficit against the Yankees. Last year, Boston came back from a 3-1 series deficit against Cleveland, a task the Sox are now one step closer to completing again.
"It's almost like when you back us up and put us against the wall, that's when we come out and succeed," said Red Sox closer Jonathan Papelbon. "It's almost like, after last night, you've seen it all."
Under manager Terry Francona, the Red Sox are 8-1 in potential elimination games.
"It's a situation that we seem to face every year in the playoffs," said Ortiz. "We're down, and next thing you know, they let you breathe and we come back. We know how it feels."
And they also know that it doesn't just happen. There's a method to the madness, one that the Red Sox will again apply in Game 6, when they go against potentially the Rays' best pitcher in James Shields.
"We're not looking too far ahead," said Pedroia. "We're just trying to win the first inning tomorrow."
In all of the Red Sox's previous October comebacks, captain Jason Varitek has continually emphasized to his team that more than trying to win each game, it has to try to win each inning and each pitch.
When things seemed truly dire in Game 5, the Red Sox stuck with that again and got one big two-out hit after another.
"It was a matter of all of us saying, 'Let's win every pitch,'" said center fielder Coco Crisp. "Everybody kind of got into it, and we got on a roll."
What it turned into was more like a batch of haymakers that the Rays couldn't answer. First, there was Ortiz's three-run homer to right in the seventh inning that turned a 7-1 game into 7-4 with one swing.
|Biggest deficits overcome in postseason history|
|Red Sox||Rays||10/16/08||ALCS 5||7||8-7|
Then, there was Drew's two-run homer to right in the eighth, which suddenly left the Red Sox within a swing of tying the game.
And Crisp did just that, after working a memorable 10-pitch at-bat that ended with him punching an RBI single to right. An inning later, Drew finished off the miracle.
"It's kind of a new lease on life," said Lowrie. "It kind of gives us a shot in the arm."
Now, so much will rest on Beckett's right arm. The ace has struggled thus far in the postseason, but the Red Sox don't expect that to carry into Game 6. If they can force Game 7, Jon Lester, Boston's best pitcher down the stretch, will take the ball.
|Since the ALCS became a best-of-seven series in 1985, six teams have taken a 3-2 edge into Game 6 with the home-field advantage. Three of those teams won Game 6 to advance to the World Series, one lost Game 6 but then won Game 7, and two teams lost both Games 6 and 7 at home.|
|Year||Led||Trailed||Games 6 and 7|
|1985||Tor.||K.C.||Tor. lost both|
|1992||Tor.||Oak.||Tor. won Gm 6|
|1998||NYY||Cle.||NYY won Gm 6|
|2000||NYY||Sea.||NYY won Gm 6|
|2003||NYY||Bos.||NYY lost Gm 6, won Gm 7|
|2004||NYY||Bos.||NYY lost both|
"It's still two wins to their one, but we feel like we have the right guys going," said Red Sox left fielder Jason Bay. "It hasn't really sunk in yet. We played the game and got on the flight. It was an unbelievable win -- one of the most amazing things I've ever been a part of on the baseball field -- but I'm still kind of reluctant to put that in the cap and say, 'That's it.' There's still two games left. I think we're trying to focus on what's left to be played."
Considering where they were when that seventh inning started, just having more baseball to play is a thing of beauty for the Red Sox.
"Well, it beats the alternative," said Francona. "As long as we're playing baseball, something is going right. So we're thrilled to be here. Now, saying that, we have a job to do."
With a miracle already complete, the Red Sox will now go about the more simplistic task of trying to win two baseball games.
"I guess we're real dangerous," Pedroia said. "We're a great team. Everyone in baseball knows that. We just found a way to win last night. Now we've got to come out [Saturday] and try to win that game."
Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.