BoSox big rally prolongs season
Posted: Friday, October 17, 2008 4:58 pm
By: By HOWARD ULMAN, AP Sports Writer
BOSTON (AP) — No way, Rays.
Ending the Red Sox’s season isn’t easy, no matter how likely it seems.
The New York Yankees didn’t do it after taking a 3-0 lead in the 2004 AL championship series.
The Cleveland Indians didn’t, either, after building a 3-1 lead in last year’s ALCS.
Boston won both of those best-of-seven matchups before sweeping both World Series.
On Thursday night, Tampa Bay found out that a big lead isn’t big enough against the defending champions.
Leading 7-0 going into the bottom of the seventh inning, and seven outs away from their first World Series, the Rays’ luck changed and the Red Sox came back for an 8-7 win that cut Tampa Bay’s lead to 3-2 in the ALCS.
“It was pretty much the most amazing thing I’ve ever been a part of,” said Coco Crisp, who singled in the tying run in the eighth.
The series shifts to St. Petersburg, Fla., for Saturday night’s sixth game.
Boston’s Josh Beckett, whose status as a postseason star is taking a beating, is scheduled to face James Shields, the hard-luck loser in Boston’s 2-0 win in the series opener.
If the comeback continues, the Rays would be home again Sunday night in the deciding game with Matt Garza set to pitch against the Red Sox’s Jon Lester.
“Obviously, we’re in a pretty good position to move on,” Tampa Bay manager Joe Maddon said. “Of course we’re upset. Of course we don’t like losing that game, of course. But to dwell on it does no good whatsoever.”
The winner of the series starts the World Series at home Wednesday against the Philadelphia Phillies.
But in the afterglow of the biggest postseason rally since 1929, which followed 24 innings in which they were outscored 27-5 by the Rays at Fenway Park, the Red Sox were thankful just to have another chance.
“Everybody knew that we needed to win the ballgame,” said J.D. Drew, whose RBI single won the game in the ninth after he hit a two-run homer in the three-run eighth. “It doesn’t matter how you do it.
“We didn’t want to go down 7-0, but there’s a lot of fight in that dugout, and a lot of guys knew as soon as we got some runs on the board, we could get something going.”
Their situation was more dire than last year’s was for the Boston bunch.
After losing three of the first four games to the Indians, the Red Sox never trailed in the remaining three games.
On Thursday, their struggling hitters finally started connecting in the seventh when Dustin Pedroia singled in a run and David Ortiz hit a three-run homer off Grant Balfour after getting one hit and no RBI in the first four games.
Drew’s homer cut the lead to 7-6 before Crisp battled through a long at bat for a tying, two-out single off usually dependable Dan Wheeler.
Justin Masterson put two Rays on in the ninth, then served up an inning-ending double play grounder to Carlos Pena.
J.P. Howell retired Boston’s first two batters in the bottom of the inning before Kevin Youkilis singled to third baseman Evan Longoria, whose wild throw for an error put Youkilis on second. Jason Bay was walked intentionally, bringing up Drew, who had battled back problems for most of September.
He lined the ball over right fielder Gabe Gross for the winning hit.
“I feel fortunate to be in the playoffs and be able to participate,” he said.
The Rays, who never won more than 70 games in their 10 seasons until winning 97 this year, still have a 3-2 lead heading back to the stadium where they posted baseball’s best home record.
“A loss is a loss, whether it’s 1-0 or a game like this, which was really exciting. In reality, it’s a loss. That’s all it is. Nothing else,” Pena said. “This has to go down as one of the most incredible games in ALCS history.”
For the third straight game, the Rays jumped to an early lead and seemed on their way to another rout after winning 9-1 and 13-4.
B.J. Upton hit a two-run homer in the first. Then Pena, with a two-run shot, and Longoria, with a solo homer, made it 5-0 in the third against Daisuke Matsuzaka. Upton and Longoria became the first AL teammates to hit six homers in a single postseason.
Upton’s two-run double in the seventh made it 7-0.
With just two hits until then and Tampa Bay’s reliable relievers ready to take over, elimination seemed just three innings away.
“I can’t say the game was exciting because the first six innings we did nothing. They had their way with us every way possible,” Boston manager Terry Francona said. “And then this place came unglued, and we’ve seen that before. But because of the situation we’re in, it just, that was pretty magical.”
The Red Sox have won eight consecutive ALCS games when facing elimination.
“They didn’t quit,” Upton said. “That’s why they’re world champions.”
The seven-run deficit was the largest overcome in a postseason game since Game 4 of 1929 World Series, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. In that one, the Philadelphia Athletics trailed by eight before a 10-run seventh inning powered them past the Chicago Cubs, 10-8.
Now, 79 years later, the Red Sox still have a chance to become the first repeat World Series champion since the New York Yankees won three straight from 1998-2000.
But first, they must beat Tampa Bay on Saturday night — after the euphoria of their shocking comeback has worn off.
“Hopefully, there’ll be time when we can sit back and think ’This is what got us over the hump,”’ Francona said. “But we’re still climbing.”
Notes: Jonathan Papelbon extended his major league record to 24 career postseason innings without allowing a run. He gave up Upton’s two-run double, but the runs were charged to Manny Delcarmen, who walked the batters who scored. … The top three batters in Tampa’s order reached base 10 times. … Upton has 10 RBIs in the series. … Carl Crawford went 0-for-4 after going 5-for-5 in Game 4. … Curt Schilling, the bloody-socked hero of Boston’s 2004 championship, threw out the ceremonial pitch. He missed the entire season with shoulder problems.