Sox feel rejuvenated back in Boston
Hope alive that club can rally from 3-2 ALCS deficit at home
BOSTON -- The fog that hung from above Fenway Park and the rain that dripped on the tarp throughout Friday afternoon was the polar opposite of the way the Red Sox actually felt about being back home.
Fresh off of watching Josh Beckett fend off elimination with his latest masterpiece in Game 5 of the American League Championship Series, the Red Sox are still down, 3-2, but feeling a lot better about their situation.
Is the pressure now on the Indians?
"Honestly, I'm not going to get involved in playing that game," said Red Sox catcher Jason Varitek. "I'm going to be involved in the same things that allowed us to play yesterday. Just focus on what goes on in here and focus on us having an opportunity and focusing on how we're able to play the game."
When the best-of-seven series with the Indians resumes Saturday night, it will be Curt Schilling's turn to try to win a staredown with elimination. But Schilling can not do it alone.
Not only are the Red Sox back home, but they want the Indians to fully know they are back home.
In fact, as former Boston Celtics legend Larry Bird used to do at times during the playoffs in the mid 1980s, Varitek implored the crowd to make itself a factor in Game 6.
"We're going to need our crowd, every bit of it," Varitek said. "Whether they feel like it or not at a point in the game, we need them to feel like it."
The Red Sox are encouraging all fans to dress in red for Game 6.
Jacobs Field was loud and rhythmic in Games 3 and 4. Beckett quieted all that noise in Game 5. Now, the Red Sox want to introduce the Indians to the Fenway factor.
"Yeah, it's good," said Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia. "We don't have to play with those stupid towels. Stuff waving around. I'm tired of that. It's good to be back here. I'd like to see some Rem Dawg signs or whatever they call them. I'm excited, man."
The one thing that can quell Boston's excitement the most is the electric young arm of Fausto Carmona. But the Red Sox were able to knock Carmona around a little bit in Game 2, and they'll be looking for a repeat performance in this one.
"If he's not throwing strikes, don't swing," said Pedroia. "Know what I mean? We'll try to get a ball out over the plate to hit."
They were at last able to do that in Game 5, working C.C. Sabathia early in the game and then putting him away later. In particular, Pedroia got his bat back on track, getting a couple of key hits.
Given the torrid postseasons of both David Ortiz (.500 average, three homers, six RBIs and 1.000 slugging percentage) and Manny Ramirez (.440, four homers, 12 RBIs), the importance of Pedroia being productive in the leadoff spot cannot be overstated.
"It was cool," said Pedroia. "We're trying to win games. I'm not caring about personal achievements."
Instead, for the Red Sox, it is about pooling all their resources together. That's what they did in 2004, coming back from a 3-0 ALCS deficit against the Yankees. That's what they did in 2003, when they came back from 2-0 in the ALDS against the A's. And that's what they did in 1999, coming back from a 2-0 deficit against the Indians.
"We set the tone way back with what manager Jimy [Williams] instilled in us [in '99] and it happened," said Varitek. "Once those type of things happen, there's always a belief. With a belief, a lot of things can happen."
The only reason the Red Sox hold homefield in this ALCS is because they beat the Indians in head-to-head competition this year. And now, that advantage might get to manifest itself at a time Boston needs it most.
"I really feel like people wanted to downplay homefield advantage towards the end of the year, but I don't think any of us belittled it or thought less of it," said Schilling. "Playing in Boston is an immense lift for us. I think the home crowds have played a huge, huge factor in this series, for better or worse, for both teams."
As Pedroia noted, the Red Sox can't take any less urgency to the field for Game 6 than they did on Thursday night at Jacobs Field.
"We're down, we're still the underdog, we've still got to win," Pedroia said. "They've got to beat us once, we have to beat them twice. Momentum is definitely not on our side. We have to face a tough pitcher tomorrow, so we have to find a way to win."
The alternative to the win is vacation. The Red Sox don't look ready to go there.
As usual, manager Terry Francona is keeping a tunnel vision view of Game 6. The Red Sox are trying to become the 11th of the 66 teams who have faced a 3-1 deficit in postseason play to come back and win the series.
"I think we're in the same position we were the other day, and the other day before that and the other day before that," said Francona. "We've been through a lot this year. We know who we are. There's a lot of trust in there, as there should be, and again, if we go out and play as good as we can play, we certainly hope that leads to a win. Believe me, I hope it leads to a win, or leads to two wins."
Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.