In more than a century of major league postseasons, only 10 teams have rallied from a 3-1 deficit to win a best-of-seven series. On Sunday night, the Boston Red Sox will try to do it for the second time in four years.
Boston looks to complete its latest remarkable postseason comeback at Fenway Park in Game 7 of the AL championship series against the Cleveland Indians, who haven’t lost three straight in more than two months.
Since dropping three consecutive games to be pushed to the brink of elimination, the Red Sox have used a resurgent offense to storm back. They defeated the Indians 7-1 in Thursday’s Game 5 to send the series back to Boston, where they got a two-out, first-inning grand slam from J.D. Drew and added six more runs in the third en route to a 12-2 rout on Saturday.
Drew had been 0-for-6 with runners in scoring position in this series following a regular season when he batted only .237 in RBI situations.
“J.D. Drew is a special player,” said Boston starter Curt Schilling, who earned the win with seven strong innings. “I’m sure he’s not real proud of the year he had … but he is the definition of ‘even keel.’ I mean, he doesn’t snap.
“He doesn’t get too high, too low. He just goes up and he plays the game. And tonight, that wins the game.”
Although the Red Sox are trying to become just the 11th of 66 teams to win a seven-game series after facing a 3-1 deficit, they pulled off an even more impressive comeback in the 2004 ALCS against the New York Yankees, winning four consecutive games after losing the first three - the only time that has happened in major league history. That set the stage for a World Series sweep of the St. Louis Cardinals and Boston’s first title since 1918.
The Red Sox also rallied from a 2-0 deficit to win a best-of-five division series versus the Indians in 1999.
Cleveland has lost consecutive games for the first time Sept. 6-7 against the Los Angeles Angels, and is trying to avoid three straight losses for the first time since Aug. 10-14, when they dropped four in a row to the Yankees and Tigers.
“It just has to stop, and it has to stop tonight,” Indians manager Eric Wedge said after Saturday’s defeat. “They need to go to bed tonight with clear heads and think clear thoughts and come here tomorrow expecting to win.”
Catcher Victor Martinez was a bright spot for Cleveland, going 2-for-4 with a solo home run to continue a strong postseason in which he is batting .350 (14-for-40) with two homers and seven RBIs.
Boston starter Daisuke Matsuzaka (0-1, 6.75 ERA) may see Game 7 as a chance for redemption. The Japanese rookie right-hander—whom the Red Sox spent a total of $103 million in the offseason to acquire—fizzled in Monday’s Game 3 at Cleveland, giving up four runs, six hits and two walks in 4 2-3 innings of a 4-2 defeat. After the loss, Matsuzaka was so despondent he spent more than an hour silently staring into his locker.
He also failed to make it out of the fifth inning in Game 2 of Boston’s AL division series against the Angels, allowing three runs and seven hits in 4 2-3 innings. The Red Sox rallied to win 6-3.
Still, Boston remains confident in Matsuzaka, who went 15-12 but won just twice after Aug. 4.
“I think Dice is very capable of coming out and pitching a gem,” Drew said. “It’s still a matter of us playing good defense behind Daisuke, him working ahead and throwing strikes.”
Should Matsuzaka falter again, Boston’s bullpen is well-rested. Schilling’s performance Saturday followed Josh Beckett’s eight-inning effort in Game 5. Beckett could be available in relief for this contest, as could knuckleballer and Game 4 starter Tim Wakefield.
A long outing from the starting pitcher may be more vital for the Indians, who got only two innings from Fausto Carmona in Game 6. They’ll rely on right-hander Jake Westbrook (1-1, 6.17) to duplicate his Game 3 success.
Opposing Matsuzaka on Monday, Westbrook limited the Red Sox to two runs while scattering seven hits and three walks over 6 2-3 innings. The victory improved the right-hander to 4-2 with a 4.46 ERA in seven starts against Boston. However, he has given up 10 runs and 21 hits in 10 2-3 innings during two career starts at Fenway.
“It’s going to be a challenge and definitely a lot of emotions,” Westbrook said. “I’m excited about the opportunity.”
Each of the last four times the ALCS has gone seven games, Boston has been involved. The Red Sox defeated the California Angels in 1986 and lost to the Yankees in 2003. This is the first Game 7 for Cleveland since the 1997 World Series, when it lost 3-2 in 11 innings to Florida.
“Hey, it’s going to come down to Game 7, the two teams that won more baseball games than anybody in the regular season, two teams that have beat each other up over the course of the past week,” Wedge said. “And that’s the way it should be. It’s something everybody should look forward to.”
The winner of this contest will host NL champion Colorado in Game 1 of the World Series on Wednesday.