BOSTON (AP)—The ball cleared the center field wall, and J.D. Drew raised his fist in celebration.
A grand slam.
A curtain call.
And better yet: A chance to do it again in Game 7.
The struggling Red Sox right fielder drove in five runs, backing yet another postseason gem from Curt Schilling on Saturday night as Boston battered the Cleveland Indians 12-2 to tie the AL championship series at three games apiece.
“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,” Indians manager Eric Wedge said. “And that’s the way it should be. It’s something everybody should look forward to.”
Baseball and its fans are certainly looking forward to it in a postseason where four of the first five series ended in sweeps.
“There’s nothing, I think, funner in sports than a Game 7,” Schilling said.
Schilling improved his career postseason record to 10-2,, allowing two runs and six hits in seven innings.
Fausto Carmona failed to get anybody out in the third inning, giving up seven runs on six hits and four walks.
The Red Sox turn to Daisuke Matsuzaka, who couldn’t make it through the fifth inning in either of his previous postseason starts.
A third consecutive victory—on the anniversary of Carlton Fisk’s extra-inning homer in Game 6 of the 1975 World Series—would put Boston back in the Series for the first time since 2004, when it rallied from a 3-0 deficit in the ALCS en route to its first title in 86 years. The Red Sox also came back from a 2-0 deficit against the Indians in the first round of the 1999 playoffs.
“It just has to stop, and it has to stop tonight,” Wedge said. “They need to go to bed tonight with clear heads and think clear thoughts and come here tomorrow expecting to win.”
After stumbling in his previous outing, Schilling came back to show why he is considered one of the best postseason pitchers in baseball history. He gave up Victor Martinez’s solo homer in the second inning and otherwise held the Indians scoreless until Ryan Garko tripled and scored on Jhonny Peralta’s sacrifice fly in the seventh.
By that time, it was already 10-2.
Schilling got Kenny Lofton on a grounder and former teammate Trot Nixon on a fly ball to end the seventh, then left to a standing ovation. He took his hat off—twice—and waved up at the box where his wife and family sit.
“This was about our offense just doing a phenomenal job,” Schilling said. “J.D. Drew is a special player. 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.”
Drew has struggled to live up to the five-year, $70 million contract the Red Sox threw at him last winter even though no one else seemed interested in bidding. He was signed to protect David Ortiz and Manny Ramirez in the lineup, but manager Terry Francona dropped him from fifth to sixth in the lineup when he failed to deliver timely hits in the regular season.
Coming into the game, Drew was 0-for-6 with runners in scoring position, 1-for-11 in the two series combined and just .237 with a chance for an RBI in 2007 overall. When he came up with the bases loaded in the first inning against Carmona, he delivered.
Dustin Pedroia and Kevin Youkilis reached on infield singles, and Ortiz looked at six straight pitches for a walk. Ramirez struck out, then Mike Lowell was out on a shallow fly to right, not deep enough to score Pedroia.
All Carmona needed was to get Drew.
“He almost worked through that inning, and then J.D. got him,” Wedge said. “And then things sort of dominoed on him. It just wasn’t in the cards for us.”
Drew hit a line drive into the camera box in straightaway center field to give Boston a 4-0 lead, raising one fist as he rounded the bases. Called back from the dugout by the same fans who had clamored for him to be replaced in the lineup, he gave a two-fisted wave.
“I’ve had a few of those in my career,” Drew said. “None here so far. But it was great. I think the atmosphere was great.
“It has been a tough year, my expectations are high. I didn’t have the year I would like to have, but I feel like I had a good September and started getting things turned around. Just wanted to go into the playoffs and have good at-bats.”
Drew came up again in the third after Ramirez and Lowell walked to start the inning and singled to center to make it 5-0 and spark a six-run inning that essentially ended it.
But there was still time for one last redemption: Eric Gagne, the former star closer booed off the mound in previous postseason appearances, pitched a 1-2-3 ninth inning.
Matsuzaka has struggled in two postseason starts, going 0-1 with a 6.75 ERA. He’s allowed 18 baserunners in 9 1-3 innings. … Drew’s homer was the sixth career grand slam in ALCS history. The last was by Johnny Damon for Boston in Game 7 of the 2004 series against the Yankees. Troy O’Leary hit one for Boston in the division series clincher against Cleveland in 1999. … Ramirez became the first player in LCS history to walk twice in one inning when he did it in the third. … J.D. and Stephen Drew are the third set of brothers to homer in the LCS in the same year, joining Clete and Ken Boyer and Roberto and Sandy Alomar in 1997.