Backs against the Wall
Sox have one goal - win today
There was nothing said in the clubhouse or on the plane ride home about their situation. There were rumblings, Jason Bay said, but little more. The Red Sox know the position they’re in, down, 0-2, to the Angels in the Division Series: Lose and they’re out. Win and they get to try again tomorrow. They have, after all, been here before.
Of course, quite a few of the faces are different. There aren’t many left from the 2003 team that had to beat Oakland three times to advance to the AL Championship Series, nor from the 2004 team that had to beat New York four times to move on to the World Series. There are more from 2007, when the Sox beat Cleveland on their way to a second World Series title after being down, three games to one, in the ALCS.
“It was the worst feeling ever,’’ Dustin Pedroia said of being down, 3-1, against Cleveland in ’07. “You have that kind of same feeling now, obviously. You have that terrible feeling in your stomach that you don’t want the season to end.
“We know we have a great team. We just haven’t played well the first two games. So we just have to go out there and [take] kind of baby steps. You have to try to win every inning, win every pitch, and hopefully that leads to games.’’
Under manager Terry Francona, the Sox have been among the best at coming back from seemingly insurmountable deficits. They have played 11 elimination games, going 9-2, under Francona, losing only in Game 7 of the ALCS against the Rays last season and in Game 3 of the ALDS against the White Sox in 2005, when they were swept.
Not to mention that the 2004 team remains the only one in major league history to survive after being down, 0-3, in a seven-game series, and the fact that of the four 0-2 comebacks in the Division Series since 1995, two have been by Sox teams.
“Everyone is obviously upset,’’ Pedroia said. “We got a lot of guys - everyone on our team cares so much. I think that could have hurt us the first couple of games. Guys trying too hard, wanting to do well and wanting to win.
“We know we have a great team and sometimes that backfires on you, especially in the playoffs. Your heartbeat gets jumping a little bit. But we need to settle down and play our game.’’
It echoed the philosophy Francona has preached since the Sox faced their first elimination game during his tenure. It has gotten the Sox to two World Series so far. They don’t need to win three games today, just one.
“It’s not a situation that we want to put ourselves in, but it’s a situation that doesn’t necessarily let panic set in, by any means,’’ Jonathan Papelbon said after the Sox lost Game 2. “A lot of guys in this clubhouse have been in these type of situations before, where one game and you go home.
“Playoff baseball is all about one at a time. You got to keep playing the innings and keep playing the outs. See what happens, you know.’’
It’s a story that seems almost played out in the Boston market. It has happened again and again, far more than the odds would dictate. Perhaps that was why, after the Sox lost their second straight game to the Angels, Los Angeles manager Mike Scioscia made sure to discuss the difficulties of closing out the series.
Because with the Sox on the other side, it hasn’t exactly been a gimme.
“We certainly are aware of the challenge ahead of us even after tonight’s ballgame,’’ Scioscia said Friday night. “There is one thing that gives you command of the series: when you win the third game of a five-game series.’’
So, yes, the Sox have been here before. They have seen this situation. But they have barely done anything at the plate in the first two games, getting a measly eight hits, and their offense has shown no signs of being able to emerge, especially against a pitcher like Scott Kazmir, who has been tough against the Sox at Fenway Park.
Things clearly need to change for the Sox to have a chance today.
“There’s reasons that we’re down, 0-2,’’ Francona said. “Some of that is because they’re pretty good. Again, though, rather than sit and get too philosophical about things like that, because it can kind of appear daunting, that’s why [we] just keep it simple and try to win tomorrow. That’s our best way to go about this.’’
They can’t change what they do, player after player said. They just need to start with one game, create a two-game winning streak at home, and a three-game winning streak overall, which this team has done 14 times this season.
And at this point, as the Sox wake up just hours before an unusual noon start, there is little left to do - other than get the bats working, get Clay Buchholz pitching well, and get the first win to extend their series at least one more game.
As Francona said, “Now we’ll show up tomorrow and do what we always do on early games: have 12 pieces of bacon, a Red Bull, and go get ’em.’’
Amalie Benjamin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.