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After tense ALCS, Sox let loose
10/21/2004 4:21 AM ET
NEW YORK -- The Red Sox were down 3-0. They were one loss from being swept. Three outs from going home. Four and out. See ya next year.

Yet, on that bleak day, there was a sign on their clubhouse door in Boston that read: "We Can Change History...Believe It!"

And the Red Sox believed it. Their fiercely loyal fans believed it.

The Yankees did not believe it -- not even after the Red Sox had pulled out three straight victories and pushed themselves to the brink of baseball history.

The phrase has been repeated so often through the years it had become a cliche of postseason media coverage: "No team has ever lost the first three games of a series and...," Well, by now you know the rest of it.

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Now that can be erased. Now even the Yankees believe it. The Red Sox have done what was considered impossible. The hairy, scary rebels of baseball are charging headlong into the World Series.

"We know what this team is made of," catcher Jason Varitek said. "It took everybody on that bench and everybody in that bullpen and everybody on the pitching staff, training staff -- everybody. We stayed together and concentrated together."

What could be sweeter for the Sox than celebrating a pennant at Yankee Stadium?

And they did, spraying Chandon from California all over their little clubhouse space in New York. They were giddy with victory.

Shortstop Orlando Cabrera, a huge cigar clenched between his teeth, blew smoke into left fielder Manny Ramirez's smiling face.

Now did they really believe they could win four straight?

"Honestly," said drenched pitcher Alan Embree, "with these group of guys I believe we'd do it. But was it probable? No. We've believed in ourselves and we've willed ourselves to do this all year long."

The Red Sox had pulled off one of the most amazing feats on record. They came from three back to take four straight games from the most storied franchise in baseball history -- make that sports history -- and finished them on their home turf.

"We certainly never took them for granted, even up 3-0, because we know how explosive they can be," Yankees manager Joe Torre said.

"They are a thunder."

Just a year ago, the Red Sox had been rebuffed by the Yankees in an especially heart-pounding series between the two ancient and often bitter rivals. That stung.

"We came within five outs of winning in Game 7," said general manager Theo Epstein. "I went to the office and liked the way the organization looked. We filled a few holes. But I never thought a year later we'd be back here again like this and win."

Facts machine
This is just the second time in LCS history that both series have gone seven games in the same year. Since the format expanded in 1985, there have been 11 Game 7s in LCS history:
Year/Series Game 7 result
1985 ALCS Kansas City 6, at Toronto 2
1986 ALCS at Boston 8, California 1
1987 NLCS at St. Louis 6, San Fran 0
1988 NLCS at Los Angeles 6, New York 0
1991 NLCS Atlanta 4, at Pittsburgh 0
1992 NLCS at Atlanta 3, Pittsburgh 2
1996 NLCS at Atlanta 15, St. Louis 0
2003 NLCS Florida 9, at Chicago 6
2003 ALCS at New York 6, Boston 5 (11)
2004 ALCS Boston 10, at New York 3
2004 NLCS Houston at St. Louis

What happened to yank the Red Sox out of their three-game doldrums?

Perhaps they were so embarrassed by the 19-8 thrashing in Game 3 that they amped up to a new energy level. David Ortiz delivered a home run and then a single that won 12- and 14-inning games back-to-back at Fenway Park. Curt Schilling's gritty pitching and Mark Bellhorn's three-run homer meant a Game 6 victory that pulled the Red Sox even.

"We played well," said Game 7 hero Johnny Damon. "The first three games we won were close and this game was a little more of a blowout. So we needed something like that. The people of New England needed something like that."

This series was draining, no doubt about that. But pitcher Mike Timlin said the Red Sox put that aside. They had to in order to win four in a row.

"We didn't have time to be tired and hurt," he said. "This is no time to do that. We sucked it up and went out and got them."

From 3-0 to 3-3 to 4-3 and champagne showers, right in the middle of the enemy camp.

"They're a tremendous team with tremendous character," Varitek said of the Yankees. "You just feel fortunate that we're able to do it here."

They had accomplished one of the most improbable turnarounds in sports history.

"It's a day we're never going to forget," outfielder Dave Roberts said.

Damon certainly agreed.

"Yeah, because there's no doubt on this team. There was a lot of doubt when we went down 3-0 but we stuck together and erased history," Damon said.

Believe it.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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