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Astros, Red Sox try to make history
10/19/2004 6:00 PM ET
ST. LOUIS -- The Cardinals and Yankees are back home now for the final games of their respective League Championship Series, but their plans for a 40th-anniversary celebration of the 1964 World Series are suddenly less certain.

After one of the most remarkable nights in recent Major League postseason memory -- two overlapping games that brought walk-off finishes and disbelief to fans in two parks and over the Fox TV network -- this is becoming the Year of the Comeback.

Now the only question is whether both of these LCS comebacks can be completed and the Wild Card magic will continue into another Fall Classic -- or whether home-field advantage will be the difference instead.

The American League Championship Series returns to Yankee Stadium for Game 6 tonight and, if necessary, Game 7 at 8 p.m. ET on Wednesday. The Red Sox are trying to become the first Major League club to recover from a 3-0 deficit and win a best-of-seven series, and they have chipped away by winning consecutive, nearly epic thrillers at Fenway Park.

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"Greatest Comeback In History" read one sign at Fenway, and it certainly would be the case in the Majors if Boston can complete it. This kind of comeback has not happened in the NBA or NFL, either, and the only precedents in major North American pro sports were twice in the NHL: Toronto over Detroit in the 1942 Stanley Cup Finals, and the New York Islanders over Pittsburgh in the second round of the 1975 playoffs.

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"Unless I'm mistaken, we've won four straight before," Red Sox center fielder Johnny Damon said. Indeed, Boston had eight streaks of four victories or more during the regular season -- and it beat Anaheim in three consecutive games during the AL Division Series. Sox third baseman Bill Mueller added: "It's not a situation that you want to be in, believe me. So you try and be as perfect as you can. The margin for error is so small."

The home team has won each of the first five games in the National League Championship Series, and after those three consecutive Astro victories at Minute Maid Park, that series returns to Busch Stadium for Game 6 on Wednesday. If needed, Game 7 would be there at 8 p.m. ET on Thursday.

Houston would become only the third team in NLCS history to overcome an 2-0 deficit and win the series. The Cubs were the first to do it, losing in five to San Diego in 1984. The Cardinals have experienced the other side, having lost to the Dodgers in the first two games of the 1985 NLCS and then winning it in six.

The Astros are in better position than the Red Sox. Houston lost the first two at Busch, but they swept three inside thunderous Minute Maid Park as Roger Clemens led the way on Saturday and closer Brad Lidge dominated at the end of all three.

"We still have our nose down, head down; you've got a job to do," said Astros manager Phil Garner, who played second base on the 1979 Pirates club that came back from a 3-1 deficit to beat Baltimore in the World Series. "It doesn't do any good to get this far and let anything slip away. We're not counting what we have in our pocket; we know what else we have to put in our pocket. We have to stay focused, as we've been doing for quite some time now. You just play until this series is over and then you look up and see where you are and where you're headed."

If the Astros can win one of these two games in St. Louis, then they would be headed for either Fenway Park or Yankee Stadium. The AL has the home-field advantage in the World Series by virtue of its victory in the past All-Star Game at Minute Maid.

There are a couple of other common denominators at work for two clubs trying to complete big comebacks. Boston is trying to return to the World Series for the first time since 1986 and win it all for the first time since 1918. Houston is trying to reach the World Series for the first time since entering the league in 1962. So if either or both can complete this comeback, that would only be the start of the possible history.

What happened simultaneously in Boston and Houston late Monday night was mesmerizing. Fans saw two overlapping games. In some ways, they were very different games -- the former game, played in the New England chill, lasted more than twice as long as the two-hour, 33-minute pitchers' duel inside Minute Maid's 74-degree air conditioned park. But they were very alike in their intense closeness, and with the backdrop of a major comeback in the works by two Wild Card clubs that didn't give up.

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