10/18/2004 4:02 AM ET
Great pitching matchup in Game 5
It will be Moose vs. Pedro at Fenway Park
|Pedro Martinez laughs after nearly being hit by a throw from catcher Jason Varitek during Game 2. (Al Bello/Getty Images)
BOSTON -- A scenario by which the Boston Red Sox could win the 2004 American League Championship Series has emerged.
True, it is a scenario that would require that history be rewritten. It would also require something resembling a medical miracle. But it's a Red Sox-win scenario, OK? Nobody said this would be routine.
The Red Sox kept themselves alive in this series, with a marathon, 12-inning, 6-4 victory over the New York Yankees on Monday morning. They had to go with Derek Lowe, who had not started in this postseason and they had to rally to tie against Mariano Rivera in the ninth. But they succeeded. And now the path to a miracle finish lies ahead, at least in theory.
No baseball team has ever come back from a 3-0 deficit to win a seven-game postseason series. A couple of hockey teams have done this, but do you really care? They play on skates and they're mired in a labor-management dispute. This is not our national pastime, unless we are Canadians. (Those of you who are Canadians, we regard you with genuine respect and affection. But we can't let hockey history take over this discussion.) Baseball history to date does not leave open the possibility of such a comeback.
Still, if the 3-0 comeback is impossible from the historical perspective, it is not physically impossible. Nor is it illegal. The Red Sox are building up reasons to believe that they will be the team that moves mountains and shatters precedents.
In this undertaking, the Red Sox will start Pedro Martinez on full rest Monday in Game 5. This is the opening that the Friday night rainout gave them, the chance to get back to a rested Martinez if they could take the ALCS to five games. And they have.
This will be no snap for Pedro, who was effective in his Game 2 start against the Yankees, but was out-pitched by Jon Lieber. Here, he will face Mike Mussina, who has been back in form. In his Game 1 start, he retired the first 19 Red Sox in order. He'll be on full rest plus one day. This looks like a postseason pitching matchup of the first order.
If the Red Sox could win Game 5, the plot would thicken. The Red Sox, manager Terry Francona said Monday morning, plan to start Curt Schilling in Game 6, if Game 6 ever occurs.
Huh? Isn't this the same Curt Schilling whose ankle tendinitis actually turned out to be a dislocated ankle tendon? Isn't this the same Curt Schilling who couldn't drive off his right ankle and couldn't get beyond the third inning in the Series opener?
Yes and yes. But Schilling has a new shoe, specially designed to protect the tendon. The new shoe worked well for him in a bullpen session.
"Schill is the starter," Francona said. "We've just got to get there. As far as I'm concerned, it's not an issue. We've just got to get to Game 6."
There is the chance that the shoe will allow Schilling to be Schilling, the same fellow, for instance, who was co-MVP of the 2001 World Series, when the Arizona Diamondbacks defeated the Yankees.
So there is the scenario: Martinez pitches at the top of his form in Game 5 and the Red Sox win. Schilling stages a miraculous recovery, pitches at the top of his form and the Red Sox win Game 6. Then it's Game 7 and anything could happen. The least you could say about the Red Sox against the Yankees in Game 7 is that Boston would have the law of averages on its side.
There is a lot of extremely optimistic supposition built into that scenario. But at least the Red Sox still have scenario.
The variables are plentiful. Both teams were forced to extend their bullpens to the maximum Sunday night and Monday morning. Rivera pitched two innings. Tom Gordon pitched two innings. Keith Foulke went 2 2/3.
So both teams have to hope even more than usual for long and effective starting performances in Game 5. But, as Francona said: "It's the time of the year where we'll rest later."
The Red Sox, having avoided elimination, are happy that they don't yet have to rest. And now, with Martinez going in Game 5 and Schilling returning with improved technology for a possible Game 6, they believe that they are not the total long shots that baseball history says they are.
Mike Bauman is a national columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.