NEW YORK -- They were staring head on at piles of information that said they couldn't do this. Forget about all the adverse history against the Yankees, which only stretched back more than 80 years.
Once they dug themselves into a 3-0 series deficit, the Red Sox were well aware that no team in the history of Major League Baseball had ever lived to tell about it after being pinned in such decisive fashion.
But in Wednesday night's Game 7 of the American League Championship Series, the Red Sox put the finishing touches on a new chapter in the books by notching a decisive, 10-3, victory over the Yankees.
It was a far cry from a year ago, when the Red Sox represented a clubhouse full of tears after losing a Game 7 crusher.
"Sweet revenge," said Sox left-hander Alan Embree, who recorded the final out before being piled on by his teammates. "We felt like we had unfinished business all year long with these guys. We played them tough. They thought they had us. We were the only ones that believed we could do it. We believed that this group could do it and we did it day after day after day. We proved the heart of this team."
The Red Sox will next play on Saturday night at Fenway Park, when they open the World Series against the winner of Game 7 of the NLCS between the Cardinals and Astros, which will be on Thursday night. It will mark the first World Series game at Fenway Park since 1986, and the Red Sox will try and bring home the franchise's first world championship since 1918.
Since the 1999 ALDS, the Sox are 11-2 in postseason games when facing elimination:
W 5-4 (14)
W 6-4 (12)
This, after the Sox completed a comeback for the ages, overturning a best-of-seven deficit 25 previous baseball teams couldn't. In fact, only two teams in the four major North American team sports had done it before. Two National Hockey League teams -- the 1942 Toronto Maple Leafs and 1975 New York Islanders -- now have company in their exclusive club.
"The only ones who probably thought we could do this were us," said right fielder Trot Nixon, who has been the property of the Red Sox since he was a first-round draft selection in 1993.
"We beat the best, the Yankees. They're the ones who represented the American League in the World Series year in and year out and that's what we wanted to do. We have an opportunity to do some great things here in the next week."
The Red Sox, who had sweated out all of their previous wins in this series, even gave themselves a little breathing room. Two homers by Johnny Damon -- including a grand slam -- gave the Sox a commanding 8-1 lead after four innings. Just think, Damon was in a slump for the better part of this series.
"I'm a good player," said Damon. "Good players step up."
Damon had plenty of company. Nobody stepped up more in this series than big Sox designated hitter David Ortiz, who was the unanimous choice for ALCS MVP. He got the Sox going in Game 7, blasting a two-run homer off Kevin Brown in the first.
"You know how long this team and the fans have been waiting for this ballclub to get to the World Series," said Ortiz.
It's hard to believe they'd be there now if not for the prowess of Ortiz, who ended Games 4 and 5 with one walk-off swing.
Derek Lowe / P
Weight: 215 lbs
Bats: R / Throws: R
Derek Lowe, who wasn't even in the rotation when this series started, continued his impeccable revival. The veteran came up large for the Sox, firing six innings of one-hit ball, allowing the Sox to take control early while Yankees pitchers Brown and Javier Vazquez sputtered.
Lowe was taking it all in.
"First of all, it's a historic event," Lowe said. "This has never happened before. I came in fully confident."
It was Lowe who helped get the Sox back on their feet, holding the Yankees at bay for the first few innings of Game 4. The night before, the Sox had been crushed, 19-8.
Everything swung the other way after that, especially in Game 7.
The only true rally put forth by the Yankees came in the seventh, when Sox manager Terry Francona sent in ace Pedro Martinez to replace Lowe. The three-time Cy Young Award winner, who was pitching on just a day of rest, was tagged for three hits and two runs while throwing 20 pitches. That shrunk the lead to 8-3.
But no sooner did Martinez get back to the dugout than Mark Bellhorn scorched a solo homer to right to lead off the Boston eighth.
Martinez has accomplished nearly everything from an individual standpoint in his brilliant career. Now he finally gets to go to a World Series.
"You don't have words to describe it," said Martinez. "We're very thankful, with all the respect to the Yankees and their players and everybody else on the other side, their fans, this is our time. I hope they understand that and respect that."
Boston took this one home safely, capping off an amazing four-day span. On Sunday, the Red Sox headed to the bottom of the ninth inning trailing the great Yankees closer Mariano Rivera by a run. They came back in that game and didn't stop winning.
Now, they will rest up for a couple of days, and then take their sizable surge of confidence and momentum to the Fall Classic.
Johnny Damon / CF
Weight: 190 lbs
Bats: L / Throws: L
The Red Sox didn't waste any time making it known they were ready for their latest, biggest game of the year. Damon led off with a single to left off Brown and stole second. The Sox were temporarily derailed when Manny Ramirez singled under Derek Jeter's glove and into left field and Damon was thrown out at the plate on a perfectly executed 7-6-2 relay by the Yankees.
However, any momentum the Yankees could have generated from that out was quickly launched into the right field stands by Ortiz. He put his sizable imprint on this series yet again, pummeling Brown's first pitch for a two-run homer.
The Sox went right back at Brown in the second. Kevin Millar got things rolling with a one-out single up the middle and Bill Mueller and Orlando Cabrera worked back-to-back walks.
At that point, Yankees manager Joe Torre had seen enough of Brown and went to Vazquez. While the move by Torre could hardly be second guessed given the circumstances, it did not have the desired effect for the Yankees.
Instead, Damon -- suddenly out of his slump -- laced Vazquez's first pitch of the night just over the wall in right for a grand slam, silencing the packed house at Yankee Stadium. The Red Sox were in clear control, up 6-0.
"Very sweet," said Damon. "We can never be satisfied with being a couple of runs on the Yankees. It was very satisfying. It was a big win for us."
The Yankees managed to get one back in the third on Jeter's RBI single to left.
But that run was quickly offset by Damon, who struck again off Vazquez in the fourth. This time, the leadoff man smashed a two-run shot into the upper deck in right field, stretching the edge to 8-1.
Lowe was in complete control, mowing the Yankees down with smooth precision. He allowed just one hit over the first six innings. As a sign of how good his sinker was, 11 of his 18 outs came via a ground ball. He threw just 69 pitches.
Embree wrapped up the Red Sox's first American League pennant in 18 years, getting Ruben Sierra on a groundout to Pokey Reese.
"There's nothing more satisfying than running and jumping at Jason [Varitek]," said Embree.
The Red Sox are four wins away from an even more meaningful celebration.
Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.