More baseball and waiting in the offing
Sox's Game 5 win leaves Rox guessing about their opponent
CLEVELAND -- Back in the Dominican Republic, where they learned this game long before they would one day control its fate, Manny Ramirez and David Ortiz knew that the colors you wear to a funeral are black and purple.
So at midnight ET on Friday in the visitors' clubhouse at Jacobs Field, the two stars were sitting side by side on the plush black sofa in the middle of the room. Big Papi fielded some questions, and then Manny did the same. Eventually, a mass of reporters swarmed around the sofa. Ortiz had enough, got up, walked around to the back of the sofa and squeezed in through the crush to tell his teammate: "Tell them where the funeral is."
Laughter erupted, and Ramirez was laughing right along with everyone else. There he was, cutting up with the media now. Ramirez sat there in his bright purple silk tie, purple-striped dress shirt and black pants. A funeral?
"Hey man," Ramirez said, stroking his tie and looking at it, "this is the color for the Colorado Rockies -- for when we play them in the World Series."
What was that about this guy not caring?
The Red Sox are very much alive again, doing something a little too familiar. They left Jacobs Field scoring runs and making jokes, almost Idiot-like. They left here with Josh Beckett throwing savior bullets and then toughing out a postgame interview that, for him, seemed like fingernails on a chalkboard. The Sox just cut the Indians' lead to 3-2 in this best-of-seven American League Championship Series and took it back home to Boston, where they'll play Game 6 at 8 p.m. ET on FOX at Fenway Park on Saturday.
"It's better to die on your feet than live on your knees," were the last words to come out of Beckett's mouth before he left for the team bus to go to the airport.
They were still standing on their feet. That means that the Rockies, like the rest of us, at least have a little more baseball to watch during this seemingly eternal stretch between the date that Colorado clinched the National League pennant and the date that it will begin its first World Series.
Back in Denver, they were watching closely. It's all they could do. If only they could have seen the colors Ramirez was wearing afterwards.
"I'm a little nervous about it," said Patrick Freeman, a Denver University law student, while the Red Sox were pounding the Indians on Thursday. "I'd rather [have Colorado] face Cleveland, because I think they match up better. Plus, I'm just really excited to find out who the Rockies are going to play in the World Series."
"I wish it would come a little sooner," said Bryan McKinney, a Denver resident. "But just based on the way [the Rockies] have been playing, I think they'll do really well regardless of who they're playing."
Boston is the first club to stave off elimination from a 3-1 deficit since St. Louis prolonged its 2005 NL Championship Series against the Astros with a 5-4, Game 5 victory in Houston before losing in Game 6. But there's really nothing new about that when it comes to the Red Sox. The most renowned example of perseverance was their historic comeback from a 3-0 deficit against the Yankees to win the 2004 AL pennant, on their way to reversing the Curse of the Bambino. And in the previous October, Beckett and Mike Lowell had been on that Marlins team that won the last three against the Cubs on their way to a World Series championship.
Still, if you are a certified member of Red Sox Nation, then it probably is time for an intervention. Admitting you have a problem, after all, is the first step. These are times when the stomach does funny things, when many superstitious habits are formed and repeated, like that "Pedro salsa" that certain Sox fans used to leave on other Boston fans' doorsteps before games that Pedro Martinez pitched back in 2004.
"We're still alive," Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia, previously quiet this series, said after going 2-for-4 atop the order and scoring a run. "We just have to take it pitch by pitch."
Spoken like 2004.
"When you talk about beating a team like Boston four in a row, that's tough to do, particularly in the postseason," Indians manager Eric Wedge said, referring to the fact that Cleveland lost the series opener and then had won three straight games. "We put ourselves in a pretty good position by the way we played here at home, and we did not play particularly well tonight. The first loss this series, I just didn't feel like anything really happened with us. Today, I didn't feel like we played very well. We'll head to Boston tomorrow, have an off-day and look to go to work on Saturday."
It should be noted that the first scheduled LCS off-day, part of the new MLB postseason rescheduling plan, might be a momentum killer. Although previous LCS matchups have not featured this exact scheduling arrangement on six previous occasions, teams had won two or more games to get into a clinching position and then had an off-day before having a chance to clinch. New York (1998) and Cleveland ('95) were the only two teams able to maintain momentum after an off-day.
What does that say if you're a Rockies fan? This is a stretch of close to 10 full days in which one of the hottest teams in baseball history will have to somehow crank it back up on Wednesday at the AL venue. Don't you kind of miss Matt Holliday, Yorvit Torrealba, Josh Fogg and that pure level of excellence that seemingly was reached at will? It's possible that the Rockies have been the most defining personality of the 2007 postseason, absolutely dominant, just like so many of the series that were blowouts.
Ramirez faced them in Interleague Play last June, so he already knew what they were all about. And what colors they wore. The one thing we know for sure is that the team playing the Rockies will be wearing red, white and blue in its color scheme. It will be a while longer before we know which AL team moves on, though. All eyes are on the ALCS, and now it goes back to the old ballpark in Beantown.
Mark Newman is enterprise editor for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.