Boston unfazed by Game 7s
In winner-take-all format, Sox have recent history on their side
ST. PETERSBURG -- Game 7. Those two words are enough to make just about any baseball player smile, particularly ones who have been in that situation and won before.
So it was hard not to notice the feeling of anticipation that gripped the Red Sox's clubhouse after pulling out a 4-2 victory over the Rays in Game 6 of the American League Championship Series on Saturday.
"We're just going to come out [Sunday] and play as hard as we can," said Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia. "A couple of nights ago, we weren't even thinking we were going to be at Game 6."
The Red Sox once trailed this ALCS, 3-1, and not only that, they trailed Game 5 by a score of 7-0 with one out in the bottom of the seventh.
"We're ecstatic," said Red Sox third baseman Kevin Youkilis. "We've been having so much fun just the past few days. When you're winning, it's a little easier. When you lose a couple of games in a row, it's tough. Now we're at a point where we're facing Game 7, and if we win this game, we go to the World Series."
But the whole thing has a familiar feel to it. For this is a team that trailed the Yankees, 3-0, in the 2004 ALCS before doing something no baseball team had done before or has done since, coming back to win the series. Boston also rallied back from a 3-1 deficit against the Indians last year.
Both times, the Sox took Game 7 by a wide margin to get to the World Series.
In 2004, the Sox essentially put the game away by the second inning, as Johnny Damon silenced Yankee Stadium with a grand slam to give Boston a six-run lead in a game his team would win by a score of 10-3.
Winner take all
|This will be the 12th time that the Red Sox have participated in a winner-take-all game in the postseason, the 10th in a best-of-seven series.|
|1912||WS||New York||Won||Won in 8|
|1946||WS||St. Louis||Lost||Lost in 7|
|1967||WS||St. Louis||Lost||Lost in 7|
|1975||WS||Cincinnati||Lost||Lost in 7|
|1986||ALCS||California||Won||Won in 7|
|1986||WS||New York||Lost||Lost in 7|
|1999||ALDS||Cleveland||Won||Won in 5|
|2003||ALDS||Oakland||Won||Won in 5|
|2003||ALCS||New York||Lost||Lost in 7|
|2004||ALCS||New York||Won||Won in 7|
|2007||ALCS||Cleveland||Won||Won in 7|
Last year, the 11-2 win against the Indians in Game 7 was in no way indicative of the type of game it was. The Red Sox were clinging to a 3-2 lead entering the bottom of the seventh before Pedroia opened up some breathing room with a two-run homer. Boston then erupted for six in the eighth.
The one common theme from both those games is that the Red Sox were the early aggressors, playing with a lead for most of the game.
What is Game 7 like for a player?
"It's real emotional," Pedroia said. "You want to try to do something early and get a lead so you can relax. You've got to find a way to calm down and go out there and have good at-bats."
In Game 7, there's just a different feel.
"In Game 7, you've got to go out there and a lot of times it's getting ahead, trying to get that lead and going from there," Youkilis said. "It's a full nine-inning thing. With both teams, if guys struggle, they're going to bring in the bullpen and bring in guys. It's big. It's a different kind of game. Guys can get pulled early, guys can go the distance. Hopefully, for us, it's going the distance and if their guy goes as few innings as possible and we're ahead."
Jon Lester, who has been Boston's most consistent starter all year, will start Game 7.
"I'm pretty excited," Lester said. "But I can't let my emotions or anything of that magnitude get in the way. I have to worry about executing pitches. If I let my emotions get too high, that gets in the way of me executing. As long as I go out there and stay calm and focused and be committed to every pitch, everything should be fine."
Of course, Game 7 isn't old hat for all the Red Sox. Rookies Justin Masterson and Jed Lowrie have never been there. The same goes for in-season acquisitions Jason Bay and Mark Kotsay.
"I don't really have any expectation, other than it's going to be exciting," said Masterson. "I can't wait to be a part of it."
And the Red Sox can only hope that history repeats itself. Once again, getting to Game 7 was an epic struggle.
"The last 72 hours, we've won two pretty big ballgames," said Red Sox closer Jonathan Papelbon. "There's never a doubt in our clubhouse or in our dugout. It's just a bunch of guys that never concede anything. We're just sitting here grinding away."
Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.