Sox are specialists on October comebacks
Club knows what to do when it comes to elimination games
BOSTON -- The Red Sox landed in Boston at 7:43 a.m. ET on Saturday and then had a day of rest, rejuvenation and anticipation. Nobody wants to be pinned in a 2-0 hole like Boston currently is in this American League Division Series. But then again, no team has had a recent history of climbing out of October deficits quite like the Red Sox.
As uncomfortable a situation as it is, the Red Sox of recent Octobers have been there numerous times before and somehow crawled out of the hole.
It's not that they enjoy pinning themselves to the brink of elimination, but they've proven to be resourceful and dramatically successful in those situations.
Any talk between Red Sox veterans about the using that past success to their advantage?
"There's been some rumblings," said Red Sox left fielder Jason Bay. "Guys saying that's the position we're in. We've done it before."
Since 2003, the Red Sox are 13-3 in potential elimination games. To prolong their season and push themselves to the American League Championship Series, what the Red sox need to do is put together a three-game winning streak, something they've done 14 times already in 2009.
Can they do it again? That answer will start to unfold at 12:07 p.m. ET, when Clay Buchholz takes the mound for Game 3 against an Angels team that outpitched and outhit the Red Sox in Anaheim.
But now, the Red Sox are home, where they went 56-25, just one game behind the Yankees for the best mark in the Majors.
"What's happened has happened," said Red Sox manager Terry Francona, who is 9-2 in elimination games. "Now we'll show up tomorrow, do what we always do on early games -- have 12 pieces of bacon, a Red Bull and go get 'em."
Aside from Jon Lester throwing a side session for a Game 4 start if the Sox can push it that far, and Daisuke Matsuzaka playing catch, the Fenway Park field was near empty on Saturday afternoon.
Francona held his news conference in a sweat suit. Bay, in a light-hearted mood, held his news conference with his 2-year-old daughter, Addison, playing in his lap. Dustin Pedroia and Buchholz also filled media obligations.
In 2004, the Red Sox became the first team in Major League history to come back from a 3-0 deficit in the ALCS. They rallied back from 3-1 against the Indians in the '07 ALCS. And even last year, down 3-1 to the Rays in the ALCS, Boston staged an epic comeback to win Game 5, rode a gutsy performance by Josh Beckett in Game 6 and fell just short of the World Series, losing a Game 7 heartbreaker.
BEST UNDER PRESSURE
|10/4/2003||3||ALDS||Red Sox 3, A's 1 (12 innings)|
|10/5/2003||4||ALDS||Red Sox 3, A's 2|
|10/6/2003||5||ALDS||Red Sox 4, A's 3|
|10/15/2003||6||ALCS||Red Sox 9, Yankees 6|
|10/16/2003||7||ALCS||Yankees 6, Red Sox 5 (11 innings)|
|10/17/2004||4||ALCS||Red Sox 6, Yankees 4 (12 innings)|
|10/18/2004||5||ALCS||Red Sox 5, Yankees 4 (14 innings)|
|10/19/2004||6||ALCS||Red Sox 4, Yankees 2|
|10/20/2004||7||ALCS||Red Sox 10, Yankees 3|
|10/7/2005||3||ALDS||White Sox 5, Red Sox 3|
|10/18/2007||5||ALCS||Red Sox 7, Indians 1|
|10/20/2007||6||ALCS||Red Sox 12, Indians 2|
|10/21/2007||7||ALCS||Red Sox 11, Indians 2|
|10/16/2008||5||ALCS||Red Sox 8, Rays 7|
|10/18/2008||6||ALCS||Red Sox 4, Rays 2|
|10/19/2008||7||ALCS||Rays 3, Red Sox 1|
Pedroia, the fiery second baseman who has the ability to get a slumping offense hot again, hopes his team can rediscover their '07 formula for a comeback.
"I remember in '07 we were down 3 1 against Cleveland," Pedroia said. "It was the worst feeling ever. You have that kind of same feeling now, obviously. You have that terrible feeling in your stomach that you don't want the season to end. We know we have a great team. We just haven't played well the first two games. So we just have to go out there and kind of [take] baby steps. You have to try to win every inning, win every pitch, and hopefully that leads to winning games."
"We never change our mentality," said Red Sox slugger David Ortiz after Friday's loss. "We always try to keep on winning games and we'll try to bounce back. We're the specialists on that one."
Yes, the specialists of the comeback. In the history of the Division Series -- which started in 1995 -- only four teams have come back from 2-0. Two of those teams? The 1999 Red Sox, who turned the tables on the Indians, and the 2003 Red Sox, who came all the way back against the Oakland Athletics.
Both times, the Sox lost the first two games on the road, and the amped-up Fenway faithful helped spark the comeback to force the winner-take-all Game 5.
"The home crowd always pumps us up," said Ortiz.
Quite simply, the Sox hope that home is where the hits are. In the first two games, the Boston bats were stifled by the Angels, producing an aggregate one run and eight hits.
Perhaps comforting sights -- like the Green Monster and Pesky's Pole -- will help awaken an offense that was dormant in Anaheim. At home, the Red Sox led the American League in runs scored and slugging percentage.
If the bats can get back on track, perhaps the type of October magic Red Sox fans have been spoiled by the last few years will resurface.
"We've just got to regroup," said Beckett. "We know what we need to do now. We can't lose another one. A lot of guys in here have been through this. It's not an ideal situation, but we have to win."
Not only do the Red Sox hit better at Fenway, but they have a boisterous crowd that has been known to intimidate opponents over the years, including the Angels.
The Red Sox hope they give their fans reason to make the Fenway feel like it is shaking.
"It's a quirky ballpark, and we've played the majority of our games here," said Francona. "Our hitters are certainly more comfortable here, because the lefties we have more practice at using the left-field wall -- or the righties of pulling the ball, because we play 81 games here. Right field is difficult. Center field is a triangle. There's a lot of quirkiness here.
0-2 Division Series deficits
"And then our fans become involved. You get around the seventh inning and somebody throws ball one, all of a sudden the place starts shaking. So there's a lot of things that are helpful here for us."
"Bust out all the clichés, I guess," said Red Sox left fielder Jason Bay. "There is no tomorrow. All that stuff. Everyone realizes that what's done is done. We're in this position now and I think right now our goal is to win two games in a row at home, which we've done before, which we can do. We get back here and I think just try to win two games at home and get back out here and see what happens."
As Red Sox Nation has learned the past few years, just about anything can happen when it comes to momentum in a short series. It can sway wildly and inexplicably. The Sox hope it will start swinging their way.
"When you play best-of-five, it can happen real quick," said Red Sox first baseman Kevin Youkilis. "We never think it's going to be this way. We've been down 3-0, we've been down 3-0. We've battled back and won two World Series, so hopefully we can do it again."
Francona has had a way of keeping his team focused in the proper way in these situations.
"I'd rather not be down 0-2, because the team we're playing is really good," Francona said. "If you put yourself in a position where you make a mistake, it can really cost you. But until they tell us to go home, we'll take our team and keep going. That's how we always feel."
The Red Sox will try to prolong winter with some more comeback magic.
"We're going to come out and play as hard as we can," said second baseman Dustin Pedroia. "Everyone in this room, we all fight. We fought through a lot of things this year. We're definitely not giving up. We've got a lot of baseball ahead of us. There's a lot of character here. That's what we're built on. A lot of us are underdogs. Now we definitely our as a team. We've got to play better."
Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.