10/10/07 11:00 PM ET
Red Sox no strangers when it comes to LCS stage
By Ian Browne / MLB.com
The seasoned Sox have a rich cast of characters who have played in games of this magnitude before and will do so again beginning with Game 1 of this series on Friday night at Fenway at 7 ET on FOX.
Consider that the Red Sox, combining all the players on the probable 25-man roster for the ALCS, have 126 games of experience in this round. The Indians, thanks in large part to Kenny Lofton's 33 games in LCS play, have 63, or exactly half of what Boston has.
Boston has eight players who have played in at least five LCS games. Only Lofton and former Red Sox outfielder Trot Nixon fit that category for Cleveland.
Will experience win this series for the Red Sox? Most certainly not. It didn't help the Yankees in their unsuccessful Division Series against the Indians. But can it help? Most definitely.
"The guys are enjoying it," said veteran Sox reliever Mike Timlin, who has 20 LCS games under his belt, not to mention three World Series rings. "This is the time you work for all year long. Some of these guys have never done this. Fortunately for me, I've done this a few times, and it's great. It never gets old doing this."
And the 41-year-old Timlin, who jokingly calls himself an old man at times, has no problem sharing his experience for the benefit of his teammates.
"It helps, because you know some pressure situations are coming," said Timlin. "You can take a deep breath and help the other guys out just by saying, 'Just relax,' and, 'It's the same game. Go out, have fun and enjoy it.'"
The eight players who remain from Boston's last go-around in the ALCS back in 2004 can relate to the pressure better than anyone else.
The 2003 Red Sox were on the cusp of winning the ALCS, only to squander a 5-2 lead in the eighth inning of Game 7 against the Yankees and lose on that infamous home run off the bat of Aaron Boone.
All they had to do one October later was overcome a 3-0 series deficit -- not to mention 86 years of baggage -- to those same Yankees. Mission accomplished. Pressure of a nation lifted.
"The difference from now to 2004 is that we fell in 2003, so everybody's mentality was in between," said Sox slugger David Ortiz. "People didn't know what to do. Then we start [down] 3-0 in 2004 and everyone's mentality was screwed up for a minute. But coming back, winning all those games, eight games in a row, there's no more 1918 signs out there or 86 years or whatever. People now, they're like, 'We won a couple of years ago, we can win again.' I see more positive faces around than negative."
Of course, back in 2004, when the Red Sox were creating history, guys like Manny Delcarmen and Jonathan Papelbon -- relievers who will play key roles in this series -- were just hopeful prospects.
"I was in the Fall League in Arizona wishing I was here, but I wasn't," said Delcarmen, a Boston native and Red Sox fan growing up.
SOCK IT TO 'EM
|When it comes to playing in the League Championship Series, three members of the Red Sox's batting order boast an average over .300.|
|When Game 1 of the 2007 ALCS opens Friday, Boston boasts four hurlers who have substantial LCS experience.|
"Instructional league, I think," said the flamethrowing closer.
Not all of the collective October experience of these Red Sox was built in Boston.
Timlin was part of two championship teams in Toronto back in 1992-93.
Before Curt Schilling was the bloody sock guy, he lifted the Phillies into the 1993 World Series against Timlin's Jays, and the Diamondbacks to a memorable World Series championship over the Yankees in 2001.
Josh Beckett and Mike Lowell -- who came to the Red Sox together in November 2005 -- were instrumental in lifting the Marlins over the Cubs in an epic 2003 National League Championship Series before they stunned the Yankees in the World Series.
"I don't think experience ever hurts," said Red Sox manager Terry Francona. "Certain people, just by the way the game is played, aren't going to have experience going in. That doesn't mean they're not good players. I think we feel that way about [Dustin] Pedroia."
And Pedroia is quick to note that there is a difference between regular-season baseball and postseason baseball. He learned that last week while going 2-for-13 against the Angels in the ALDS.
"It took me a while to calm down that first series," said Pedroia. "I think this next series, I'll be more relaxed and I'll know what to expect a little bit more."
Those who don't know what to expect can lean on the ones who do.
"I think it helps a bunch," said Red Sox lefty reliever Javy Lopez. "Obviously you've got Mike Timlin in the bullpen who's been through three World [Series] titles now. He's got that little calming influence down there."
Of course, what Ortiz does this time of year is win games. In the 2004 ALCS, he ended a game on one swing -- twice.
"There's expectations, there's people expecting us to win just because we are the Red Sox," said Ortiz. "What people sometimes don't realize is that you're playing a team that has a lot of good players and a lot of good things going on. If they catch you sleeping, they'll get you out like they did with the Yankees."
But as Ortiz and some of his more experienced teammates can attest to, there is no sleeping on the bright stage of the LCS.
Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.