THEY DID IT LAST YEAR. Heck, they were in even worse predicament against the New York Yankees in 2004 and still won the World Series.
This time, however, there are very few reasons to believe that the Boston Red Sox will be able to overturn a 3-1 deficit against the Tampa Bay Rays and emerge as American League champions.
Fenway Park is one of the hotbeds of baseball. But, for the second successive night, the upstart Rays scored early and often last night to silence the crowd.
As Yogi Bera once said: It ain’t over till it’s over. The Red Sox were in exactly the same position against the Cleveland Indians last year and managed to win the last three games. And, of course, Yankees fans will need no reminding that they rallied from 3-0 down in the 2004 ALCS.
But, in the words of center fielder Coco Crisp: “We’re not playing Cleveland. It’s a totally different team.”
The Rays are riding the crest of a wave. They are a team of destiny; the 50,000-1 no-hopers ready to pen one the greatest stories in the history of American sports.
Not even losing the first game of the series 2-0 at Tropicana Field could shake their confidence or belief.
So what can the Red Sox do now to stop their momentum? Well, they will at least have game one winner Daisuke Matsuzaka on the mound tomorrow night.
Kazmir goes for glory in game five
Matsuzaka was supposed to be the No. 3 pitcher for the Red Sox in the series. But with Josh Beckett and Jon Lester both getting shelled, he has assumed the role of their ace.
Lester didn’t pitch that badly in game three. He was simply victimized early by the hungry Rays hitters. Beckett, however, was a shadow of the man who allowed just one run in seven innings of game one of the 2007 World Series against the Colorado Rockies, setting the Sox on their way to a series sweep.
Reports say he has an oblique injury and, clearly, he is considerably less than 100 percent fit. Starting him in game six – if it goes far – will be a major gamble.
The Rays, meanwhile, have switched pitchers for game five, moving Scott Kazmir ahead of James Shields.
The reason, according to manager Joe Maddon, is that Kazmir has had more success pitching at Fenway while Shields has been very good at home.
In my opinion, it’s a smart move. Kazmir struggled in game two at the Trop, giving up five runs on six hits. If the Sox do manage to extend the series, now they are going to have to beat Shields, and probably Matt Garza, on their own artificial turf.
Not only do the Sox have pitching problems, but they’re not hitting either. Big Pappy (0 for 14 before a meaningless triple) is not the threat he was without either Manny Ramirez or Mike Lowell in the line-up. Jacoby Ellsbury and Dustin Pedroia are not getting on base.
Compare that to the hot hitting by B.J. Upton and Evan “Long Ball” Longoria, who has homered in each of the last three games.
The Rays look much sharper in the outfield too. They’re making the Sox look like an aging, tired team.
That enthusiasm and energy now looks sure to propel them to their first World Series. And from rank outsiders, the Rays are now favorites to win it all.