ST. LOUIS -- The Boston Red Sox have looked at the postseason from both sides now. Their next task will be to prevent the other guys from joining them in the epic comeback category.
Wasn't it just moments ago that the Red Sox were down, 3-0, to the New York Yankees in the American League Championship Series, presumably buried in what had been an historically hopeless situation?
And now, they are up, 3-0, over the St. Louis Cardinals in the World Series. It is possible that now, only the Red Sox and the Yanks, out of the entire baseball world, can truly tell how great the distance between 3-0 and 4-0 can be.
"We know who we're playing, and where we are, and how good they are," manager Terry Francona said Tuesday night.
These are important matters to keep in mind. The Cardinals are down three games, but they won 105 games this season and they are home in Busch Stadium. This is not a done deal.
There are ironies as both teams prepare for what could be the final game of this World Series, or another runup to a magnificent comeback. There are ironies here, in both directions.
The three-game deficit always meant that the postseason series had been decided -- until last week, when the Red Sox proved that this was a mountain that could be climbed. In a way, they have done the Cardinals a favor, showing that even this monumental kind of comeback is still possible.
"It's something you've got to notice," St. Louis manager Tony La Russa said Tuesday night. "It shows it's possible. I think the one thing I'm absolutely confident about is that we've come too far to give an effort that will embarrass anybody tomorrow.
"It's really simple, I remember after Boston played -- I think maybe before they played the fourth game, I was listening to Terry [Francona] and he said, you can't say it better than that, 'all you have to do is win the game.' It's hard to do that sometimes. It's hard not to get discouraged and just -- but if you're strong, they did it and I know we're strong, so we'll do it. We're going to come out and try to win a game. We can win a game tomorrow."
Derek Lowe / P
Weight: 215 lbs
Bats: R / Throws: R
But that perspective will be balanced somewhat by the Red Sox's newfound knowledge that 3-0 is no place to take anything for granted. They also know that, three-game edge or not, this is still a very good St. Louis club.
"We won't get ahead of ourself that much," Francona said. "In Game 1 we wanted to win Game 1. Once that's over, you move on to Game 2. Once I get done talking about this game, this game is in the past. We'll show up and play tomorrow with different pitchers, different set of circumstances and try to win again. Our only goal is to try to win tomorrow.
"Has anybody ever seen me play as a player? You can understand why I would never be overconfident," Francona said with a laugh. "We'll show up, we know we're playing a good team. We'll just try to win tomorrow. I think the one difference is our guys enjoy playing regardless. We know we're going to have our hands full tomorrow, we fully expect that. We still think we can win tomorrow, that's our goal."
The pitching matchup provides some irony, too. For the Cardinals, Jason Marquis had a breakthrough regular season, but slipped in two postseason starts. For the Red Sox, Derek Lowe had a disappointing regular season, to the point that he was left out of the postseason rotation.
But he rebounded in two starts in the ALCS. His strong Game 7 performance against the Yankees finally provided the difference in that Series. He represented the pitching depth that the Red Sox had, but the Yanks did not.
Jason Marquis / P
Weight: 210 lbs
Bats: L / Throws: R
"Sometimes in life you only get an opportunity to go out and pitch a game like that once, and I wasn't going to let that time slide," Lowe said Tuesday. But he'll have another opportunity to win a deciding postseason game for Boston on Wednesday night.
On the other side, the odds are daunting, but Marquis has indisputable stuff. And the Cardinals have no record of going away when circumstances become difficult.
"We have a positive frame of mind, and we have the positive attitude we've had all year," Marquis said Tuesday.
Things have come full circle in a huge hurry for the Red Sox. From down 3-0, at the doorstep of elimination, they have tied a postseason record with seven straight victories, putting them at the edge of World Series triumph.
It is a remarkable story, a unique story, and for Red Sox fans, a story that could end 86 years of disappointment with a stunning, history-making burst of October achievement. But it is also a story that is not, as the Red Sox know better than anyone else, quite over.
Mike Bauman is a national columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.