To which extreme will Game 3 be?
The next Boston comeback or Chicago history starts here
BOSTON -- What we will see next is Postseason Comeback Magic Part II, or the Chicago White Sox winning their first postseason series since 1917. Extremes in possibilities seem to be in order.
This is the inescapable theme: The Boston Red Sox have been down this road before. They have been even further down this road than they are now. They were down three games to none in the 2004 American League Championship Series before making history and breaking an 86-year World Series drought.
They are within one game of elimination in this AL Division Series, too, losing two straight to the White Sox, getting clobbered in the first game and committing a critical error in the second. The Red Sox epic work last October may work for them, giving them proof that nothing is impossible. But it might work against them as well, because no one can look at them on the brink of defeat and take them for granted.
"Don't count on anything," White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen said Wednesday night. "We've got to go there [Boston] and play hard and play the way we play. Believe me, the Boston Red Sox have been there before and they know how to come out."
Red Sox manager Terry Francona had his fill of questions on his team's precedent-shattering ability to come back well before the Game 2 Division Series loss. "I can rely heavily on answering that question 9,000 times," Francona said Wednesday.
Asked again Wednesday night if there was any comfort in knowing that the Red Sox had had their backs against the wall like this before, Francona responded:
"I would rather have it the other way. The comfort I have is our ability to play. We'll show up and play the next game. That's what's important. That's what is in front of us. That's what we can control. The comfort level I have is, I know we will play. That's what gives me the most comfort."
What might give the Red Sox the most discomfort this time is that they are playing a team that has better pitching than the 2004 Yankees. The Red Sox were gallant and courageous and dogged and determined last October, but the Yankees also ran out of effective pitching.
As the Division Series moves to Boston for Game 3 on Friday, the Red Sox have scored just six runs in these two defeats. They were contained by Jose Contreras. They hit Mark Buehrle early, but not late, and he essentially outlasted David Wells.
On Friday, Tim Wakefield goes for the Red Sox against Freddy Garcia for the White Sox. Wakefield's knuckleball can be baffling or not. Garcia is a workmanlike performer, who did his best work on the road this season.
Wakefield has faced the pressure of elimination games before. He knows what the deal is.
"There's always pressure when you get into the postseason," he said Thursday. "You know, coming into Game 3, down 2-0, there's a little bit more pressure there.
"This team's been in this situation before, not only last year, but 2003 against Oakland. We still have a majority of those guys left in that clubhouse from 2003. We're playing at home, where we've played the best all year. I think everybody's rarin' to go. Being in the postseason before with this team, being in the situation before, I think everybody in the clubhouse knows how we have to play. I think everybody's ready. I know I am. I'm going to go out there and do the best that I can."
The thing is, Garcia might be pretty well positioned in Boston, too. He was 10-3 on the road with a 3.40 ERA. He was 4-5 at home with a 4.38 ERA. Maybe this could be explained because U.S. Cellular Field is a hitters' park, particularly in the summer when the prevailing wind is blowing out.
"I think all year long that's a hitters' park," Garcia said Thursday. "But I go on the road, sometimes I got better stuff on the road. So here I am."
Freddy Garcia smiled a bit on that "so here I am." Here are all the White Sox, on the edge of a big breakthrough. If it doesn't happen Friday, if the Series goes to Game 4, the White Sox send out Jon Garland off a breakthrough campaign. The Red Sox have Curt Schilling, with greatness in his heart but difficulties in his right ankle.
The Fenway edge? The Red Sox did have the best home record in baseball, but the White Sox, strangely or not, had a better record on the road than they did at home, so good that it was the best road record in baseball. Their 52 victories on the road were a franchise record. Something has to give here.
The Red Sox have proved conclusively that they cannot be dismissed simply because they have to win four games in a row to survive. Three games in a row, then, should be well within their range.
But here is the more difficult part: The Red Sox will be facing a better pitching staff than the one they came back against last October. This is heresy in the Boston/New York postseason business, but the White Sox have shut out the Red Sox in 15 of 18 innings so far.
And the Red Sox have neither Derek Lowe nor Pedro Martinez to help out with the next miracle. The Red Sox ability to come back from way back is a matter of historical record. But, in a way, it may be harder to come back from 0-2 against the White Sox than it was to come back from 0-3 against the Yankees.
Mike Bauman is a national columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.