Daunting situation not impossible
Just like 2004, Red Sox find themselves in 3-1 ALCS hole
CLEVELAND -- Ten out of 25. Nearly half. That represents the number of players on the Red Sox who have been in this situation before, down 3-1 in a League Championship Series and yet lived to tell about it.
Do the Red Sox want to be in this situation? Of course not. But they at least have first-hand knowledge that the predicament, while daunting, is not impossible.
"We've already talked amongst ourselves," said Red Sox captain Jason Varitek. "We have to go out there and we have to outplay them. Plain and simple, we've got to outplay them."
In the history of postseason baseball, 65 teams have fallen behind 3-1 in a best-of-seven series. Ten have rallied back to win.
The last two teams to accomplish the impressive comeback feat? The 2004 Red Sox and 2003 Marlins. Both teams will be represented when the Red Sox take the field Thursday for Game 5 against the surging Indians.
David Ortiz, Manny Ramirez, Varitek, Curt Schilling, Mike Timlin, Tim Wakefield, Doug Mirabelli and Kevin Youkilis are all holdovers from the 2004 Red Sox.
"There's a lot of guys in this clubhouse still that know in '04 we were down three games to nothing to New York," said Wakefield. "We've got our work cut out for us, and hopefully we can take this back to Boston and get in front of our home crowd."
And two key players on the '07 Sox -- third baseman Mike Lowell and ace Josh Beckett -- were part of the Marlins' squad that turned the tables on the Cubs.
"I think what it does is it makes you realize that it can be done," said Lowell. "It's not something that's impossible to do. We definitely have our work cut out for us. But I don't think we should look at it as we've got to win three games in a row. We've just got to win [Thursday]. If we focus on winning Games 6 and 7 and you don't win Game 5, it doesn't matter. I think we really just have to focus on playing nine better innings than they do. If we win, great, we'll pack it up and regroup and go on to the next day."
The fact that the Red Sox can put the ball in Beckett's right hand doesn't hurt their chances of at least getting the series back to Boston.
"[There is] no one better for us," said Lowell. "That's the guy we want on the mound. It's kind of ironic. He took Game 5 in '03."
In that situation, Beckett fired a two-hit shutout at the Cubs. This time around, the Red Sox are looking for any kind of win they can get.
"We've got to play one pitch at a time, literally," said Varitek. "We have to create our own opportunities. We've got to outplay our opponents. It is a different team, but we have a lot of guys who have been through it more than once here. That helps, because I believe we can do it. We have to come out and be ready to play."
Following the disappointing 7-3 loss in Game 4, Red Sox manager Terry Francona put things in perspective eerily similar to the way he did after falling behind 3-0 to the Yankees in '04.
"You start trying to look ahead, it can look a little overwhelming," Francona said. "Just play the game that's in front of us, and that's the only thing that matters right now."
Experience won't win Game 5. It won't win Game 6 or 7 either if the Red Sox are fortunate enough to get there. But it can only help.
"I think that's when you have to lean on past experience," said Mirabelli. "I don't know if experience in the playoffs helps you when your team is rolling. It definitely comes up big when your backs are against the wall. Some of these guys on this team have been in this situation before. There is still a lot of fight in this team. Guys really believe that they can win ballgames. We've always said that these are seven one-game series. We have to approach them like that."
Since Beckett's gem in Game 1, very little has gone right for the Red Sox. But Varitek urged everyone to throw away their rearview mirrors.
"That's the beauty of playing," Varitek said. "We have a one-game playoff. We have to go at them and go at them with every bit we have. If we can do that, the results will take care of themselves."
And then Fenway Park will not be closed for business just yet.
Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.