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Red Sox Keep It Going

After questions about his health, Josh Beckett limits the Rays to two runs in five innings. The Red Sox will try to advance to the World Series for the third time in five seasons tonight.
After questions about his health, Josh Beckett limits the Rays to two runs in five innings. The Red Sox will try to advance to the World Series for the third time in five seasons tonight. (Pool Photo Via Getty Images)
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By Dave Sheinin
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, October 19, 2008

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla., Oct. 18 -- It might have been forgivable even to their hardest-core followers if the Boston Red Sox had gone ahead and said goodbye Saturday night. After the magical ride they had given their fans two nights earlier, at least those fans who stayed awake at home or remained in their stadium seats to witness it, the Red Sox could have brought an early winter to New England and an earlier start to golf season for themselves, and no one could have faulted them much.

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But what the heck, they had taken a middle-of-the-night flight to get here, and their youthful opponents were still walking around as if they didn't quite understand what forces had been unleashed upon them. And most of all, the Red Sox have a reputation to uphold -- it just wouldn't have been like them to bow out before the final scene.

So, there will be a Game 7 in the American League Championship Series, and it will be Sunday night at Tropicana Field. That reality came to pass because the Red Sox, baseball's great undead, pinned a 4-2 loss on the Tampa Bay Rays in Game 6 on Saturday night in front of 40,947 fans, Boston's ninth straight victory when facing elimination in the ALCS.

"You've got to bring what you've got," Red Sox slugger David Ortiz said. "It's not easy. It's not like we like being in this situation. But it seems like that's how our destiny has been."

The wild momentum swing that occurred midweek in Boston -- as crazy as anything Wall Street has seen of late -- gave way to another major surge Saturday night in the Red Sox' direction. There were positive developments all around for them, including a resurgent five-inning performance from Josh Beckett, and another ailing bat (Jason Varitek's) getting well with an important home run.

Their bullpen, after some bobbles in Boston, performed brilliantly in relief of Beckett, with lefty Hideki Okajima, right-hander Justin Masterson and closer Jonathan Papelbon combining for four hitless, scoreless innings.

And the most positive development of all: Having survived to see Game 7, the Red Sox will have their ace, lefty Jon Lester, on the mound, facing Tampa Bay right-hander Matt Garza.

"A couple of nights ago," Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia said, "we didn't even think there'd be a Game 6."

It is possible no team in history had ever taken the field with a worse immediate memory in their minds as the Rays did Saturday night, simply because no team seeking to clinch a postseason series had ever blown as big a lead, seven runs, as the Rays did in the final three innings Thursday night in Boston.

It was perhaps understandable, then, that the Rays weren't themselves Saturday night. Their typically flawless shortstop threw away a ground ball in a critical situation. Their starting pitcher had a rare, costly bout of wildness. They may have cost themselves a run by giving away an out on the base paths.

They were seven outs from the World Series on Thursday night, and with a seven-run lead to boot, and now, stunningly, the Rays are nine innings from seeing their season end.

"It's all about how we react to the moment. It's a seventh game," Rays Manager Joe Maddon said. "We've got to be ready to play that game."


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