Published October 19, 2007
CLEVELAND – Back to Boston they go. Just the Red Sox being the Red Sox.
Josh Beckett, blocking out everything but Jason Varitek's target, dominated the Cleveland Indians for the second time and Manny Ramirez drove in the go-ahead run with a 390-foot single as the Red Sox stayed alive in the AL championship series with a 7-1 win Thursday night in Game 5.
Kevin Youkilis set the tone with a first-inning homer off C.C. Sabathia. The Red Sox, trailing 3-2, sent the best-of-seven series back to Fenway Park to continue a season that was on the brink of being canned for the cold New England winter.
The Red Sox — and Beckett — have done this before. And clearly, Ramirez & Co. cared.
"We weren't trying to win three games in one night," Youkilis said. "We were just going out there to play the game, go out there and fight and do whatever we had to do to win."
In 2004, Boston rallied from an 0-3 deficit to win the 2004 ALCS against the New York Yankees and went on to sweep the St. Louis Cardinals in four straight for its first World Series title since 1918.
The Red Sox forced Game 6 on Saturday night, and will start one of October's brightest stars, Curt Schilling, who has a 9-3 record in 17 career postseason starts, against Fausto Carmona.
Beckett, the calm, cool and cocky 20-game winner, ignored a shrilling crowd, some chirping from Indians outfielder Kenny Lofton and even the appearance of an old girlfriend to deny Cleveland fans a chance to see their first pennant-clinching win at home.
"Josh is unbelievable," Youkilis said. "This year has been unbelievable for him and we hope he wins the Cy Young. He's shown here in the playoffs why he should."
In the late innings, drummer John Adams, whose tom-tom beat has pulsated through a special season at Jacobs Field, slumped against his instrument as the Red Sox tacked on runs. Meanwhile, in the Boston bullpen, two relievers used water bottles to playfully bang on backup catcher Doug Mirabelli's shinguards.
The 27-year-old Beckett, who beat Cleveland in the opener, once again came through with the stakes at their highest.
The right-hander allowed only a run in the first, and five total hits in eight innings. He struck out 11, walked one and was around the plate with almost every one of his 109 pitches.
Beckett, who with each start carves his name deeper among the postseason pitching elite, is no stranger to comebacks.
In 2003, he pitched a two-hitter for Florida in Game 5 of the NLCS as the Marlins rallied from a 3-1 deficit to eliminate the Chicago Cubs. Then, pitching on just three days' rest in Game 6 of the World Series at Yankee Stadium, he allowed five hits in a 2-0 win and was picked as MVP.
If the Red Sox can win two more, he might have another trophy for his mantle.
The Indians missed a chance to advance to the World Series for the first time since 1997, and will have to find a way to avoid being the latest Cleveland team to come close but not win it all.
Cleveland, which hasn't won the Series since 1948, had won three straight to seemingly take control. But the Indians could do little against Beckett, who rarely shook off a sign from Varitek and kept hitters guessing with a rocket fastball and knee-buckling curve.
Even the Indians' rock-solid bullpen cracked for the first time. Boston added three runs in the eighth on three walks, a throwing error by reliever Rafael Perez, a passed ball and a sacrifice fly.
"Beating Boston four in a row is tough to do," Indians manager Eric Wedge said. "We'll head to Boston, have a day off tomorrow and get back to work on Saturday."
With so much on the line, both teams were on edge and tempers flared briefly in the fifth when Beckett and Lofton screamed at each other.
Cleveland's outfielder had flipped his bat to the ground after what he thought was ball four, and when Beckett retired him on a fly ball to left, the pair exchanged words as both benches and bullpens spilled out.
The two got into a similar argument two years ago, when Lofton was with Philadelphia and Beckett with Florida.
No punches were thrown, and if Lofton was trying to rattle Beckett, he failed.
Beckett struck out Franklin Gutierrez looking before Casey Blake singled and went to third when Grady Sizemore's bouncer squirted through. But Beckett fanned Asdrubal Cabrera on three pitches, and the rookie smacked his bat on the plate in disgust.
For Sabathia, the Indians' ace and leader, it was more disappointment. He allowed four runs and 10 hits in six-plus innings, his third straight sub-par performance this month.
Sabathia was angry with himself following Game 1 for not being more aggressive with Boston's hitters, and when he couldn't put David Ortiz away with two outs in the third, Ramirez made him pay.
A day after he rankled Red Sox fans by saying "Who cares?" if Boston were to lose, the enigmatic slugger struck back.
Ramirez sent Sabathia's first pitch to center, where Sizemore went back to the wall. But as he reached up, Ramirez's shot caromed back onto the field.
Ortiz scored easily, but Ramirez, thinking his shot was long gone, was only rounding first when the Indians retrieved the ball. Boston manager Terry Francona argued it should have been a two-run homer, but after a brief meeting, the umpires kept Ramirez at first.
Slow-motion TV replays were inconclusive, and the ground rules at Jacobs Field state that a ball must completely clear the yellow line at the top of the wall for it to be a homer.
Whatever the outcome, it was Manny being Manny — again.
The funky, fun-loving outfielder irritated some of the Indians when he posed to admire a homer in Game 4, even though his 451-foot shot had only brought Boston within 7-3.
The Indians insisted it wasn't intentional, but the club invited country singer Danielle Peck, an ex-girlfriend of Beckett's, to sing the national anthem and "God Bless America" on the night her former beau took the mound.
Peck was a fill-in for another singer, but her appearance didn't seem to break Beckett's concentration or the Red Sox's resolve.
The Indians had scored first in their previous six games, but this time the Red Sox beat them to the punch.
With one out, Youkilis ripped a 1-0 pitch from Sabathia over the wall in left to make it 1-0. One out later, Ramirez doubled to left-center, giving him a hit in 15 straight championship series games, tying Pete Rose's record.
Never to be confused with Charlie Hustle otherwise, Ramirez was thrown out at the plate when he tried to score on Mike Lowell's single to right.
The Red Sox went up 4-1 and chased Sabathia in the seventh. Dustin Pedroia doubled and scored when Youkilis tripled off the glove of a diving Sizemore. The shot ended Sabathia's night, and the big lefty walked dejectedly to the dugout knowing he had missed a chance to get the Indians back to the Series.