BOSTON – Down seven runs and running out of time, the Boston Red Sox weren't quite ready to go away.
The defending World Series champions pulled off the biggest postseason comeback in 79 years, beating the Rays 8-7 Thursday night on J.D. Drew's two-out single in the ninth to stave off elimination in the best-of-seven AL championship series.
Fresh off the latest October rally by the comeback kings, Boston headed to Tampa Bay trailing three games to two.
"The first six innings we did nothing. They had their way with us every way possible," Red Sox manager Terry Francona said. "And then this place came unglued, and we've seen that before. But because of the situation we're in, it just — that was pretty magical."
Boston trailed 7-0 with two outs in the seventh, then rallied when David Ortiz's three-run homer followed Dustin Pedroia's RBI single against Grant Balfour. Drew hit a two-run homer in the eighth and Coco Crisp tied it with a two-out RBI single off Dan Wheeler.
Then in the ninth, Kevin Youkilis grounded to Evan Longoria with two outs, and wound up at second when the throw bounced in front of first baseman Carlos Pena. Jason Bay was intentionally walked and Drew lined a single to right off J.P. Howell over the outstretched glove of Gabe Gross to score the game-winner.
"It's tough, but I think this team has battled all year," Drew said. "We're in a situation, seven runs down, we know we can make that up if we get going."
The series resumes Saturday night at Tropicana Field. The winner faces Philadelphia in the World Series starting Wednesday night.
"We're going to go back to Tampa and try to fight back," Ortiz said.
The seven-run deficit was the largest overcome in a postseason game since Game 4 of 1929 World Series, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. In that one, the Philadelphia Athletics trailed by eight before a 10-run seventh inning powered them past the Chicago Cubs 10-8.
The Red Sox, who twice this decade have rallied from a 3-1 deficit to win the pennant and then the World Series title, have a chance to do it an unprecedented third time in five years.
After losing the previous two games at Fenway Park by a combined 22-5, Boston suddenly sparked to life.
The Red Sox fell behind the New York Yankees in the 2004 ALCS before becoming the first major league team to rally from a 3-0 postseason deficit. Once in the World Series, they swept the St. Louis Cardinals for their first title in 86 years.
Three seasons later, Boston trailed the Cleveland Indians 3-1 in the ALCS before winning three straight and sweeping Colorado in the Series for their second title in four seasons.