The Red Sox needed to stave off elimination again in Game 6 of the American League Championship Series, and they did so in relentless fashion.
Playing in front of an electric Saturday night crowd, the Sox pounded talented Fausto Carmona (two-plus innings, six hits, seven runs, four walks) into an early knockout and rode yet another big-game performance by Curt Schilling en route to a 12-2 romp over the Indians that was all but over by the end of the third inning.
When the Red Sox take the field behind Daisuke Matsuzaka for Sunday night's Game 7, they'll try to complete the task of being the 11th of the 66 teams who have trailed 3-1 in the postseason to come back and win. The last team to do it? The 2004 Red Sox.
"We're not comfortable, we're confident," said Red Sox slugger David Ortiz. "This is it. This is where you want to be. I like to be in this situation. This is it. There's no tomorrow. This is ride or die right here. [On Sunday], the best team is going to win."
The best pitcher Saturday night was Schilling, who set the exact tone the Indians were hoping from Carmona.
While Schilling's heroics are expected given his resume, J.D. Drew picked a most opportune time to produce the most memorable hit of his largely disappointing first season in a Boston uniform. With two outs and the bases loaded in the bottom of the first, Drew clocked a screaming line drive into the camera well above the wall in straightaway center. The grand slam set the tone for a breakout night by the Red Sox. The man who has received his share fair of criticism from the hometown crowd got a curtain call.
"Yeah, it was a great feeling," said Drew. "More than anything, I was just trying to hit a ball hard up the middle, get a pitch out over the plate that I could handle."
Schilling left the Indians hardly any of those. With a commanding lead in his back pocket, Schilling knew exactly what to do with it, holding the Tribe to six hits and two runs over seven innings, while walking none and striking out five. Of his 90 pitches, Schilling threw 60 strikes.
The 40-year-old righty is now 10-2 with a 2.25 ERA in postseason play.
"The man knows how to handle business. He did what he normally does," said Ortiz.
Schilling has pitched five times in his career when his team has faced elimination. His record in those games is 4-0 with a 1.37 ERA. His team is 5-0 in such situations.
"I mean, it's five trips I would have gone home earlier," said Schilling. "It's nice. We're playing a Game 7. There's nothing, I think, funner in sports than a Game 7, regardless of the venue."
This will be the first Game 7 played at Fenway Park since 1986, when the Red Sox completed their comeback from 3-1 down against the Angels.
Just like in Game 5 on Thursday, the Red Sox got some early momentum. They immediately got to Carmona in their half of the first. Dustin Pedroia and Kevin Youkilis opened with singles.
"We've been putting it together," said Ortiz. "I told you guys what would be the key for us to win some games. If we had the little guys getting on base, it was going to make a difference, and that's what's happening."
Ortiz, ever the big guy, did his part, working a walk to load the bases with nobody out. Manny Ramirez struck out on a seven-pitch at-bat. Mike Lowell couldn't get the run home either, flying out to shallow right.
The inning was suddenly in the hands of Drew, and he delivered, crushing a 3-1 pitch for a grand slam to center field. It was the third postseason grand slam in club history, as Drew joined Troy O'Leary (Game 5, 1999 AL Division Series) and Johnny Damon (Game 7, 2004 ALCS). Fittingly, Drew's blast came on the three-year anniversary of Damon's, when the Sox completed their historic comeback from 3-0 down at Yankee Stadium.
"It's a lot tougher with two outs," said Lowell. "You can do some things with one out or no outs and still get the run in. But he was just patient and crushed his pitch. I think he got a great ovation, one he really deserved. He didn't stop there and put together a great day. We need him."
Carmona threw a whopping 35 pitches in the inning. To the credit of the Indians, they answered with a quick run in the top of the second, as Victor Martinez crushed a solo shot down the line in right.
But the Red Sox continued to grind everything out against Carmona until giving him a knockout punch far earlier than the Indians could have envisioned. Boston erupted for six runs in the bottom of the third, getting back-to-back walks from Ramirez and Lowell to open the inning, and then an RBI single up the middle by Drew. That was all for Carmona, and lefty Rafael Perez came in from the bullpen.
"I felt better than last time," Carmona said. "I just didn't get it done."
Neither did Cleveland's bullpen. Perez got Jason Varitek on a flyout to center, but Boston broke it open thereafter.
Jacoby Ellsbury, making his first postseason start, looped an RBI single into center. Julio Lugo, who had been slumping throughout the postseason, raked a two-run double down the line in left. Following a walk to Pedroia, Youkilis slammed an RBI single off the wall in left. With Youkilis caught in a rundown between first and second, even that worked out fortuitously for Boston. Second baseman Asdrubal Cabrera's throw hit Youkilis on the helmet before the ball strayed far enough away for Pedroia to score. That made it 10-1 and an early romp was in progress.
Now, all eyes are fixated on Sunday night.
"We get to play again, and that's huge for this team," said Varitek. "We'll leave it all out on the field."
Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.Less