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 since 1929, beating the Tampa Bay Rays 8-7 Thursday night on J.D. Drew’s two-out single in the ninth to stave off elimination in the best-of-7 American League 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.
“It was pretty much the most amazing thing I’ve ever been a part of, to be down 7-0 in an elimination game and be able to come back,” Crisp said.
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 winner.
“There’s a lot of fight in that dugout, and a lot of guys knew as soon as we got some runs on the board, we could get something going,” Drew said.
The series resumes Saturday night at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla. The winner faces Philadelphia in the World Series, which starts Wednesday.
“Hopefully, there’ll be time when we can sit back and think ‘This is what got us over the hump,’ ” Francona said. “But we’re still climbing.”
B.J. Upton hit a two-run homer before the first out, and Pena and Longoria hit back-to-back homers for the second straight game to help stake Tampa Bay to a 7-0 lead. Scott Kazmir held Boston to two hits over six innings, never allowing a runner past second base.
“There goes Papi (Ortiz) and there goes Drew, I mean that can happen at any time,” Rays manager Joe Maddon said. “We’re just going to have to go back home and get it going again. We played a great game. They just came back and beat us. That happens. … If you dwell on something like that and you get your mind in a negative mode, nothing good is going to happen after that.”
The seven-run deficit was the largest overcome in a postseason game since Game 4 of the 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, have a chance to do it a 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.
Ortiz had one hit and no RBIs in the series coming in.
“The big guy came through for us again,” Crisp said. “He was in a little slide, but he showed how he could come through for us.”
The top three batters in Tampa’s order reached base 10 times. … The Rays’ Carl Crawford went 0 for 4 after going 5 for 5 in Game 4. … Ortiz had been 1 for 17 in the series before his homer. … Curt Schilling, the bloody-socked hero of the team’s angst-ending 2004 championship, threw out the ceremonial pitch – his only appearance on the Fenway mound this season. He bounced it about 8 feet in front of the plate. … Daisuke Matsuzaka allowed five runs in four-plus innings.