CLEVELAND - History gives Josh Beckett and the Red Sox a pretty good shot. They've come back from big postseason deficits.
Then again, they didn't do it against these Cleveland Indians.
Down 3-1 in the AL championship series, Beckett and Boston will try to save their season when they face C.C. Sabathia tonight. It's a rematch of the opener, the only game the Red Sox won.
"I don't think there's anyone in the league that we'd prefer on the mound for our team in this situation," Boston third baseman Mike Lowell said. "We can believe all we want, but we have to get hits off Sabathia and hold them down."
In 2004, the Red Sox ended an 86-year World Series championship drought with a four-game sweep of St. Louis. First, though, they had to overcome a 3-0 deficit in the ALCS against the New York Yankees.
The Red Sox became the first team to win a postseason series after losing the first three games.
"When you see something that's never been done before, you can believe in anything," first baseman Kevin Youkilis said. "For us, it's all about winning one game."
Only seven players from that World Series team, including David Ortiz and Manny Ramirez, are still with the Red Sox.
One who wasn't there also came back from a 3-1 LCS deficit.
Beckett started Florida's comeback in 2003 with a two-hit shutout against the Chicago Cubs in Game 5. He struck out 11 and walked one, a remarkable NLCS performance that was soon overshadowed.
Working on three days' rest, he pitched a World Series-clinching, five-hit shutout in Game 6 against the Yankees.
"It's kind of like a party in 2003," Beckett said. "It was fun. It was a bunch of young guys, and we were just out having fun."
The Marlins exceeded expectations that season. Anything less than a championship would be an emotional blow to the Red Sox and their passionate fans.
As if Rafael Betancourt cares.
"With the confidence we have playing right now, we're going to do it on Thursday," said the former Boston farmhand, now a lights-out reliever for Cleveland. "We don't want to go back. We want to finish it here."
To do that, the Indians will have to break Beckett's postseason spell.
He won the first-round opener over the Los Angeles Angels with a four-hit shutout. Then he outpitched Sabathia, who said he wasn't aggressive enough, in Game 1 of the ALCS.
"I didn't even give us a chance the other day," Sabathia said. "I look to stay calm and stay in control and not try to overthrow and do so much and I think I'll be fine."
Beckett's back stiffened up on the chilly night. Red Sox pitching coach John Farrell said on yesterday's off-day that Beckett is feeling fine and his back is not an issue.
"His bullpen [session] two days ago was as strong as others throughout the course of the season," Farrell said. "So there's no restrictions of any kind going into tomorrow."
After losing the opener 10-3, the Indians took the momentum with a 13-6 win in 11 innings at Fenway Park.
They won the next two games in Cleveland behind their third and fourth starters, Jake Westbrook and Paul Byrd.
They scored seven runs in the 11th in Game 2, and another seven in the fifth of a 7-3 win in Game 4, four scoring on homers by Casey Blake and Jhonny Peralta.
"We just got hot at the right time," Sabathia said. "It doesn't matter how you play during the season. It matters how well you're playing right now."
The teams did tie for baseball's best record, 96-66, and Boston won home-field advantage by winning the season series with Cleveland.
That means nothing to Indians manager Eric Wedge.
"It's not about where we play or who we play. It's about how we play," he said. "We'd love to do it here at home, but the heartbeat and the pace and the way we play, it needs to be the same we've been doing all year."
Boston manager Terry Francona probably will make one change in his usual lineup, starting switch-hitter Bobby Kielty in right field in place of lefty J.D. Drew against lefty Sabathia.
Kielty has hit well against Sabathia and went 1-for-2 in the opener with an RBI single before the Cleveland ace left the game.
The Red Sox need to revive an offense that has scored in just two of the last 24 innings - a total of five runs.
Three of them came Tuesday night on consecutive homers by Youkilis, David Ortiz and Ramirez in the sixth inning.
"We've been in this situation before. We've got nothing to lose," Ramirez said in a rare clubhouse interview. "Why should we panic? We've got a great team. If it doesn't happen, we come next year and try to do it again."
When the nine-minute conversation ended - three minutes in Spanish, six in English - he stood up and looked around the floor.
"Now where are my shoes?" Ramirez said.
He found them, then went out to take batting practice after chuckling when he was asked for the fourth time about the comeback of 2004.
"Hey," Ramirez said. "Anything's possible."41.50436 -81.69046