BOSTON From the brink of elimination and the depths of a yearlong slump, J.D. Drew helped the Boston Red Sox force a Game 7.
The struggling Red Sox right fielder hit a grand slam and drove in five runs and, behind yet another clutch start by Curt Schilling, the Red Sox battered the Cleveland Indians 12-2 last night to tie the AL championship series at three games apiece.
We needed tonight s game, we needed a good performance for Schilling. We got that, now we re going to play in Game 7, Drew said.
After seeing aces C.C. Sabathia and Fausto Carmona fold, the Indians hope Jake Westbrook is the answer tonight. The Red Sox turn to Daisuke Matsuzaka, who has not pitched well so far in the postseason.
A third consecutive victory would put Boston in the World Series for the first time since 2004, when it rallied from a 3-0 deficit in the ALCS to beat the New York Yankees en route to its first title in 86 years.
After stumbling in his previous outing, Schilling came back to show why he is considered one of the best postseason pitchers in baseball history.
Schilling gave up Victor Martinez s solo homer in the second inning and otherwise held the Indians scoreless until Ryan Garko tripled and scored on Jhonny Peralta s sacrifice fly in the seventh. By that time, it was already 10-2.
Schilling got Kenny Lofton on a grounder and former teammate Trot Nixon on a fly ball to end the seventh, then left to a standing ovation. He took his hat off twice and waved up at the box where his wife and family sit.
He allowed two runs on six hits, striking out five and walking none to improve to 10-2 in his career in the postseason.
Carmona failed to get anybody out in the third inning, allowing seven runs on six hits and four walks and striking out two.
Much of the damage was done by Drew.
Drew has struggled to live up to the five-year, $70 million contract the Red Sox threw at him last winter even though no one else seemed interested in bidding. He was signed to protect David Ortiz and Manny Ramirez in the lineup, but manager Terry Francona dropped him from fifth to sixth in the lineup when he failed to deliver timely hits in the regular season.
Coming into the game, Drew was 0-for-6 with runners in scoring position, 1-for-11 in the two series combined and just .237 with a chance for an RBI in 2007 overall. When he came up with the bases loaded in the first inning against Carmona, he delivered.
Dustin Pedroia and Kevin Youkilis reached on infield singles, and Ortiz looked at six straight pitches for a walk. Ramirez struck out, then Mike Lowell was out on a shallow fly to right, not deep enough to score Pedroia.
All Carmona needed was to get Drew.
I wanted to get a pitch I could handle, Drew said. Carmona, he s not a guy you re going to hit home runs off of. I was just trying to hit one up the middle.
Drew hit a line drive into the camera box in straightaway center field to give Boston a 4-0 lead, raising one fist as he rounded the bases. Called back from the dugout by the same fans who had clamored for him to be replaced in the lineup, he gave a two-fisted wave.
He came up again in the third after Ramirez and Lowell walked to start the inning and singled to center to make it 5-0 and spark a six-run inning that all-but ended it.
Eric Gagne, the former star closer booed off the mound in previous postseason appearances, pitched a 1-2-3 ninth inning.
NOTES: Ramirez became the first player in LCS history to walk twice in one inning when he did it in the third.