BOSTON -- It was the bottom of the seventh inning, and the Tampa Bay Rays couldn't have been following the script they had written for themselves any more faithfully.
The temperature at Fenway had dropped precipitously from Kazmir's first pitch to Balfour's -- from the mid 60s to the low 50s -- and that blast of cold New England air seemed to remind the Sox of both who they were and where they were, even as it seemed to cause the Rays, hot-house dwellers that they are, to tighten up.
In a visitors' clubhouse that was far more sedate than anyone could have imagined roughly an hour earlier,
Maddon said that he'd allow his team no more than 30 minutes to digest what had just happened. "To dwell on it does no good whatsoever," he said. "We'll lose heart for about a half hour or so, get on that plane, go home and then we'll come back out for Game 6 and roll it out there again."
Maddon's task, perhaps the most important he has faced as Rays manager so far, is to convince his players -- a group that
Indeed, the fate of both the Rays and the Red Sox might most rest in the hands of Beckett -- or, more accurately, on his balky oblique muscle. If on Saturday Beckett is the same pitcher who served up low-90s fastball after low-90s fastball in Game 2, then all the Sox will have done on Thursday was to allow the Rays to clinch their first World Series berth in front of their mohawked home crowd. If, however, Beckett can somehow recapture the magic and the stuff he had in last year's playoffs, when he went 5-0, allowed four earned runs and struck out 35 batters in 30 innings, then the series will suddenly become the Sox's to lose.
"This is a little road bump," insisted
If Beckett manages to defeat Shields on Saturday, though, setting up an anything-can-happen Game 7 matchup between