HOUSTON - The Red Sox are facing a tall task, the likes of which they haven’t stared down since 2008. Win two games on the road in the American League Championship Series, go to the World Series. Lose one, go home.
Fortunately for Alex Cora’s club, it has their best guy, Nathan Eovaldi, offering the initial chance to swipe momentum away from the Astros in Friday’s Game 6. Is it a perfect scenario? Hardly. Just three days before he will have thrown 24 intense, ninth-inning pitches. But it is what it is, and what it represents is the Red Sox best chance to catapult to the coveted pair of wins at Minute Maid Park.
And if Eovaldi is looking for proof of what can be accomplished in a win-or-go-home, Game 6 on the road, he can let history be his guide. Thirteen years and three days before, Josh Beckett was that guy for the Red Sox in what was the time this organization face such a predicament.
Five innings. Two runs. 78 pitches. All with a torn intercostal muscle in his rib cage. And, at the end of the day, a Red Sox win, forcing Game 7 at Tropicana Field.
“The one I’m most proud is probably the five innings in Tampa,” Beckett told WEEI.com by phone, reflecting on his 13 career postseason starts. “That was my last start of the season, I hated to admit that. But there was no (expletive) way I could do that again, but knew I had to do that to get to the World Series. That was the one I’m most proud of.”
“That was the most painful start I ever had. I was throwing sidearm. It hurt so bad when I made a power move over the top. But I could sling the ball up there. My curveball was like 2-to-8. I don’t think I pitched all that bad. I was just trying to do what the starters are trying to do now, get as many outs as they can and here comes the cavalry. And, now the cavalry is good. These bullpens are (expletive) stupid. When I was playing baseball there was like a handful of guys who threw 100 mph. Now there are like 16 handfuls.”
The setting heading into those make-or-break ALCS games in St. Petersburg was far from ideal for the Red Sox. They had won Game 5 after falling into a 3-1 series hole against the Rays, but was forced to use an injured Beckett, who had just given up eight runs on one hits over 4 1/3 innings to Tampa Bay in Game 2.
But Beckett figured it out, offering the kind of results that will get Eovaldi plenty of atta-boys if he manages the same.
“The starter was going to either win or lose the game, and it was a lot easier to lose the game than it was to win the game,” Beckett reflected.
“It wasn’t just me but on that specific day it was Josh Beckett and the Red Sox. Yes, other people have to do some things to win the game, but I have to go and make sure I don’t lose the