- Jim Caple, Senior Writer, ESPN.com
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BOSTON - All right. You can breathe again.
In. Out. In. Out. In. Out. In. Out. In. Out.
OK, ready? Good. But better keep an electrocardiogram and defibrillator handy just in case when this series resumes tonight with Game 6 in Yankee Stadium, because with everything that has been going on the past couple nights, the remainder of this series could make last year's Grady Little decision seem as dull as an accountants convention.
Depending on the weather (the forecast is for rain), everything is in place for drama. Boston starter Curt Schilling has been fitted with a special boot for the most dramatic return since Forrest Gump lifted Lt. Dan onto the shrimp boat. A team of chiropractors and massage therapists is working to bend Jorge Posada and Jason Varitek out of their catcher's squats. Dr. Frank Jobe is being flown to New York just in case anyone in either bullpen requires Tommy John surgery prior to taking the mound with the season on the line.
And everyone's favorite tenor, Daniel Rodriguez, is keeping his tonsils lubricated just in case he's needed to sing during two seventh-inning stretches. Which just might happen.
One night after playing the longest game in American League postseason history, the Red Sox and Yankees played the longest game in postseason history, with David Ortiz once again ending it, this time with a two-out, 14th-inning single. The two teams have played 26 innings and 10 hours and 51 minutes the past two nights, making 22 pitching changes and throwing 887 pitches. Game 5 lasted so long that the Houston-St. Louis game nearly ended sooner despite starting three hours later.
"I don't even remember what pitchers started tonight,'' Derek Jeter said after his team's 5-4 loss.
They were two nobodies named Mike Mussina and Pedro Martinez, but Jeter can be excused for his confusion. There was a lot of that going around. The likely outcomes changed so quickly and so often both nights that the clubhouse guys may need rotator cuff surgery from hanging up and taking down the plastic curtains over the Yankees' lockers in case of a clinching victory.
"We've only played three games,'' Alex Rodriguez said, "but it seems like we've been here a month.''
A month? Heck, the three games went on so long for the Yankees you didn't know whether Mariano Rivera was going to be called in to pitch or do jury duty.
The games lasted just long enough for the Red Sox, however, to give them hope they can do what has been accomplished by no team in baseball history and only two teams in major sports history (the 1942 Toronto Maple Leafs and the 1975 New York Islanders) -- rally from a 3-0 deficit in a best-of-seven series. The only other baseball team even to force a sixth game was the 1999 Mets against Atlanta.
"Our work is not done. It's not even half done,'' Boston general manager Theo Epstein said. "Look how hard this team worked to win these games. We had to literally spill sweat and tears and a little bit of blood to get each win.''
And to think, the Yankees were just trying to spill a little champagne. But after going up 3-0, they left Fenway Park feeling as if they had been injected with Marcaine.
"Sure, the momentum is on their side,'' manager Joe Torre said. "But I'm not sure it affected us to where we don't feel good about ourselves.''
Well, of course not. They're the Yankees. They always feel good about themselves, in the same way Donald Trump does. That's one reason they've won so often in October. While the Red Sox constantly remind themselves how long they've gone without winning the World Series (they honored an 86-year-old fan before Monday's game), the Yankees always assume they will win. And they usually do.
Still, they have some significant concerns. For one thing, there's Rivera. While we make so much of Jeter's heroics (he had a bases-clearing double in the sixth to put New York ahead Monday), the Yankees' biggest advantage the past eight postseasons has been Rivera. But he's thrown 62 pitches in two nights and has two blown saves to show for it. He blew a save in the ninth in Game 4 and in the eighth in Game 5, the first time the Yankees have blown saves in consecutive postseason games during the Torre era.
So even if he can pitch in Game 6, he won't be at his peak.
Of course, you can say that about almost everyone. Both teams emptied their bullpens again Monday, using each for eight innings. Boston's pen has thrown 22 innings the past three nights. Their bullpen phone has been tied up so steadily this series, you would think teen girls are living there.
"We'll take some inventory,'' Boston manager Terry Francona said. "We talked about it today but tomorrow is going to be a little more unique, I'm sure. Bronson Arroyo will be back in there. I think even Derek Lowe will be available if need be. Schilling's pitch count might be 180. They're in the same boat we are. The guys are tired but they're happy we're still playing.''
Meanwhile, the Yankees' bats have suddenly grown cold and the Boston bats still haven't quite woken up, with the very notable exception of Ortiz (leadoff batter Johnny Damon has two hits in 25 at-bats). The Yankees stranded 18 baserunners in Game 5 after stranding 14 the previous night.
And tonight they have to face the man who was acquired for this specific series last winter.
Schilling, who supposedly needed surgery and a cast on his ankle, is scheduled to start for Boston after giving up six runs in Game 1. Apparently, the Sox found the magic boot that will keep the tendon in his right ankle stable, though just how well that works -- especially if the mound gets sloppy in rain -- remains to be seen.
"The medical staff exhausted every scenario we could exhaust until we found something that could work and that was pretty much a last-gasp effort that wound up working,'' Schilling said. "We've taken steps to insure that we won't have the same problem we had the first time; that much I know. So from that standpoint, I'm very confident.''
The Yankees will counter with Jon Lieber, who pitched a terrific game in Game 2 against Pedro.
Of course, that's if they even play. It's supposed to rain in New York the next couple days, which could back up the series for the second time.
"Awww, if we get rained out again,'' Mussina grumbled, "at least it would allow some arms to get a rest there.''
They need it. Or do they?
"Nah,'' Rodriguez said.. "At this point, you're just running on adrenaline anyway. You have to stay away from the six-hour games, though.''
Jim Caple is a senior writer for ESPN.com.
After nearly three games (26 innings) in two nights, it seems the Red Sox and Yankees are just getting started.