<
>

Ramirez: Red Sox losing ALCS wouldn't be 'end of the world'

10/18/2007 - MLB Manny Ramirez Boston Red Sox + more

CLEVELAND -- On a workout day, Manny Ramirez gave Boston
fans a real reason to get worked up.

With the Red Sox just one loss from elimination, the star
slugger was asked about Game 5 of the AL Championship Series
against Cleveland.

"Why should we panic?" he said Wednesday in a rare clubhouse
interview. "We've got a great team."

And then, this: "It doesn't happen, so who cares? There's
always next year. It's not like it's the end of the world."

Try telling that to all those people in New England.

Whatever, that's Manny.

"When I hear that I say, that's why Manny Ramirez is the kind of hitter that he is. There is a certain relaxation about Manny," Red Sox president Larry Lucchino said on Boston's WEEI radio Thursday morning.

"Calmness, yes, [he] essentially has it at all times. And when he's got a bat in his hand he uses it effectively because of that focus. He's just not tight. He was trying to say 'you know, let's don't panic. We're going out and play this game. We're going to have fun ... that's how I took it. I know that certain words there are going to be jumped on, and people are going to suggest other things, but I think what you see in that is the essential Manny Ramirez, and one reason why for seven consecutive years we've seen an exceptional offensive [player]."

Ramirez is the guy who poses when he hits home runs with his team
trailing by five runs. He's also the bopper who was MVP of the 2004
World Series when Boston broke its 86-year drought.

History gives Josh Beckett and the Red Sox a pretty good shot
when they face C.C. Sabathia on Thursday night in a rematch of the
opener, which Boston won 10-3.

They've come back from big postseason deficits. Only not against
these Indians.

"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."

Three years ago, the Red Sox overcame a 3-0 deficit in the ALCS
against the New York Yankees. Boston 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 Ramirez, are still with the Red Sox.

Beckett also came back from a 3-1 LCS deficit.

Beckett started Florida's rally 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 Wednesday 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, 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 inning in Game 2, and another
seven in the fifth of the 7-3 win in Game 4, four scoring on home
runs 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, Ortiz and Ramirez in the sixth inning.

"We've been in this situation before. We've got nothing to
lose," Ramirez said.

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."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.