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How are the Red Sox still alive?

Soxcel_2A few hours and a little sleep later, I still can't believe what I saw. The Rays are in the World Series, right? It was 7-0 in the seventh, right? How in the world is there Game Six of the ALCS coming Saturday night from the Trop?

Now, understand that Boston's ridiculous 8-7 victory will be a memorable footnote to history if the Rays still win this thing (but Sox fans will probably make it live forever the way Aaron Boone's home run lingers for the Yankees even though they lost the '03 World Series to the Marlins). But what if the Sox really do come all the way back? What if they actually go on and even win the World Series again after this? Will Dustin Pedroia's two-out RBI single in the seventh inning of a 7-0 game go down in history like Dave Roberts' stolen base in 2004?

The Rays had outscored the Sox, 29-5, in the three games at Fenway when Boston came to bat in the seventh. The unraveling was complete and wholly unexpected. Manager Joe Maddon froze (why was righty Grant Balfour pitching to David Ortiz with two on in the seventh?), the bullpen melted down and Evan Longoria made a key throwing error in the ninth to set up the winning run. It came on a J.D. Drew single that was one of two key plays in the final three innings misplayed by Rays right fielder Gabe Gross.

Rayslose This Tampa Tribune column says it was like watching the 2007 Rays and the '07 Sox. Ouch. And it reminds us that history isn't kind the rest of the series after a big choke. Think '86 Angels, '86 Buckner Sox, '02 Giants, '04 Yankees. The '03 Cubs were five outs from the World Series -- and still haven't gotten there. Will "Seven Outs Away" be the nickname for the Rays' franchise in perpetuity? The only team who survived this kind of shock was the '05 Astros, who overcame Albert Pujols' last-strike Game Five homer to win Game Six of NLCS in St. Louis.

I can only imagine the scene in the Fenway press box last night as reporters first starting making travel reservations for next week, then scrambled to get to Florida today (you can't wait on this stuff, people. You're writing your story and playing travel agent at the same time when you cover these things). I bet there are a ton of writers this morning who are a little nervous to tell their bosses they've already gone and purchased plane tickets to Tampa for the World Series.

Um, good folks at One News Plaza, I'm one of them.

---Mike Harrington

(AP Photos: Top -- J.D. Drew and Dustin Pedroia celebrate the game-winning hit. Bottom -- J.P. Howell and Dioner Navarro trudge off the field after the Sox comeback is complete)

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