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.
He’s 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.
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 nation grieved for those hurt, killed and affected by the Boston Marathon bombings. After one of the suspects was caught on Friday — following a day-long lockdown and manhunt — sports returned to Boston over the weekend.
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.”
HBT: Robinson Cano homered twice while David Phelps had the longest outing of his career as the Yankees topped the Blue Jays 7-2 this afternoon at Yankee Stadium.
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