St. Petersburg, Fla. Now look who's one win away from the World Series.
The Boston Red Sox, playing like the defending champs they are, came out swinging and beat Tampa Bay, 4-2, on Saturday night to force a Game 7 in an AL championship series the Rays all but wrapped up two days earlier.
Slumping Jason Varitek hit a tiebreaking home run in the sixth inning as Boston evened the ALCS at 3-all. No late drama needed by the Red Sox this time - they rallied from seven runs down with only seven outs left to win Game 5.
Now Jon Lester starts Game 7 for the Red Sox tonight against Matt Garza in a rematch of Game 3, won by the Rays, 9-1, at Fenway Park. Last year, the Red Sox trailed Cleveland 3-1 before winning three in a row, then sweeping Colorado for their second Series title in four seasons.
"It's great to get to Game 7, to battle like this," said Kevin Youkilis, who homered and drove in two runs. "We went out there and played like it was our last game. It was awesome."
The pennant winner plays host to the World Series opener Wednesday night against the well-rested Philadelphia Phillies, who won the NL pennant over the Los Angeles Dodgers in five games.
"It's all about how we react to the moment, and it's a seventh game," Rays manager Joe Maddon said. "It's a great learning experience. For us to win that game would be something special for us, also. So it's not about looking into the past. It's about looking into the future right now."
Red Sox ace Josh Beckett, who struggled in his first two starts of the playoffs, allowed two runs and four hits in five innings despite reduced velocity, and Hideki Okajima, Justin Masterson and Jonathan Papelbon combined for hitless relief.
"It's probably pretty appropriate. We come down to the last game, and whoever plays better gets to move on," Red Sox manager Terry Francona said.
B.J. Upton tied an AL record with his seventh home run of the postseason. After Boston went ahead 2-1, Tampa Bay tied it on Jason Bartlett's fifth-inning homer. But the Rays didn't get another hit, and the Red Sox improved to 9-0 in ALCS elimination games under manager Terry Francona.
Varitek, the Red Sox captain, had been 0-for-14 in the series before his homer in the sixth finished Shields.