Sunday, October 19, 2008

Red Sox on the verge of history -- again

It was as if Mike Timlin knew.

"It's never over -- you've got all the cliches," said the veteran reliever, standing by his locker after the Rays throttled the Red Sox in Game 4 of the American League Championship Series. "Something about a big girl and making the last out and all that other stuff. ...

"You come back the next day and come out firing."

Timlin, of course, is one of the five players to have witnessed every single one of these comebacks -- he pitched 4 1/3 scoreless innings in Games 1, 3 and 5 of the American League Division Series against Oakland in 2003, he pitched 1 2/3 scoreless innings in Game 7 of the ALCS against New York in 2004, and he pitched 3 1/3 scoreless innings in Games 1, 2 and 3 of the ALCS against Cleveland in 2007.

There's no way he could have known, though, just how this would come together. And though he's the last man in the bullpen, one of the last men on the roster, his experience in the last five years has to be a calming influence on a group of young pitchers who went above and beyond in Games 5 and 6.

That bullpen might be called upon early again tonight. Starting pitcher Jon Lester threw two gems against the Angels but got lit up by the Rays in Game 3; he might not have much left in the tank. That would mean Terry Francona would go right back to his heavily taxed bullpen, and they'll have to deliver once again if the Red Sox are to get back to the World Series.

"This is the end of the season," Timlin said after Game 4. "This is why you play -- to go to the playoffs. This is why you want to be here. You suck it up, and you go. That's just how you do it."

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