Gloom town: Red Sox back home, trying to rebound

Friday, October 15th 2004, 6:56 am
By: News On 6

BOSTON (AP) _ A gloomy off day in the AL championship series could be followed by a rainout.

The Red Sox returned home Thursday after losing the first two games of the AL championship series to the Yankees in New York. As its workout began, Boston announced ace Curt Schilling's ailing ankle will prevent him from pitching Game 5 and perhaps the rest of the postseason.

Then rain began to fall, wiping out much of New York's practice. The forecast is for a downpour Friday night, which could cause a postponement of Game 3 and lead both teams to reshuffle their rotations.

``I obviously feel a lot of pressure,'' said Bronson Arroyo, Boston's Game 3 starter. ``We're backed into a corner.''

While the Red Sox are used to Fenway's nooks and crannies, their deficit is a daunting ditch to escape, especially after New York beat Schilling and Pedro Martinez. Of 61 teams that have fallen behind 0-2 in best-of-seven postseason baseball series, only 12 have rallied to win, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. The numbers are even more dismal in the league championship series: 2-for-15.

And no major league team has overcome a 3-0 deficit.

``I think it's foolish to get too excited about a 2-0 lead,'' New York's Mike Mussina said.

Kevin Brown, the pitcher who hit the wall last month _ no, not that Wall _ starts Game 3 for the Yankees. New York manager Joe Torre decided Thursday that Orlando Hernandez, apparently recovered from a tired shoulder, will start Game 4 against knuckleballer Tim Wakefield.

With Schilling sidelined, Boston selected Derek Lowe to pitch Game 5 against Mussina.

``Weather could dictate some changes,'' said Red Sox manager Terry Francona, who could bring Martinez back for Game 5 if there's a rainout.

If there's a game Monday _ it would start at 5:10 p.m. _ Martinez would avoid making another start in front of the taunting fans at Yankee Stadium, who'd love to chant ``Who's Your Daddy?'' one more night.

The Red Sox, a self-described band of ``idiots,'' were loosey goosey at the ballpark. There was loud salsa music in the cramped clubhouse and a sunny spirit that contrasted the weather and the 0-2 deficit.

``The great news is that it's not a best-of-three series,'' Francona said.

Boston, seeking to break the Curse and win its first World Series title since 1918, has some comeback history this year to fall back on: The Red Sox trailed the first-place Yankees by 10 1/2 games on Aug. 16, then closed within two games in September before finishing second to New York in the AL East for the seventh straight season.

``This team never makes it easy on ourselves,'' Boston's Kevin Millar said. ``This team's not going to quit. It's not going to quit until the last at-bat.''

Schilling, however, quit trying to get ready for Game 5, unable to overcome an injury to his ankle that prevents him from pushing off the pitching rubber effectively and will require surgery. The sheath that covers two tendons in Schilling's ankle is torn, allowing one of the tendons to slip out of its groove and rub against a bone.

``If I can't pitch without altering my mechanics, then we're going to have to win a World Series without me,'' he said in a call to WEEI-AM. ``It's doable, and if you're a world-champion club, you're going to find a way. And I believe we are, and I believe we will.''

New York has won five straight postseason games since losing its first-round opener to Minnesota and has won all five best-of-seven series under Torre in which it's led 2-0.

``We've been fortunate that when we've gotten a little bit of a head of steam going, we've been able to maintain our edge,'' Torre said.

He decided to start Hernandez in Game 4 over Javier Vazquez, who allowed five runs in five innings against Minnesota last weekend and has one win in 10 starts since Aug 6. El Duque, who hasn't pitched in a game since Oct. 1, looked better in a bullpen session Monday.

``I feel happy that I feel much better than last week,'' said Hernandez, 9-3 in postseason play.

As for Game 3, Boston went 4-0 in all four of Arroyo's starts against the Yankees this year, but he didn't get a decision in any of them. Arroyo went 5-0 in his last nine starts overall.

Brown beat the Twins in Game 3, allowing one run in six innings, his best performance since he broke his left (non-pitching) hand Sept. 3 punching a clubhouse wall in frustration during a game against Baltimore. He's pitching with a bad back but has managed to play through pain.

``It's been tough. It's been up and down,'' he said. ``It's very difficult, again, going through what I went through.''