It won't be long now until the Phillies know their travel plans for the World Series. The series will open Wednesday night in either Tampa or Boston, depending on the winner of Game 7 in Tampa. Here's a look at the two potential opponents for the Phillies as they head into their showdown.
Josh Beckett didn't have his vintage stuff - as manager Terry Francona explained it - but the Sox right-hander had enough to win.
And, in the end, that's all that mattered.
The 28-year-old utilized the reduced velocity on his fastball and a devastatingly good curveball to hold the Rays at bay for five innings and finally win his first postseason game of the 2008 season. Beckett endured a 15-minute delay when home plate manager Derryl Cousins was removed from the game after bruising his clavicle when a Jason Varitek foul tip caught him in an unprotected area.
The delay caused Francona to get lefty Javy Lopez warming up during the fourth inning despite a relatively low pitch count for Beckett, but the tough-as-nails right-hander managed to trudge his way through obvious discomfort on the mound.
In the end, Beckett finished with five innings pitched and allowed four hits and two runs, both on solo homers. He also walked a batter and fanned three in an outing that had to restore some confidence in Beckett's ability to get major league hitters out this October despite whatever health ailments that sap both his strength and his stuff.
The game was tied following Beckett's final half-inning of work in the fifth, but the Sox scratched for two runs in the top of the sixth that fittingly handed the win to Big Game Beckett.
"I thought Josh pitched with a lot of courage tonight," Francona said. "He threw with a lot of guts. It's not vintage Josh Beckett, but he also proved who he is. He gave us what we needed."
The Boston Beat
Jason Varitek snapped an 0-for-15 slump in the ALCS with the game-winning home run in the top of the sixth inning. The home run marked Varitek's first RBI of the 2008 postseason. Varitek's long ball was the 11th postseason home run of his Red Sox career, which leaves him tied with former OF Manny Ramirez on the all-time franchise list. Varitek also ranks second among major league catchers and trails only Yogi Berra's 12 career playoff home runs.
Jonathan Papelbon continued to build on his burgeoning postseason legacy by tossing another scoreless inning for his seventh career playoff save. Papelbon has 25 straight scoreless innings over 16 playoff games to start his career, and - of the 85 batters he has faced - only 16 have reached base via a hit or walk over that time span. Manager Terry Francona indicated that his closer is battling through some fatigue at this point in the season, but he's expected to be available for Sunday night's Game Seven showdown.
"I don't think I had my A-plus fastball," Papelbon said, "but I had my A-plus mindset."
Kevin Youkilis had been 0-for-17 over the course of his career against Tampa James Shields but has taken it up a notch in the ALCS matchup. Youkilis went 2-for-3 with a double and an RBI against Shields in Game One and went 1-for-3 with a solo homer and 2 RBI in Game Six on Saturday night. Over the course of the postseason, Youkilis is hitting .325 with two home runs, 7 RBI and six runs scored out of the cleanup slot. He also has seamlessly moved from first base to third base -- his natural position all through his amateur years and low levels as a professional.
Dustin Pedroia is the only Sox player to hit safely in all six games of the ALCS and is hitting .333 in the first six games of the series. In 10 postseason games, Pedroia leads the team with eight runs scored. He is also already fourth on Boston's all-time list with eight postseason doubles. Pedroia struggled through a difficult ALCS series against the Angels but appears to be back on track against the Rays.
Josh Beckett told weei radio that there is a good possibility he's going to have another pain-killing shot for an oblique injury that's been bothering him since the end of the regular season. Beckett was administered an injection before the ALDS against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim and would likely need another if Boston's postseason run is extended. Beckett is 1-0 with an 8.81 ERA in three uncharacteristic postseason starts for the Sox thus far but has shown moxie while playing through obvious discomfort on the pitcher's mound. "I thought he threw with a lot of guts," manager Terry Francona said.
The Numbers Game: 145 The number of pitches that RHP Jonathan Papelbon has thrown during the playoffs, which is nearly the same number of pitches that he threw during the months of June (152 pitches) and July (151 pitches).
He said what? "He wears a 'C' on that jersey for a lot of different reasons, but none more important than how much respect everybody in that clubhouse - including players, coaches, upper management - has for him. You know, we're always pulling for the guy." - Josh Beckett, talking about the team's captain, Jason Varitek, who hit a game-winning solo homer in Game Six.
Home Field Advantage?
The Rays have gone to a lot of unprecedented places this season. One they would have liked to avoid is a Game 7 on Sunday against the more experienced Red Sox.
"There's no other way," said Cliff Floyd, one of a handful of Rays to go through a Game 7.
"There's been a lot of talk about them being the champions. We have to take it from them. They're not going to give it away. They're always poised in tough situations."
The Rays put themselves in this position by not playing well on Saturday, wasting their second chance to close out the Sox.
"We're disappointed," starter James Shields said. "We were in a good position, being up two games on them, one game on them, and we're going to try to fight back. Now it's do or die. We'll find out what we're all about."
The Rays, who had the best home record in the majors, want very much to believe their home field will be the advantage, though the Sox have won two of their last three games at Tropicana Field.
The Sox want very much to believe their experience will be to their advantage. As a team - they won their ninth straight elimination game and have been here before, coming back from 3-1 against the Indians last year and 3-0 against the Yankees in 2004. And as individuals - 19 of the players on their 25-man roster have been part of a previous Game 7, and only a few Rays have (Chad Bradford, Floyd and Dan Wheeler).
B.J. Upton tied the AL record with his seventh homer of the postseason, matching Troy Glaus of the 2002 Angels, and the ALCS record for RBI with his 11th, matching David Ortiz of the 2004 Red Sox.
Upton and Evan Longoria have combined for 13 home runs, second most for any teammates in a single postseason. Their eight ALCS homers are the most for a duo in any single postseason series. The major league mark for postseason home runs by a duo is 14, by San Francisco's Barry Bonds and Rich Aurilia in 2002.
Troy Percival, who was left off the roster for the ALDS and ALCS, is expected to rejoin the team Sunday after going home to California and could be added to the roster if the Rays advance.
Matt Garza starts for the Rays in Game 7 on Sunday coming off a solid start in Game 3 in Boston, when he allowed one run over six innings.
James Shields, the losing pitcher in Game 6 after giving up four runs, three earned, in 5 2/3 innings, was most upset with himself for allowing the Sox to score in the innings after the Rays did. "That's when I think the momentum changed," he said.
He said what? "That was tremendous hyperbole there. ... That has nothing to do with tomorrow." - Manager Joe Maddon after an overly dramatic question of how the Game 5 loss would impact Game 7.