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Bob Ryan

Past tense, but present looks perfect

Bob Ryan recaps Game 7 of the ALCS and looks ahead to the World Series. http://link.brightcove.com/services/link/bcpid1258426534http://www.brightcove.com/channel.jsp?channel=245991542

Forget the score.

Omigawd was that tense!

At least until the little guy unloaded.

But then it got tense again.

Until the Wild Thing Closer got out of the eighth.

And then things got real comfy when the little guy unloaded again in the six-run eighth.

Omigawd, what a ballgame, what a glorious night at Fenway, what a way to enter the World Series.

The Red Sox did it. They beat the Cleveland Indians, 11-2, last night. They came back from (yet another) 3-1 series deficit, which is becoming routine for them, since that's the way they got to the World Series in both 1986 and 2004, if you recall. They did it by getting the requisite starting pitching and by getting needed offensive contributions from people not named Papi or Manny.

For those of you scoring at home, they outscored the Indians by a 30-5 margin after losing Game 4. I guess we know who deserves to be playing the Rockies.

On Saturday night, it was the reviled J.D. Drew who came up with the game's biggest hit, that first-inning grand slam. Last night it was the beloved Dustin Pedroia who brought the adoring crowd of 37,165 to its feet with a seventh-inning two-run homer off Cleveland reliever Rafael Betancourt, who had been magnificent in the regular season and absolutely invincible in the playoffs. The little California second baseman with the big-man swing turned on one of Betancourt's heaters and deposited it into the Monster seats, turning a 3-2 game into a 5-2 affair.

But the - allow me a bit of literary license, please - Toy Cannon II was not done. Pedroia came up in the eighth inning with the bases loaded and one out. The Red Sox had already produced a run on a Mike Lowell double and vicious Drew (would I make this up?) single, so it was 6-2 and essentially tension-free. Some Betancourt impostor was still out there, and Pedroia punished him with a bases-clearing double. Jensen Lewis relieved him and Kevin Youkilis said "Howdy" with a blast off the Coke bottles in left.

The last bit of real drama came in the Cleveland eighth. For some odd reason Hideki Okajima was sent back out there after pitching scoreless innings in the sixth and seventh in relief of countryman (and winning pitcher) Daisuke Matsuzaka. It's evident by now that seventh games play with the minds of Red Sox skippers. A Grady Sizemore bunt single and an Asdrubal Cabrera sharp single to center later, there were men on first and second with none out. At this point Terry Francona summoned one Mr. Jonathan Papelbon, unaccustomed as he is to a) two-inning appearances, and b) inheriting base runners.

Papelbon was ready. He absolutely blew away Travis Hafner on fastballs registering 96, 97, and 98 miles per hour according to the do-dad in center field. And he should have been out of the inning on the next pitch, which Victor Martinez grounded nicely to Pedroia. But The Kid did the double-clutch thing before flipping the ball to shortstop Julio Lugo and Lugo couldn't make a throw, so now there were men on first and third with two outs. Not to worry. Ryan Garko did give the ball a ride toward the triangle, but if you want to get a ball past either of Boston's center fielders you'd better hit it to Chelsea. Jacoby Ellsbury ran it down, and that was it for the Indians in the eighth and for the 2007 baseball season because the Red Sox were going to tack on six runs in their half of the eighth.

The Red Sox won this game on a night when David Ortiz went 0 for 5 with a pair of strikeouts and Manny Being Manny was limited to a first-inning single. Remember way back there in this series when everybody was saying there was no way the Red Sox could win if the offensive burden was not going to be shared by somebody?

Well, meet The Somebodies. Meet Dustin Pedroia and Kevin Youkilis, who in the three games that saved the Red Sox season combined for 15 hits, 13 runs, 11 RBIs, 4 doubles, 1 triple, 3 home runs, and 4 walks.

And meet J.D. Drew, a.k.a. The Man Without A Pilot Light. He hit a double in Game 4, had three hits, including that big grand slam in Game 6, and had an RBI single last night.

This was, however, an epic collapse by the Indians, who started going all kaplooey with an unspeakably ugly eighth inning in Game 5, who were dreadful from start to finish in Game 6, and who, after battling the Red Sox nobly for six innings in last night's game, featuring a gritty performance from starter Jake Westbrook, deteriorated completely in the seventh and eighth.

So in Cleveland they now have something else they can add to The Drive, The Fumble, and The Shot. Now they have The Collapse.

From the minute Josh Beckett established his dominance in Game 5 until the last play of the series - a spectacular game-ending Coco Crisp robbery of a Casey Blake smash to the corrugated door in deepest right-center - there was a complete shift in tone and momentum. You hesitate to say it all looked inevitable, but when you outscore a very good team by 25 runs in the three games you've got to have, it sure looked logical.

And please trust me when I say it wasn't as easily as this fraudulent final score implies. It was just about the most tension-filled rout I've ever seen.

Bob Ryan is a Globe columnist. He can be reached at ryan@globe.com.

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