The Red Sox came off the field after an optional workout a short while ago, their final act as a team before tomorrow's essential Game 5 at Fenway Park. Terry Francona and starter Daisuke Matsuzaka met with media, neither saying anything that would make headlines. Morale was high, the Red Sox relying on their past to engender confidence despite their 3-1 deficit.
"I think they wish we were playing in about 10 minutes," Francona said. "It's good. It's very good. It's enthusiastic. I mean, we'll play tomorrow because that's when we're supposed to, but I think everybody is ready to play right now, which is what I was hoping for."
Francona expressed confidence in Matsuzaka, who was 18-3 during the regular season and has been the Red Sox' best pitcher in the postseason, winning both of his starts, including a Game 1 victory in this series..
"Believe me when I tell you: How he pitches this -- the intensity, the meaning, as much as this game means -- that will help him," Francona said. "That won't hinder him."
Matsuzaka has been Boston's most dependable pitcher in the postseason -- Jon Lester struggled in Game 3, while Beckett, the Game 2 loser, hasn't been the same since straining an oblique muscle near the end of the regular season. He entered the playoffs with a career 1.73 ERA in the postseason, and was the ALCS Most Valuable Player a season ago.
"I'm not Beckett," Matsuzaka said. "But if I can pitch like he did last year and hand the ball off to the guys behind me, that would be great."
The Red Sox took batting practice on a day that began unseasonably warm and turned a tad chilly. David Ortiz did not look great, grounding a lot of balls the other way and at one point getting jammed so badly he shook his hands and yelled. At least he didn't break any bats, like he did the other day.
The Red Sox took the day seemingly in stride, sticking to their normal routines despite the urgency of the moment.
"We've got nothing but baseball ahead of us," catcher Jason Varitek said. "Belief. It wasn't just '04, '07. We've been able to do it. It leaves an overriding belief. I believe. I believe that if we execute what we can do, we're going to present ourselves with a great chance to win."