BOSTON — Time was, your mouth might be dry.
Time was, the doubts might be setting in.
No more. The Rays lost a devastating game Thursday night, 8-7. They didn't lose anything else. They did not lose momentum, they did not lose their confidence, and they did not lose their grip on the ALCS.
Saturday night, Sunday at the latest, they will close out this thing. Just you watch.
Time was, your eyebrows might be raised.
Time was, you might be getting a little nervous.
The Red Sox, with a priest at their bedside and a funeral director taking measurements, somehow found their way back to the ALCS Thursday night. Trailing by seven runs with nine outs to go, Boston homered its way back into the series. Yeah, there is some fight left in the old guys, after all.
The Red Sox have come back before. You know this because, all around you, the chattier citizens of the Red Sox nation are telling this to each other. They came from behind to beat the Yankees in '04, and they came from behind to beat the Indians in '07 and on Thursday night, they came from a touchdown behind to beat the Rays.
That was then.
This is now.
This time, the final comeback by the Red Sox will be to Tropicana Field, that stadium that looks like a dungeon to the Boston players. If the Rays have earned nothing else this year, they have earned the right for you to believe it will end happily there.
Granted, Thursday night was one of those "uh-oh" moments of sports. For most of the night, the Rays seem to have this game in their back pockets. It was 7-0 in the seventh, and it looked like the Rays were going to the World Series.
But there is a reason this Boston team has won two world titles, and no, they do not go gently. In the late going, the Red Sox looked like the team you remember.
Still, it will not be enough.
It was the type of game that can leave a fan's throat dry, because games such as this have seldom slipped away from the Rays' bullpen. Let's face it: If this were to launch a comeback to win the series, the bad taste of it would linger for years. You do not have to try hard to imagine it.
In the old days, the sky-is-always-falling days, perhaps that would concern you. No more. These days, we know better. We have learned the difference between a speed bump and a stop sign.
Remember that early series in Boston, when both Carl Crawford and Carlos Pena were injured as the Sox swept easily? At the time, it felt like the big kids were getting out of school. Turns out, it was no more of a problem than a missed freeway exit.
Remember that seven-game losing streak just before the All-Star game? That felt like the party was over, too. Looking back, it was just like a brownout in an electrical storm. Nothing to worry about.
Remember the mid September showdown, when first place was there for the taking? Boston won the first game of the series to pull into a virtual tie for the AL East, and you could hear talk that the Rays might have to settle for the wild-card, after all. Then the Rays won the next two games and ended up winning the AL East.
All season, it has been that way. Tampa Bay keeps removing doubts. Such is their personality. They are such a loose bunch that, at times, you wonder if they are aware of the stakes for which they are playing. They have the gift of amnesia.
Yeah, they lost. There is a touch of a shame there, because it would have been cool to watch Rays players dance in front of the Green Monster. You could only imagine what it would have looked like from Carl Yastrzemski's house, from Curt Schilling's blog, from Bill Lee's spaceship. Wouldn't you have loved to have been there when the news got to Ted Williams' head?
Instead, the Red Sox prolonged their season.
Still, the Rays have James Shields ready for Saturday. They have Matt Garza for Sunday. Given that, given the way they play in front of big crowds at the Trop, the Rays will take their chances.
The question is: Will you?
Want tickets? So do others
• Want tickets for Tampa Bay's first World Series appearance? Get in line. Already, some 450,000 people have registered for a drawing for the opportunity to buy tickets. If you haven't already entered, you're out of luck for games 1 and 2. You can still register today for a chance at tickets for possible games 6 and 7.
• Ticket prices, which are set by Major League Baseball, range from $100 to $500. But if you go through companies like StubHub, be prepared to pay much more.
More ticket information, 11A
Special section inside
For complete coverage of Thursday night's game, including more photos, see Section X.