BOSTON — Jason Varitek could absolutely sell you a used car. His brevity and resolve just about make the point that the Red Sox can, for the third time in four seasons, come from the brink of American League Championship Series oblivion, just because they have done so before.
Boston's captain is paid not only to catch but to conjure such confidence. If he feels the Red Sox need a pregame speech tonight before Game 5 of the ALCS at Fenway Park with his team trailing the Rays 3-1, he'll likely make it.
"It is for public record," he said. "We'll do what we need to do."
But this is not the same club that came back from a 3-0 hole to beat the Yankees in 2004 en route to a World Series title. It's not even the same one that erased a 3-1 deficit to the Indians last season and won another crown. Key players are gone, others are hurt. Some are simply not performing.
"If we can draw on anything from (the past), good," manager Terry Francona said. "Anything that's happened in your past … you try to turn it into an advantage for you. Saying that, this is a different team."
• Manny Ramirez, who batted .409 with 10 RBIs in the 2007 ALCS, is now a Dodger.
• Starting pitcher Curt Schilling is injured and cannot provide bulldog performances or bloody-sock motivation like in 2004.
• The Red Sox who fell behind the Indians in last year's ALCS had amassed 21 runs and 27 hits through four games. This club: 15 runs on 33 hits, 18 of them singles.
• Designated hitter David Ortiz, the healthy one, was the club leader in postseason runs (38), doubles (14), homers (11) and RBIs (30) and was a career .317 hitter entering these playoffs. This Ortiz, who missed 45 games with a sheath tendon injury in his wrist, is 1-for-14 in the ALCS and was hitless until a triple on Tuesday. He batted .292 in the ALCS against Cleveland. He is hitting .071 against the Rays.
• Third baseman Mike Lowell batted .353 in the 2007 postseason, .400 with four RBIs to be named World Series MVP. Lowell was inactive for the first two rounds of the playoffs and will have hip surgery on Monday.
• Josh Beckett went 4-0 with a 1.20 ERA last season, cementing his legacy as one of the most dominating postseason pitchers of his generation. This season Beckett has endured elbow and right oblique injuries, and is 0-0 with an 11.57 ERA this postseason after allowing eight earned runs on nine hits in 41/3 innings against the Rays in Game 2.
• Boston had homefield advantage and won the final two games of the 2007 ALCS at Fenway Park. They would play those games at Tropicana Field this season, where they are 2-8.
But Ortiz, ever intolerant of health questions and not in the mood to parse particulars of playoff comebacks, chose to believe his team can do it again because it has before.
"We're just trying to get in that one mood that gets you going and go from there," he said after a light workout Wednesday. "You can't just hang the shoes just because you're 3-1. Been there twice already, and now I have two rings hanging in my house."