It's an opportunity for both teams. While the Red Sox can put themselves in command of the series, the Indians can go home with a split at Fenway Park. Both would like their chances in those respective scenarios.
"It's a short series," David Ortiz said, "and you want to make sure you win as many games as you can. And we're going to try to come home in four games."
The simple math suggests it's critical. Take into account the pitchers going in it, though, and it becomes vital.
Though the Red Sox came into the series with home-field advantage by virtue of winning five of seven from the Indians in the regular season, the pitching matchups put the onus on the Red Sox to win early. With C.C. Sabathia and Fausto Carmona going potentially four times in the series, the Indians had the advantage of baseball's most dominant 1-2 pitching punch.
The Red Sox came into this series needing to win at least one game started by Sabathia or Carmona. By pounding Sabathia on Friday, they can lose the other three meetings with that duo and not have it cost them the series. Instead, the Indians now have to worry about winning at least once with Jake Westbrook or Paul Byrd on the mound.
But that's a worry for later. Winning with Carmona is their next concern, and it's essentially a must. Fortunately for them, it's usually something they get.
Whether it's Carmona following Sabathia or the other way around, the two have pitched back-to-back in the Tribe rotation 19 times, including last week against the Yankees in the AL Division Series. They've pitched to back-to-back Indians losses just twice. Both times, the two starters had different opponents.
In other words, no team has beaten the Indians in consecutive games this season with Sabathia and Carmona going. If the first one loses, the other one has picked him up with a win the next night. It's a huge reason why Cleveland won 96 games in the regular season, and a good reason why Indians manager Eric Wedge didn't have to push a panic button after Friday's loss.
"We keep going. Today is over," Wedge said afterward. "Our guys do a good job of separating from day to day and from situation to situation. We'll chew on this one for a short period of time, a very short period of time tonight, and then we'll move on to tomorrow."
One of those times when the Indians used their duo to rebound, appropriately, was against the Red Sox. On July 24, Daisuke Matsuzaka outpitched Sabathia for a 1-0 win at Jacobs Field. The next night, Carmona returned the favor by outdueling Josh Beckett. That, too, was a 1-0 game.
They won't be rebounding from a 1-0 game this time. Friday's 10-3 win was just sixth time in the history of the LCS that a team plated double-digit runs in the opener. Four of the previous five teams to do it also went on to win the next game.
If the Indians are going to gain revenge, Matsuzaka won't be involved. Instead, the Red Sox will follow Beckett with [Curt] Schilling, who knows a thing or two about dynamic duos in the playoffs from his days pairing with Randy Johnson for a World Series title with the 2001 Diamondbacks.
The Sabathia-Carmona duo hasn't been quite as dynamic together in the postseason thus far, but they've gotten the job done, mainly thanks to Carmona. Now, the Indians need him again. And the Red Sox need to stop him.