The only other team to face the Red Sox and Yankees in the same postseason was the 1998 version of this Cleveland club, an 89-win AL Central champion that dispatched the 92-win Red Sox in the Division Series by winning back-to-back one-run games at Fenway Park. The Indians had a 2-1 series lead on New York in what had the makings of an ALCS upset before the 114-win Bronx Bombers won three straight, including two in Cleveland.
These Indians aren't upset-minded, having tied for baseball's best record with 96 victories in the regular season. If that weren't enough, with a 3-1 series advantage, they've established themselves as the team to beat heading into two games for their workhorse starters. They only need one win.
"I'm excited that we've taken it this far," manager Eric Wedge said. "But we still have a lot of work to do."
And if any team knows about overcoming series deficits, it's the Red Sox. If anything, they're a win ahead of where they stood the last time they reached the brink of the elimination in the ALCS.
More than a half-dozen players remain from the 2004 team that made history by overcoming a 3-0 series deficit to beat the Yankees and go on to the World Series. Mike Lowell and Josh Beckett weren't with them then, but they were on the 2003 Marlins squad that overcame a 3-1 NLCS deficit by winning three straight over the Cubs.
"I think what [the experience] does," Lowell said, "is you realize it can be done. It's not something that's impossible.
"There's only one must-win game, and that's the one two days from now. That's the only one we've got right now on our agenda, and we have to look at it that way."
Considering how much the Indians, who'll start co-ace C.C. Sabathia, would rather end this here than go back to Fenway Park and the atmosphere that awaits them, they're undoubtedly thinking one game at a time, too.
They don't have to think about the math, but it's in their favor. Since 1985, when the League Championship Series expanded to a best-of-seven format, 10 of the previous 13 teams to hold 3-1 leads in the ALCS have gone on to win the series. Eight of them finished it off in Game 5. Eleven other teams held 3-1 leads in the NLCS, and nine went on to win the series, though five of them lost Game 5.
It's an example of how much momentum means to the team in front, but it also shows how much it can change with one win from the team on the brink.
That's why both teams have to take it one game at a time. Only three teams -- the 2000 Yankees, 1997 Indians and 1992 Blue Jays -- lost Game 5 with a 3-1 ALCS lead and went on to win Game 6. Three others went on to lose the series.