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Rout makes Game 7 reality to Tribe

Rout makes Game 7 reality to Tribe

BOSTON -- Casey Blake sat stoically at his locker in the visitors' clubhouse at Fenway Park, fiddling aimlessly with his belt buckle and rehashing the events of the previous three hours.

A group of reporters descended upon him, and Blake suddenly looked up, shook off the disappointment of what had transpired and uttered what can only be described as the Indians' mission statement, now that Game 7 of the American League Championship Series against the Red Sox is on the horizon.

"There's no sense sitting here dwelling on what happened in the past," Blake said. "We've got to have a warrior mentality. We have no future, and we have no past. We've got to just show up and get the job done."

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That did not happen on Saturday night for the second straight game, a 12-2 loss in Game 6 of the ALCS to even the series at three games apiece. In fact, this one was all but over by the end of the third inning, with Fausto Carmona and reliever Rafael Perez profoundly pummeled by a patient and potent Red Sox offense.

But while the Tribe's erstwhile 3-1 advantage is gone, the series is not. With a win in Game 7, the Tribe can still become the first Indians team to reach the World Series in a decade. And just one victory, tonight, keeps alive the dream of becoming the first Indians team to win the World Series since 1948 and snap the longest championship drought in the American League, second only to the Cubs' 99 years (and counting) of futility.

The swiftness with which the Sox settled this game at least gave the Indians a head start on the mental preparation for Sunday night's 8:23 p.m. ET affair, in which Jake Westbrook will get the starting nod opposite Daisuke Matsuzaka. The two squared off in Game 3 at Jacobs Field, with Westbrook spinning 6 2/3 innings of nearly flawless ball, while Matsuzaka was unable to escape the fifth inning, as the Indians took a 2-1 lead in the series.

So was Game 6 a bummer? Sure. But if told that the Indians would lose three of the four starts by their dynamic duo in this series ... well, simply put, being alive for Sunday's do-or-die scenario certainly beats the alternative.

"Hey," manager Eric Wedge said, "it's going to come down to Game 7 [between] the two teams that won more baseball games than anybody in the regular season, two teams that have beat up on each other a little bit over the course of the past week, and that's the way it should be. It's something everybody should look forward to."

That's a good mentality, because looking back on this loss and the Game 5 defeat that preceded it does nothing but damage to the psyche.

The Indians, for the second straight game, put their faith in one of their 19-game winners. This time, it was Carmona's charge to eliminate the Fenway factor and deliver the type of outing the Indians had come to expect from him all season.

Once J.D. Drew's first-inning grand slam cleared the center-field fence, Carmona was hurting. Once the Red Sox began to put together their crippling six-run third inning, Carmona was history.

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So, too, is what transpired the past two games.

Perhaps that's why the clubhouse didn't have the deadened atmosphere one might expect after such a loss. Where defeats are usually accompanied by silent stares and quiet meals, players sat around after this one watching the LSU-Auburn college football game on a big-screen TV.

They talked of Game 7 not in hushed tones. Rather, some treated it like just another game on the schedule.

"This is a baseball game," catcher Victor Martinez said. "You never know what's going to happen. If we can't get it done, we'll take our suitcases and go home."

These are, of course, the same Indians players who packed their bags earlier this season for a home series in Milwaukee. The same Indians who trailed the Tigers by a game in the AL Central standings as recently as Aug. 14, only to go on a late-season roll that earned them an October. The same Indians who persevered through limited off-days while trying to make up an entire snowed-out series with the Mariners, even playing a "home" game at Safeco Field the final week of the season. The same Indians who heard the national talking heads pick them to fall to the vaunted Yankees in the AL Division Series, only to take that series in convincing fashion.

They feel like they've seen it all this year and overcome hurdles once thought impossible.

"We're extremely happy with where we are and very confident," right fielder Trot Nixon said. "I don't think anybody picked us to be in this position right now. We're fortunate to be where we are."

But beyond the philosophical, the Indians also have tangible reasons to believe this series hasn't passed them by.

Yes, their dual aces, Carmona and C.C. Sabathia, faltered. But it was Westbrook's solid work in Game 3, in which he allowed just a pair of runs on seven hits, that gave them their series lead in the first place.

"We're just looking for [Westbrook] to go out there and give us a chance to win the ballgame," Wedge said. "Jake has pitched some big games for us, and he's aggressive. He knows what he needs to do to be successful. We need him to go out there and pitch his game and give us a chance to win."

And if Westbrook struggles, the Indians will have a stacked bullpen at their disposal, beginning with fourth starter Paul Byrd, whose performance in Game 4 of the ALDS and Game 4 of the ALCS resulted in a pair of victories.

"It's all hands on deck," Byrd said. "Everybody who is available will be in the bullpen. It will be a big party out there."

This ALCS party continues. And the Indians aren't entering its final hour with the awkwardness of an uninvited guest.

Game 7? Bring it on.

"Whatever happened the last two games has to be water off a duck's back right now," Blake said. "We've had a lot of adversity this year, and we've pulled through as a team. This is an important game, but it's just another game. We've got one more game, and we've got to put everything into it."

Anthony Castrovince is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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