Drew's game-winning single keeps Red Sox alive in ALCS

BOSTON -- Fenway Park fell silent, and the Boston Red Sox were on the verge of going down without a whimper.

Then baseball's comeback kings did it again.

Trailing by seven runs with seven outs left in their season, the Red Sox pulled off the biggest postseason rally since 1929. Boston staved off elimination in the AL championship series with an 8-7 victory over the Tampa Bay Rays on Thursday night when J.D. Drew singled home the winning run with two outs in the ninth.

"The first six innings we did nothing. They had their way with us every way possible," Red Sox manager Terry Francona said after a draining 4-hour, 8-minute thriller. "And then this place came unglued, and we've seen that before. But because of the situation we're in, it just -- that was pretty magical."

The Red Sox, who twice this decade rallied from 3-1 deficits to win the pennant and then the World Series, have a chance to do it an unprecedented third time in five years when the series resumes in Tropicana Field. Josh Beckett is scheduled to face James Shields in Game 6 on Saturday night.

The cowbells will be clanging again for the home team. The tarps will come off the upper deck to accommodate the Rays' newly found fans. And the catwalks are definitely in play for another game.

The AL winner faces Philadelphia in the World Series starting Wednesday night.

"There's a lot of fight in that dugout," Drew said. "And a lot of guys knew as soon as we got some runs on the board, we could get something going."

Boston trailed 7-0 with two outs in the seventh, then rallied when Dustin Pedroia hit an RBI single and David Ortiz added a three-run homer against Grant Balfour. Drew hit a two-run homer in the eighth, and Coco Crisp tied it with a two-out RBI single off Dan Wheeler.

The Red Sox have won eight consecutive ALCS games when facing elimination.

"It was pretty much the most amazing thing I've ever been a part of," Crisp said, "to be down 7-0 in an elimination game and be able to come back."

In the ninth, Kevin Youkilis reached on an infield single with two outs when he grounded to Evan Longoria and wound up at second as the throw bounced in front of first baseman Carlos Pena and into the stands for an error.

Jason Bay was intentionally walked, and Drew lined a single to right off J.P. Howell over the outstretched glove of Gabe Gross and over the fence as Youkilis scored.

"Hopefully, there'll be time when we can sit back and think 'This is what got us over the hump," Francona said. "But we're still climbing."

No team has repeated as World Series champion since the New York Yankees won three straight from 1998-2000. That mark is still in jeopardy.

Others already are gone.

Pena tied an ALCS record by homering in his third straight game, then Longoria broke it five pitches later with his sixth postseason homer. Tampa Bay's 13 homers set an ALCS record, breaking Boston's mark of 12 against the Yankees in 2003. B.J. Upton and Longoria became the first teammates in AL history with at least six homers apiece in the postseason.

Tampa Bay took the first two at Fenway by a combined 22-5, then Upton pounced on Daisuke Matsuzaka for a two-run homer on the game's ninth pitch. Carlos Pena and Longoria hit back-to-back homers for the second straight game, and Scott Kazmir held Boston to two hits over six innings, never allowing a runner past second base.

Then the Red Sox sprung to life.

A hero of Boston's 2004 and '07 titles, Ortiz had just one hit and no RBIs in the series heading into Game 5.

"There goes Papi and there goes Drew, I mean that can happen at any time," Rays manager Joe Maddon said. "We're just going to have to go back home and get it going again. We played a great game. They just came back and beat us. That happens."

The seven-run deficit was the largest overcome in a postseason game since Game 4 of 1929 World Series, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. In that one, the Philadelphia Athletics trailed by eight before a 10-run seventh inning powered them past the Chicago Cubs 10-8.

The Red Sox fell behind the Yankees in the 2004 ALCS before becoming the first major league team to rally from a 3-0 postseason deficit. Once in the World Series, they swept the St. Louis Cardinals for their first title in 86 years.

Three seasons later, Boston trailed the Cleveland Indians 3-1 in the ALCS before winning three straight and sweeping Colorado in the Series for their second title in four seasons.

"We all felt we couldn't let it end here, and we all believed we could come back," Matsuzaka said through a translator.

Akinori Iawmura led off the game with a single, then Upton homered onto the ledge atop the Green Monster to make it 2-0. Pena and Longoria went back-to-back in the third and it was 5-0. Manny Delcarmen walked two batters to start the seventh before closer Jonathan Papelbon, pressed into early service to save the season, gave up Upton's two-run double to make it 7-0.

Then came the Rays' big collapse.

"If you dwell on something like that and you get your mind in a negative mode," Maddon said, "nothing good is going to happen after that."

Game notes
The top three batters in Tampa's order reached base 10 times. ... Upton has 10 RBIs in the series. ... Carl Crawford went 0-for-4 after going 5-for-5 in Game 4. ... Ortiz had been 1-for-17 in the series before his homer. ... Curt Schilling, the bloody-socked hero of the team's angst-ending 2004 championship, threw out the ceremonial pitch -- his only appearance on the Fenway mound this season. He bounced it about 8 feet in front of the plate. ... Matsuzaka allowed five runs in four-plus innings.