BOSTON -- The oldest member of the Olde Towne Team took a look around the Boston Red Sox locker room Wednesday night and conceded what was obvious to all without making anything resembling a concession speech.
"This isn't the most talented ballclub," Dwight Evans said, "but it has the most heart of any ballclub I've ever been on."
You gotta have heart, or so the song goes, but even miles and miles of heart don't figure to pump up the Red Sox enough to match the West Coast muscle that has been summoned to Fenway Park to open the American League Championship Series this weekend.
Evans is too old, too wily to talk tough at this point. The Oakland Athletics have been made a prohibitive favorite in the best-of-seven series. The Red Sox -- and especially Evans -- seem to know that the best thing to do is concede the overwhelming superiority of their opponent and set up an ambush.
"They've got a great ballclub," Evans said. "It's about the best-prepared club in baseball. It's David and Goliath, and we're the little guy, but sometimes the little guy comes through."
Not the most original analogy, mind you, but not a bad one under the circumstances. And Jose Canseco isn't the only Oakland player big enough to knock the pennant hopes out of the Red Sox.
Evans has been known to deliver a big swing or two himself, but he has played a more pedestrian role in the Red Sox's survival the past week. He drove in the winning run with a ground-ball single in Monday night's victory over the Chicago White Sox and sent a similar hit up the middle for the first Red Sox run in the title-clinching victory Wednesday.
Leadership doesn't always come with big, dramatic flourishes. Evans has been around long enough to know that and to know the danger of trying to do too much. He has seen teammates make history by conquering the Green Monster, but he set his sights a little lower this week. He proved the value of patience at a time when panic was in the air.
"We got a little tight at the end," Evans said. "We knew we had hit bottom and Toronto had hit top. But we also knew that things had to even out."
The Blue Jays made up a 6 1/2 -game deficit in September, and they briefly threatened to make up a two-game deficit in the final two days of the regular season, but the Red Sox shook them off with a 3-1 victory over Chicago on Wednesday night.
Evans had to savor the victory as much as anyone. He was flat on his back when the Red Sox started to give away the big lead in early September, immobilized by a lower-back injury that threatened to end his career and still leaves him sore after every game.
"I honestly didn't think I would have another shot at it," he told The Boston Globe this week. "I'm not one to sit here and talk about injuries, but I would like to straighten it out. I'd like to be able to work just as hard as I always have, and I can't. I've been restricted."