BOSTON -- David Ortiz stood in a corner of the Boston Red Sox clubhouse Monday, his sweat shirt soaked with beer and champagne and his face creased with a smile.
"We're kind of getting used to this," said Ortiz, who has been through 13 clubhouse celebrations in his six seasons in Boston.
Used to it. But not tired of it.
"No. Not as long as I play," said Ortiz, who counts two World Series titles among those champagne celebrations.
Minutes earlier, rookie Jed Lowrie had singled home Jason Bay in the ninth inning to send the Angels home with a 3-2 loss and send Boston on to another American League Championship Series, its fourth in six seasons, beginning Friday at Tampa Bay.
Two players who weren't on the Red Sox roster when the season started combined on the biggest play of the year.
"It's fitting that those two guys contributed in the last inning there," General Manager Theo Epstein said. "All year long we've learned how to mix and match to try to overcome some of the adversity we faced."
The adversity of losing potential Hall of Fame pitcher Curt Schilling to shoulder trouble in spring training. Of losing their two World Series most valuable players, right-hander Josh Beckett and third baseman Mike Lowell, to the disabled list twice.
Of losing Ortiz, the heart of their lineup and the soul of their clubhouse, for nearly two months in the middle of the summer because of a wrist injury.
Then, finally, they lost Manny Ramirez, who got his wish to be sent out of Boston when he was dealt to the Dodgers in July, with the Red Sox getting Bay from Pittsburgh in the three-team trade.
"To put yourself in the shoes of Manny Ramirez is something difficult," said Ortiz, who sometimes wears a black "Manny Being Manny" T-shirt. "But now we have Jason Bay and I think he's doing an excellent job. And the team needs him now."
Bay, in the postseason for the first time, certainly came up big against the Angels, batting .412, driving in five runs and scoring three, none bigger than the one he scored in the ninth inning with a two-out head-first dive across the plate.
For Ortiz, this was a moment to imagine what was, until recently, unimaginable.
"If we win the World Series, this has got to be the most unbelievable year out of all," he said. "And it's because we've been dealing with a lot of injuries. A lot of guys in and out. We've been dealing with all that and we're still winning."
After a while, the celebration spilled to the field, where hundreds of fans still waited in the stands despite the midnight chill. Julio Lugo and Alex Cora, wearing dark blue championship T-shirts, danced on the mound, then around the infield. Players threw baseballs into the stands.
Back in the clubhouse Lowell, dropped from the playoff roster before the game because of a torn labrum in his right hip, stood in front of his locker and took in the scene.
"I said you'd basically have to cut off my head not to play [me] in the postseason," said Lowell, also dripping of champagne. "Well, I've still got my head on, which is good."
More than an hour later, with the ballpark dark and quiet, Red Sox owner John Henry, in a dark suit and red tie, ran around the same bases Bay had traversed earlier, crossing the plate standing, with a smile.
As Ortiz might say, unbelievable.