Let the good times roll. Our Boston Red Sox advanced to the World Series last night with an 11-2 victory over the Cleveland Indians. It looks like an easy victory from the final, but it was a LOT closer than that, and Sox fans did get to sweat it out in the middle innings before the lineup finally put it away in the 8th.
It all started out with bad flashes of games 2, 3 and 4. The lineup was putting a lot of people on, but the Sox were not cashing in on their opportunities. Bottom of the 1st, Manny Ramirez hits a grounder that hits the lip of the infield and goes over Jhonny Peralta‘s head, scoring Dustin Pedroia from second. Mike Lowell singles, and J.D. Drew comes up with one out and the bases loaded. Anticipation grips Fenway for the man who hit the early grand slam the night before. Is he finally over the hump? Is he locked in? The result? Double play.
In the 2nd, a Jason Varitek double and a Jacoby Ellsbury single put men on the corners. Julio Lugo hits into a double play, which scores Tek, but crushes any rally we could have mustered. 2-0.
Bottom of the 4th, Varitek singles, Ellsbury hits into a fielder’s choice, Lugo singles, and Pedroia hits into yet another double play. The score should have been 6-0 by now; instead, it’s 3-0. Look, I know Jake Westbrook is a groundball pitcher, but this is a little ridiculous. In all, the Red Sox hit into 14 double plays in this series, a new LCS record. By four. And look who’s still standing.
Meanwhile, Daisuke Matsuzaka pitched very well to start. After retiring the first eight hitters, he allowed a single to Casey Blake, then threw a pitch in the dirt to allow him to move up to second base. I swear, that if that guy weren’t in baseball, he’d be a lumberjack or something. He just looks it. Anyway, with Grady Sizemore at the plate, I start to worry a little, but Dice-K rings him up to end the inning. Top of the 4th, it starts up again. Travis Hafner bangs a long one off the Monster for a double, then Ryan Garko doubles with two out to score him. Matsuzaka overthrows a couple of pitches, getting out of his delivery. I worry more, but Peralta grounds out to end it. Top of the 5th, Kenny Lofton bangs yet another one off of the Monster, then gets thrown out at second (called incorrectly, BTW). Two more singles ensue, and I am checking the Sox bullpen. Finally, Hideki Okajima gets up, but is not needed, as Sizemore produces a sac fly and Asdrubal Cabrera whiffs on a nasty letter-high changeup. Matsuzaka’s final line? 88 pitches, 5 IP, 6 hits, 2 runs, no walks and 3 Ks. He can do better, but this was good enough tonight.
Westbrook gets himself into a groove and makes it through six innings. The Sox manage absolutely zero at the plate in the 5th and 6th, striking out 4 times in the process. Blech. I am just perplexed by these offensive outages the Sox go through, but I guess as long as they don’t last too long…
Top of the 7th, Okajima is cruising, things seem in control, and then.. Lugo makes one of the most disgusting defensive gaffes I’ve ever seen. On a pop fly to left, he ranges way out of the infield, waves off Manny, then promptly drops the ball. I understand there is some apprehension about Ramirez as a fielder, but I think he can catch a fly ball. Every little leaguer is taught that you let the guy coming forward have it if you have to backpedal. With a one-run lead, I’m thinking, oh no; this could be the game. And surely enough, Franklin Gutierrez smacks a grounder right over the third base bag that goes into foul territory and bounces back into shallow left. The speedy Lofton should score easily from second, except that he doesn’t. The Indians third base coach, Joel Skinner, holds him up, and Okajima gets a double play out of Blake to end the frame. Huge mistake by the Indians to cancel out Lugo’s huge mistake. Still 3-2, and I think that play really weighed on the Cleveland players for the rest of the game.
The Indians bring on Rafael Betancourt, and I am salivating. I have been wanting the Sox to get one more shot at him. My prediction of him being the losing pitcher didn’t come true (I missed it by one run), but he did get lit up pretty good. My guess is that he had to be overused this series (this was his 5th appearance against us), and our guys got to know his stuff a little bit. That home run by Pedroia was the backbreaker, and I named him my player of the game.
Still a little drama left. Okajima gives up a bunt hit to Sizemore to lead it off, and there’s almost a three-way collision at first with him and Pedroia both trying to cover the base. Then Cabrera singles, and it’s getting mildly stressful. Bring on Jonathan Papelbon, who simply annihilates Hafner with a 98 mph fastball, then gets a grounder from Victor Martinez and a long, long, long fly out from Garko. That one hit in almost any other direction makes it a game again.
Bottom of the 8th, the late-night fireworks we’ve come to expect recently. It is just a dogpile, with a Drew RBI single up the middle, a bases loaded, two-out double by Pedey, and the rude greeting to rookie Jensen Lewis by Kevin Youkilis off the Coke bottles way, way up there. Varitek has a popfly fall between Peralta and Lofton, and that bounces out for a ground rule double. Ugly.
The top of the 9th is anti-climactic, except for the final drive by Blake into the triangle, which ends with Coco Crisp crashing into the wall and making the catch. Coco limped off the field afterwards, but today’s reports say that he’s okay. Congrats to Paps on both his first postseason and first two-inning save.
There’s a nice article about how many Boston fans very sportingly clapped for the Indians as they left Fenway at about 1AM last night.
And that’s the story of how the Sox overcame a 3-1 deficit and are now World Series-bound. Despite what a certain player said earlier, the Sox are the better team. So there. See you again Wednesday.
BTW, Josh Beckett was awarded the ALCS MVP. No argument here.