ALCS Game 4: 7-run inning dooms Sox

I was SO frustrated last night. The Red Sox could not get anything off Cleveland starter Paul Byrd, despite his eminent hittability. The first four innings consisted of our hitters taking strike 1 (why on earth would you take an 85 mph fastball right over the plate, when you know he’s gonna throw it???), mishitting for a fly ball, grounding into a double play, or else lining it right at somebody. This seems sickeningly familiar, when the Red Sox went through their summer offensive struggles. All of a sudden, everyone’s pressing; we’re behind, we have to do something! Guys! Just relax and play your game; you are the better team, you have to believe that!

I have to give Cleveland’s defense some serious credit, they have positioned themselves beautifully and made some tough plays, last night and in this Series. Asdrubal Cabrera and Franklin Gutierrez are solid defensively and cover a lot of ground out there.

I have to take issue with Terry Francona once again about his hook. Tim Wakefield was out there pitching very well, but they guy had 18 days off or something like that, plus his shoulder’s still not 100%. You don’t expect him to give you long innings, so you should be prepared to yank him at the first sign of trouble. You could see it in that he was throwing everything about 5-10 mph slower than he usually does; his knuckler was hovering in the mid-60s all night. And in the 5th, when you see him hit a batter and his knuckleball start to get up in an even above the zone, you have to pull him. I don’t care how well he’d been doing before that. That play on Cabrera’s grounder just killed us. Wakefield knocked it down with his glove, and that made it an infield single instead of an inning-ending double play. I don’t care how much of a veteran you are, you have to be kicking yourself after that one, because it could have been 1-0. Then Wake got away with a really high knuckler to Travis Hafner, but that could have been hit a country mile. You don’t leave him in there for face Victor Martinez! Francona should have pulled him sometime in there, not after the fact.

I liked the idea of bringing Manny Delcarmen in after Wakefield. After looking at 65 mph knuckeballs all night, it must have looked like Delcarmen was dealing at 110 mph to the Cleveland hitters. But he was struggling with his control again, and I think you have to lift him after Jhonny Peralta‘s home run and Kenny Lofton‘s single. To not do so cost us another run. MDC was struggling with overthrowing again, and his control and mechanics got all screwed up.

Why has our vaunted bullpen been so bad? Look no further than the last three starts. 4 2/3 innings each. When your starters can’t give you even 5 innings, any bullpen is going to be in trouble. It’s just frustrating, because I know we’re a better team than these guys.

The record back-to-back-to-back home runs by Kevin Youkilis, David Ortiz and Manny Ramirez really didn’t matter that much to me. I’m sure they came out, fire in their nostrils, wanting to make a statement. I just felt like it was a waste, behind 7-0, to hit 3 solo home runs. Manny, you’re such a dork for celebrating a meaningless home run in a playoff game, especially when we’re falling behind 3 games to 1. Grow up.

Jon Lester came in and gave 3 innings of scoreless relief, but with the Sox deflated from that monster inning, I don’t think it mattered. And it doesn’t mean the Sox will start him in game 7.

I don’t think starting Josh Beckett on short rest necessarily would have helped things. The way our offense was tonight, even he might have had a hard time winning. What if we lost, and then you’ve got Wakefield vs. C.C. Sabathia for game 5? As it is, we need to do a lot to win, but our pitchers are rested and we have a good shot in each game. I do like us for Thursday’s game, however. Jerry Remy said this morning that he was worried about Sabathia putting together a great outing, but I think that throwing 250 1/3 innings this year already has taxed him, and he may be losing it. Come on, guys, it’s bleak, but we can still win this thing. I believe we are the better team, and we can expose this Cleveland bullpen for the frauds they are (except for Rafael Betancourt, I’ve given up on the Sox ever hitting him).

As for the whole outfield controversy: I think starting Jacoby Ellsbury in right for this game would have been okay. I know Drew is the proven guy, but sometimes you gotta take a risk, especially when things are not going well. That said, I don’t think J.D. Drew is the primary reason we are losing.


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