October 15, 2007


(AP/ Paul Sancya)

This is great baseball. The losing is painful, but even the winning is excruciating. Relaxing is out of the question.

After the Indians outlasted the Red Sox early Sunday morning, Boston manager Terry Francona allowed that when the playoffs started, and even after they swept the Angels, the Red Sox didn't really feel like they would win every single game. I guess that's about as humble as these guys get, but tonight it looks like Francona may need another great start from Josh Beckett just to get the series back to Boston.

Jake Westbrook took a shutout into the seventh inning tonight, and the Indians took the ALCS lead two games to one with a 4-2 win. The surprising thing was that the Tribe won without significant contributions from Sizemore, Hafner, Peralta and Martinez, as the foursome went just 1 for 13. Instead it was Lofton and (The Only Man in Major League Baseball history to have the name Asdrubal) Cabrera who lifted the Indians offense to four early runs.

The ball-strike umpiring tonight was - to be kind - spotty. Both starters had pitches well off the plate called strikes, and both guys had some real jaw-droppingly obvious strikes that for whatever reason, Brian Gorman decided were not strikes. I thought Westbrook's jaw was dropping more times than Matsuzaka's, however. A good many of the questionable calls were commented on by McCarver and Buck, but one thing they agreed on was that a 3-0 strike called on Manny Ramirez, that did look to be a bit inside, changed the whole at-bat (duh!) for Ramirez, leading to his slapping into an inning-ending double play.

I mean, I know that these broadcasters are trying to mask their East coast bias, (no such effort here to hide my Tribe homerism), and they have been politely complimentary to the Indians, but it shows through at times like this when they zero in on that one pitch to excuse Manny's failure to deliver.

Travis Hafner meanwhile, had earlier taken two grossly out-of-the-zone first pitches that were both called strikes by Gorman, and Travis reacted angrily to both of them, something out of character for him, all of which went completely unremarked upon by the Fox broadcast team. Talk about changing the tone of the whole at-bat. There's a much bigger difference between a count of 1-0 and 0-1...twice... than there is between 3-0 and 3-1.

Hafner was also called for a strike on a checked swing that didn't appear to be even close to breaking the plane of the hitting area. No comment, and no replay (they always replay these checked swing decisions), but instead we get a pity part for Manny for getting strike one. As if it isn't common for the strike zone to be a bit wider when the count is 3-0 anyway. Sheesh.

And now the announcing team and I have both made too much of that one pitch. But I feel better.

Who the hell knows what we'll get out of Paul Byrd on Tuesday...other than everything he's got. Byrd has been jazzed about being in the pennant race ever since it became obvious we were in one...like July. I have a feeling he'll show up. Francona has apparently decided that he can't win the series with one pitcher, and plans to give the ball to Wakefield Tuesday, saving Beckett for Game Five.

Regardless of what happens tomorrow, I like the chances of a humbled C.C. Sabathia pitching at home in Game Five, Beckett or no Beckett.

Posted by dan at October 15, 2007 11:40 PM