Indians push Red Sox to the brink

Indians push Red Sox to the brink

Indians push Red Sox to the brink
October 17th, 2007

(Sports Network) - Only time will tell if Boston Red Sox manager Terry Francona made a mistake in not pitching ace Josh Beckett in Tuesday's Game 4 of the American League Championship Series. But the bottom line is, his team is staring at elimination with still one game left to be played at Jacobs Field and Cleveland will be throwing their ace, C.C. Sabathia, at the Red Sox on Thursday.

"We know where we are," Francona said. "The best way I think all of us know to go about our business is to play the next game. Put that on our radar and try and take care of the next game. You start trying to look ahead, it can look a little overwhelming. Just play the game that's in front of us, and that's the only thing that matters right now."

Francona decided to stick with veteran knuckleballer Tim Wakefield, who had not pitched since September 29 because of a sore back. Wakefield was fine for the first four innings, but the wheels came off in the fifth, as the Indians rocked the 41-year-old right-hander for five runs in a seven-run stanza on their way to a 7-3 win that gave them a 3-1 lead in the best-of-seven set.

Cleveland is now one win away from Fox television's worst nightmare -- a Colorado Rockies-Indians World Series.

Jhonny Peralta's three-run homer highlighted the big inning, while Casey Blake jump-started the fifth with a home run and ended with two hits for the Indians, who haven't been back to the Fall Classic since losing to the Florida Marlins in seven games in 1997.

Of course, Cleveland has not won a world title since 1948.

"The guys did a good job of moving it along down the line and working hard to get to the next guy and pushing the inning forward," said Wedge. "So obviously there was a number of people that really contributed to that inning, the big home run there by Peralta. He can go that way, but then he's done it a lot for us this year."

The 3-1 hole is nothing new for the Red Sox, who rallied back from three games-to-none to beat the New York Yankees in the 2004 ALCS on their way to their first World Series title since 1918.

WIN FOR THE BYRDS

Paul Byrd was again solid on Tuesday, as he became just the second pitcher ever to beat the Yankees and Red Sox in the same postseason. Indians hurler Dave Burba also did it back in 1998.

Byrd limited the Red Sox high-octane offense to just two runs and six hits over five innings to improve to 2-0 this postseason, while upping his playoff record as a starter to a perfect 3-0.

"I went out there, and my goal going in was to move the ball in and out, inside part of the plate, outside part of the plate," Byrd said. "I think sometimes these guys can scare people and shy away from throwing the ball in, thinking they're going to hit another home run. So that was my goal going in, was to move the ball in and out. I didn't really expect to strike anybody out. I was hoping to jam some people. I had a good fastball. I hit 90 miles an hour, which happens a few times a year."

HOW HAS MANNY NOT BEEN DUSTED YET?

Enough is enough with Manny Ramirez. Don't get me wrong, he is awesome, but does he have to sit at home plate and watch every single home run he hits? Last night his blast - the last of back-to-back-to-back home runs for Boston - cut the team's deficit to four runs and he still stood at home plate for what seemed like an eternity.

Give me a break. He is lucky Rafael Betancourt didn't throw one in his ear his next time up.

The Indians, by the way, were also responsible for the only other time three straight homers were hit in a postseason game. Cleveland surrendered three straight homers to Tim Raines, Derek Jeter and Paul O'Neill of the New York Yankees in Game 1 of the ALDS in 1997.

LOFTON BREAKS RICKEY HENDERSON SB RECORD

Kenny Lofton's memorable October continued on Tuesday, as he stole his 34th postseason base in the Tribe's big fifth inning to move past Rickey Henderson for the all-time lead.

"Well, it means I've been in the postseason," said Lofton, who has two stolen bases in these playoffs. "It's an opportunity for me to be able to stay aggressive and do what I do during the season. It's a good accomplishment."

The 40-year-old Lofton, who was 1-for-4 with a run scored on Tuesday, is batting .333 with six RBI this postseason.

LOOKING AHEAD

So, the task of extending Boston's season falls on the right arm of the 27- year-old Beckett, who has been amazing this postseason. Beckett has won both of his starts and allowed just two runs and eight hits in 15 innings of these playoffs, along with 15 strikeouts.

Beckett, who was 20-7 with a 3.27 ERA in the regular season, earned the win in Game 1 of this series by limiting the Tribe to just a pair of runs and four hits in six innings. He also fanned seven in the win.

Even with their stopper on the hill on Thursday, Boston will have its work cut out for it, as Cleveland will counter with a Cy Young Award candidate of its own in the lefty Sabathia.

Sabathia was saddled with the loss against Beckett and the Red Sox in Game 1, serving up eight runs and seven hits in 4 1/3 innings. After winning 19 games in the regular season, Sabathia has struggled in the postseason, going just 1-1 with a 10.61 ERA in two starts.

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