Baseball Today - Sunday, October 21

Baseball Today - Sunday, October 21

Indians, Red Sox play decisive seventh game at Fenway
October 21st, 2007

(Sports Network) - The Boston Red Sox try to become just the 11th team in major league history to rally from a 3-1 deficit to win a best-of-seven series when they play Game 7 of the American League Championship Series this evening against the Cleveland Indians at Fenway Park.

Of course, though, this task isn't nearly as difficult as it was in 2004 for the Red Sox, who became the only team to come back from a 3-0 hole when they knocked off the New York Yankees in seven games along the way to their first World Series title since 1918. The Red Sox also had to win three straight to beat the California Angels in a seventh game of the ALCS in 1986.

Boston, though, will have the shakiest of its starting pitchers on the hill tonight in Japanese right-hander Daisuke Matsuzaka. After averaging a major league-high 108.8 pitches-per start this season, the wear and tear on Dice-K's arm showed down the stretch and has again here in the postseason, as he has allowed seven runs and 13 hits in just 9 1/3 frames. He has also walked five batters, while posting an 0-1 mark to go along with a 6.75 ERA in these playoffs.

Matsuzaka, who was 8-4 in 14 starts at home this season, was tagged with the loss in Game 3 against the Tribe, surrendering four runs and six hits in 4 2/3 innings.

Should Matsuzaka struggle again tonight, Boston manager Terry Francona will have a well rested bullpen which includes knuckleballer Tim Wakefield and perhaps even ace Josh Beckett for a couple of innings at his disposal.

The Red Sox forced a seventh game on Saturday, as J.D. Drew belted a grand slam in the opening inning and Boston scored six times in the third to give Curt Schilling plenty of support in a 12-2 rout.

With a win tonight the Red Sox will become just the fourth team to win an ALCS after trailing 3-1 since the format was switched to a best-of-seven in 1985.

Drew went 3-for-5 and drove in five runs and Julio Lugo added a two-run double for the Red Sox, while rookie Jacoby Ellsbury, who started in center field in place of a struggling Coco Crisp, singled in a run during the third inning uprising. Kevin Youkilis had three hits with an RBI and scored twice.

Schilling (2-0) threw seven solid innings, allowing six hits and two runs while striking out five batters to rebound from a tough Game 2 start. It was last Saturday when he gave up nine hits and five runs in 4 2/3 innings of a 13-6 Boston loss in 11 innings.

Fausto Carmona (0-1) struggled from the outset and was lifted after surrendering six hits and seven runs over two-plus innings.

Victor Martinez homered for Cleveland, which will be playing its first do-or- die game since the 1997 World Series, when it lost 3-2 in 11 innings to Florida.

Cleveland will hand the ball tonight to right-hander Jake Westbrook, who picked up the win in Game 3 against Matsuzaka and the Red Sox. Westbrook, who has given up 10 runs and 21 hits in 10 2/3 innings in two career starts at Fenway, gave up two runs and two hits to Boston last Monday.

This will be the 13th Game 7 in LCS history. The home team has won seven of those matchups, but the road team is 3-1 in the last four of those encounters.

Tonight's winner will host the Colorado Rockies on Wednesday in Game 1 of the World Series. The Rockies, of course, have been idle since completing a sweep of the Arizona Diamondbacks last Monday.

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Re: Baseball Today - Sunday, October 21

Indians' Byrd bought HGH, syringes from Florida clinic

BOSTON -- Cleveland pitcher Paul Byrd, whose win in Game 4 of the ALCS moved the Indians within one victory of the World Series, bought nearly $25,000 worth of human growth hormone and syringes from 2002 to 2005, the San Francisco Chronicle reported Sunday.

Byrd, known for his old-school windup and savvy, purchased the HGH from a Palm Beach, Fla., anti-aging clinic under investigation by authorities for illegally distributing performance-enhancing drugs, the paper said.

During the time of the alleged purchases, the 36-year-old Bryd was with the Kansas City Royals, Atlanta Braves and the Los Angeles Angels. HGH was not banned by baseball then.

According to the Chronicle, which reviewed the clinic's business records, Byrd used his credit card and spent $24,850 on more than 1,000 vials of HGH, an injectable prescription drug with muscle-building properties. He also bought hundreds of syringes.

The allegations against Byrd came as the Indians prepared to play the Boston Red Sox in Game 7 of the AL championship series at Fenway Park on Sunday night.

''We aware of the story regarding Paul,'' general manager Mark Shapiro said in a statement. ''I have spoken with Paul about the situation, however, at this time I don't feel I have enough information to make any further comments on the matter.

''He has been an important member of this organization - on and off the field - over the last two years and we support him in this process.''

Byrd won Game 4 for the Indians at Jacobs Field on Tuesday. In the AL playoffs, he earned the victory in Cleveland's Game 4 series-clinching win over the New York Yankees.

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Re: Baseball Today - Sunday, October 21

What bettors need to know: Game 7 – Indians at Red Sox

Westbrook vs. Matsuzaka

The Indians hand the ball to Jake Westbrook for Game 7 hoping he can do better than C.C. Sabathia and Fausto Carmona. Westbrook was roughed up in his first career postseason start, against the Yankees, but recovered in Game 3 of this series to allow just two runs in 6 2/3 innings.

The right-hander is 1-1 with an 8.44 ERA in his career at Fenway Park, giving up 10 earned runs in just over 10 innings of work there.

Japanese import Daisuke Matsuzaka told the media this week he was hoping for a Game 7 so he could put his poor postseason performances behind him. Dice-K gave up seven hits and three runs in 4 2/3 innings against the Angels in the ALDS. In Game 3 of this series he put in a similar performance, allowing six hits and four runs over 4 2/3 innings.

The right-hander’s biggest problem in the playoffs has been controlling his pitch count. He threw 101 pitches in last week’s loss to the Indians, and 96 the week before against the Angels.

The Red Sox are expected to put starters Tim Wakefield and Josh Beckett in the bullpen for tonight’s game.

Reports say Byrd bought HGH

Although he is unlikely to take the field tonight, Cleveland starter Paul Byrd will feel the glare of the media spotlight.

The right-hander – who pitched brilliantly in a Game 4 win over Boston – bought nearly $25,000 worth of human growth hormones and syringes, according to reports in today’s San Francisco Chronicle.

The paper claims that Byrd’s purchase was from the anti-aging clinic in Florida that is now the focus of an investigation for illegally distributing performance-enhancing drugs. The purchases were allegedly made via credit card. Records viewed by the Chronicle included such items as Byrd's birth date and social security number.

Byrd is 97-81 with a 4.35 ERA in his 13-year career. This season, he went 15-8 record with a 4.59 ERA in 31 starts.

The Cleveland Indians and the league are not expected to comment on the story ahead of tonight’s game.

Boston batters break out

Many of today’s headlines have been about Red Sox right fielder J.D. Drew’s grand slam last night. But that’s just part of the Game 6 story. The other part centres on the Red Sox hitters who broke out of postseason slumps.

For the first time in the playoffs, Boston did not rely on the trio of David Ortiz, Manny Ramirez and Mike Lowell for all of their offense. Drew, Jacoby Ellsbury, Kevin Youkilis and Julio Lugo all managed RBIs in Game 6. Big Papi and Manny didn’t tally any until the eighth inning, when the game was already as good as over.

“Oh, it feels good, it feels good, it feels good when you get a hit, when you do something good for your team,” Lugo told the Boston Herald. Lugo had managed just three hits in the series before last night. “I was feeling better and better. Like I said, averages and things that happened before doesn’t matter. It just matters where we are right now.”

No. 2 hitter Kevin Youkilis has been particularly hot and is hitting .400 this postseason and a remarkable .478 in the ALCS, with four multi-hit games.

“Youkilis has been our guy,” Lugo added. “He’s our guy right now and getting hits when it counts.”
Boston manager Terry Francona is expected to continue with the same lineup tonight, with Ellsbury retaining the No. 8 spot ahead of the struggling Coco Crisp.

Laffey saves Cleveland bullpen

In the midst of their blowout loss, one positive highlight stood out for the Indians. Middle reliever John Laffey came in to pitch four 2/3 strong innings, saving the rest of Cleveland’s bullpen for tonight’s do or die contest.

When Fausto Carmona faltered in the third inning, Cleveland brought in Rafael Perez to shore things up. But Boston immediately jumped on him for two runs. That left the Indians with the nightmare scenario of blowing through its bullpen in a game that was already dead in the water.

Up stepped Laffey.

"Laffey pitched great for us, really picked us up in the bullpen," manager Eric Wedge told the Cleveland Plain Dealer. "He pitched well and saved our bullpen."

His performance leaves Cleveland in good shape to go to its usual trio of Jensen Lewis, Rafael Betancourt and Joe Borowski tonight. The Cleveland bullpen has a 2.77 ERA with two saves and no blown saves in the postseason. 

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Re: Baseball Today - Sunday, October 21


Cleveland (6-4) at Boston (6-3)

The Red Sox offense showed up Saturday and pounded the Indians, forcing the ALCS into a deciding Game 7 at Fenway Park in Boston as they send Japanese import Daisuke Matsuzaka (15-12, 4.40 ERA) to the mound to face Cleveland’s Jake Westbrook (6-9, 4.32).

Boston crushed the Indians 12-2 on Saturday, jumping out to a 4-0 lead after one inning thanks to a grand slam by J.D. Drew. The Red Sox are 4-1 at home in the playoffs while Cleveland is 2-3 on the road.

In the history of major league baseball only 10 teams have rallied from a 3-1 deficit to win a best-of-seven series with one of the 10 being the 2004 Red Sox. In 1999 Boston rallied from a 2-0 deficit to win a best-of-five division series against the Indians.

Cleveland hasn’t lost three straight games since Aug. 10-14. This is the first Game 7 for the Indians since the 1997 World Series when they lost 3-2 in 11 innings to the Marlins.

Westbrook pitched 6 2/3 strong innings on Monday in Game 3 against the Red Sox, allowing two runs on seven hits of the 4-2 victory. He is 4-2 in seven career starts against Boston and at Fenway Park he is 1-1 with an 8.44 ERA in 10 2/3 innings. Last time he pitched at Fenway was Aug. 3, 2006 when he gave up six runs on 15 hits over eight innings of a 7-6 win.

Westbrook was strong down the stretch for Cleveland, only once allowing more than three earned runs in his last nine regular-season starts.

Matsuzaka lost six of his last nine starts down the stretch and hasn’t looked good in either of his postseason starts. He’s 0-1 with a 6.75 ERA and hasn’t lasted five innings in either of his two playoff outings.

Matsuzaka faced the Indians at Fenway on May 30 and got knocked around, giving up six runs on 12 hits in 5 2/3 innings of an 8-4 loss. On Monday he allowed four runs on six hits in 4 2/3 innings.

Boston is 10-4 in Matsuzaka’s last 14 home starts, 14-6 in its last 20 playoff games and 8-2 in its last 10 playoff games at Fenway Park.

The under is 18-8 in Westbrook’s 26 starts this season and 18-15 in Matsuzaka’s 33 outings. The over is 3-1-2 in this series.


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