1. I wasn’t one of the folks itching for Beckett to start that game, and I felt vindicated by Wakefield’s no-hit performance through 4.2 innings. Even after Peralta doubled with 2 down in the fourth, Wakefield got Lofton to ground out and end the inning. I even thought Francona pulled Wakefield out at the right time; with Peralta coming up again, two men on, and three runs already in. You don’t want to yank Wakefield earlier, because how many times have we seen Tim Wakefield throw a couple of wild knuckleballs (hey, it’s a wild and crazy pitch!) and then get out of the jam? And he’d already amassed seven strikeouts! If the Sox are up in the series, maybe you let Wakefield work through that inning. But with the Sox trailing and an off day today, you pull him.
2. There must be the evil demons plaguing that infield. The night before, it was Ortiz running into a batted ball. Last night, it was when Tim Wakefield got his glove on an Asdrubal Cabrera comebacker in the fifth, only to deflect it uselessly into the ground. The ball appeared headed straight for Pedroia, and if Wake hadn’t touched it at all, Dustin could easily have turned it into a 4-6-3 double play to be out of the inning with only one run scored. If Wakefield had either held onto it or only nicked it a bit, we at least would have gotten the second out of the inning (and Travis Hafner struck out in the next at-bat). But instead, it was the worst of all possible worlds. Still don’t believe in the demons? Cabrera only hit that ball because the normally-sure-handed Youkilis couldn’t hang on to his earlier foul pop.
3. Manny Delcarmen? Really? After the Indians smacked him around in Game 2? So last night he comes in with two out and two on, and the first thing he does is give up a three-run blast to Peralta. Then it’s single, stolen base, single, walk before he can finally strike out Kelly Shoppach. I mean, you’ve got Mike Timlin in the bullpen. He’s as old as the hills, he has icewater in his veins, and he’s used to pitching in the playoffs. You need ONE OUT. I know he worked the night before, but on the other hand, he was perfect the night before–two K’s in an inning and a third, no hits no runs no walks no nothing. Is it really just too obvious to go with what works?
4. Speaking of what works and what doesn’t, Bobby Kielty has good numbers against Paul Byrd, and Francona already demonstrated in Game 1 that he was willing to put Kielty in over J.D. Drew if the pitching matchup favored Kielty. Why not put Kielty in there last night? Drew can always come off the bench once Byrd is out of the game. And how come sparkplug Jacoby Ellsbury hasn’t seen more playing time in this series? I think Drew’s defense makes him a good defensive replacement once the Sox have the lead (Jacoby has great range, but lacks the judgment that comes from experience), but you’ve got to have Ellsbury’s bat and speed and energy in the lineup so that the Sox can take the lead in the first place.
5. I feel like I should throw Francona a bone for not putting Gagne out there. Way to go, Tito! A round of applause!
6. Just as I had asked, Terry Francona didn’t call for Lester until the start of the sixth—and lo and behold, he performed admirably, finishing the game, striking out four, and allowing just one walk and one hit.
7. Though the Red Sox have a very powerful heart of the lineup (as they demonstrated again last night by hitting the first back-to-back-to-back homers in LCS history), the Indians lineup is ultimately more effective because they can hurt you from top to bottom. The bottom of the Red Sox order has done nothing this entire series. (If Lugo and Crisp can’t get a hit, why can’t they at least try to bunt?) Plus, one big advantage the Sox had over Cleveland was their patience at the plate. But the team that was walking the runs in just a few days ago didn’t have one base-on-balls last night. In fact, instead of heeding my advice about cultivating a zen-like patience at the plate, Dustin Pedroia desperately pulled an A-Rod on the first at-bat of the game. The Sox are pressing. That does not bode well.
8. I admire Eric Wedge for his bullpen management. I know I’m not the only one out there to wonder if closers are just a fad, but it’s refreshing to see a major league manager who’s willing to rethink their efficacy. If you need an out in the fifth or the sixth, why not bring in your best reliever then? What if Francona had gone to Papelbon in the fifth? He throws cold water on the rally, that’s what, and crushes the Indians’ spirit beneath his iron heel.
9. It’s as I feared. Boston is getting out-maneuvered by Cleveland’s pitchers. They don’t have better stuff than Boston’s pitchers do—but they are executing when it counts. And that makes all the difference.
10. Okay, Manny Ramirez’s showboating/pimp-jobs/dance moves when he crushes a homer? Cute when you’re winning. Appreciated by the home crowd. Not at all appropriate when your team is getting their asses handed to them on the road. Knock it off, Manuel.
11. Maybe it’s time to bring back the Jack. Or at least call Kevin Millar and have him come tell jokes in the clubhouse. Because despite the apparent lack of thinking happening in the manager’s office, there is entirely too much thinking taking place on the field:
If I may allude to Bull Durham, this is a simple game. You throw the ball. You catch the ball. You hit the ball. So anytime you have this many guys thinking this hard, your team is in trouble.