Indians turn Boston marathon into quick knockout
BOSTON -- If this is how life is going to be on the nights that Josh Beckett doesn't pitch, we're in for a long, draining, entertaining week of baseball.
By the end of the evening, as the final trains on the "T" were ready to leave the station and the temperature had dropped almost 10 degrees, the landscape looked markedly different.Gagne wakes up a losing pitcher and more vilified than ever in Boston, while Jensen Lewis and Tom Mastny are suddenly hailed as unheralded saviors for Cleveland.
Ramirez and Ortiz are the proud owners of new postseason records, but the hero was none other than Trot Nixon, a former Boston favorite who'd come home to Yawkey Way.
And a Red Sox crowd that spent the early innings cheering, chanting and summoning players from the dugout for curtain calls straggled out of Fenway with a sense that this is not going to be easy. Even James Taylor went home with a case of Steamroller Blues.
"These guys persevere," Cleveland manager Eric Wedge said of his team. "They find a way to get it done. We don't just win with one area or another area of the club. We find multiple ways to win."For all practical purposes, this game really got interesting after the starters crapped out in the fifth.
After Sabathia's stinker in the series opener, the Indians were counting on Carmona to bolster their confidence and provide a solid six or seven innings. But he wasn't nearly as effective as his previous start in Cleveland, where he handled the Yankees and an onslaught of Dustin Pedroia-sized midges in the Division Series.
You got the sense that being a stand-up guy was somehow therapeutic for him."Everything about this one falls on me," Schilling said. "This was all about me coming up small in a big game." The ineffectiveness of the two starters forced both managers to go to the bullpen early and spend the better part of three hours mixing, matching and counting outs. It was like a Tony La Russa fantasy come to life. Wedge ultimately made two decisions that resonated. In the 10th inning, with the heart of Boston's order due up, he decided to hold back closer Joe Borowski and bring in Mastny -- he of the 1.65 WHIP and .283 batting-average against this season. Mastny promptly retired Ortiz, Ramirez and Mike Lowell in order to extend it to the 11th. Then there was Nixon. He got a chance to hit with the game on the line only because Wedge had lifted DH Travis Hafner for pinch-runner Josh Barfield two innings earlier. It was a calculated risk, given that Hafner's spot in the order was likely to come around again. But as Wedge pointed out, "We knew we were running thin in our bullpen. You can't worry about two or three innings beyond that."
For some reason, I just felt a calmness out there in the batter's box. I think if you can keep your emotions in check in situations like that, you've got a little bit better chance.
"For some reason, I just felt a calmness out there in the batter's box," Nixon said. "I think if you can keep your emotions in check in situations like that, you've got a little bit better chance."While Nixon's playing time has diminished with the ascent of young right fielder Franklin Gutierrez, he's thriving in the role of veteran mentor to Cleveland's youthful regulars. He's the guy who pulls them aside for talks, dispenses wisdom and, in his words, "stirs the pot."
Said Wedge: "If you're going to be a leader, it's strength and personality and presence. You've got to be vocal. You've got to be strongest when other people are sometimes at their weakest, and you've got to pick people up. Trot has been a huge influence on a lot of our players."
It helps that Nixon does some of his best work at 1:30 in the morning. After all that late frivolity on the basepaths, the Indians left Fenway for Logan International Airport feeling drained and revitalized at the same time. The ALCS is even at one heading back to Cleveland, and we've got a long way to go.Jerry Crasnick covers baseball for ESPN.com. His book "License To Deal" was published by Rodale. Click here to order a copy. Jerry can be reached via e-mail.