ALCS GAME 3: BOSTON AT CLEVELAND SERIES TIED 1-1
6:10 p.m. today Jacobs Field Ch. 9 1130-AM
Nixon's single signals tough going for Boston
- Article by: Joe Christensen
- Star Tribune
- October 14, 2007 - 10:04 PM
CLEVELAND - Game 2 of the American League Championship Series was nearly five hours old when Trot Nixon was finally called into duty, with an immediate chance to give his former team a gut punch.
Eleventh inning. Score tied 6-6. One out. Two Cleveland Indians on base.
Nixon knew the Boston Red Sox weren't used to losing marathon games like this. He was with them in 2004, when they staved off elimination in the ALCS against the Yankees, posting extra-inning victories at Fenway Park in Games 4 and 5.
They rode that wave for two more victories at Yankee Stadium and then swept the Cardinals for their first World Series title since 1918.
Now, Nixon was wearing the opposing uniform, looking to change the tide for Cleveland, with Game 3 set for tonight at Jacobs Field.
"I was excited to finally get in there at 1:30 a.m.," said Nixon, who played eight full seasons with the Red Sox before signing with the Indians as a free agent in January.
When Nixon's soft liner landed in center field, Grady Sizemore scored the go-ahead run from second base. Soon, the flood gates opened and Cleveland had a 13-6 victory that evened the best-of-seven series at one game apiece.
After flying through the night, the Indians went through a brief workout Sunday, looking forward to three consecutive home games.
The split in Boston was satisfying, especially after C.C. Sabathia and Fausto Carmona combined to allow 12 earned runs in 8 1/3 innings.
"To be sitting here on an off day, down 2-0 would have been tough," said Ryan Garko, who added a run-scoring single in the 11th. "Our bullpen did a great job of keeping us in it, and it definitely was a nice flight home."
The next two pitching matchups won't have the luster of the first two games -- Jake Westbrook/Daisuke Matsuzaka tonight, followed by Paul Byrd/Tim Wakefield.
On Sunday, Red Sox manager Terry Francona pledged to save Josh Beckett for Game 5, even though the new LCS schedule -- with an added off-day between Games 4 and 5 -- would allow the Game 1 starters to pitch both Games 4 and 7 on three day's rest. Cleveland has given no hint of pushing Sabathia up, either.
Francona said using Beckett in Game 4 would require his other starters to pitch on short rest, as well.
"I think what we're trying to do is set up our rotation so we can win a series," he said. "We really value the rest that a [Curt] Schilling can get, and Daisuke also. It's not just one guy that it affects. It affects all three."
Sunday's open date helped both bullpens recover from a busy night.
Cleveland's only lingering concern was rookie lefthander Rafael Perez, who posted a 1.78 ERA this season but surrendered back-to-back home runs to Manny Ramirez and Mike Lowell in the fifth inning.
Fortunately for Perez, his bullpen mates were stellar, namely rookie Jensen Lewis (seven outs, no hits), Rafael Betancourt (seven outs, one hit) and Tom Mastny (three outs, no hits).
Boston's relief corps also shined until Francona turned to Eric Gagne for the 11th inning.
Gagne, a former Cy Young Award winner, has struggled since coming to the Red Sox in a July trade with Texas. He struck out Casey Blake to start the 11th but allowed the next two batters to reach.
That's when Cleveland manager Eric Wedge summoned Nixon to pinch hit. And that's when Francona turned to lefthander Javier Lopez, who gave up two run-scoring hits and let another run score with a wild pitch.
Sensing disaster, Boston fans booed Gagne when he left the mound. After the game, Gagne left the ballpark without speaking to reporters, and he was not at the team's optional workout Sunday.
Before Game 2, Red Sox General Manager Theo Epstein was asked about the team's attempts to find a rhythm for Gagne.
"He hasn't hurt us, and it's never too late to find a groove and make a contribution," Epstein said. "Strange things happen in the postseason. You've got guys who are struggling, like Derek Lowe in 2004. All of a sudden, they get pressed into a spot, come through just one time, and get on a roll."
After the five-hour, 14-minute loss, it was clear this would be a different postseason for Boston than 2004.
Joe Christensen firstname.lastname@example.org
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