Sunday, October 14, 2007

I've Officially Seen it All

Trot Nixon gets a pinch hit, game winning RBI single off a Left-hander. Tom Mastny gets David Ortiz, Manny Ramirez, and Mike Lowell 1-2-3 in the 10th inning of a playoff game on the road. Joe Borowski doesn't allow a run in a one-inning stint to close it out in Boston. Yes folks, we have officially seen it all.

What a night. What a game. So many highs and lows. You had Victor Martinez driving in the first run of the game on a two out wall ball off the Monster. Solid right? We came back down to earth when Fausto Carmona became a walking machine, then gave up a two-run single to Mike Lowell to put the Tribe down 3-1. It seemed like danger time and depression was about to set in. Then Curt Schilling forgot he was the greatest postseason pitcher of all time. Jhonny Peralta blasted a three-run homer to Center putting the Tribe up 4-3. We were back on top and feeling good again. Grady Sizemore's solo pizza in the fifth chased Red Light Curt, the Tribe now led 5-3 and with the way the bullpen had been pitching all year long, you had to like the Tribe's chances.

Then came the bottom of the fifth and Fausto couldn't get through. Rafael Perez, who had been so brilliant since taking over the key late inning role, had perhaps his worst outing of the year. Manny crushed a two-run homer to right-center and we were all tied at five. Before you could blink, Lowell annihilated a Perez fastball over the monster to give the Red Sox a 6-5 and sent Tribe fans like me crashing down to earth. I was sick. How could Perez, so dominant all year, implode in this enormous spot? We had to get that run back sooner rather than later, as later meant Jonathon Papelbon.

In the sixth, with Manny Delcarmen now replacing the departed Schilling, Peralta led off with a walk. Kenny Lofton, the catalyst of so many Tribe rallies this postseason, singled Peralta to third. A Franklyn Gutierrez groundout would score the tying run. There we stood at 6-6 in the top of the sixth. In a game in which each offense traded blows like a heavyweight boxing match, little did we know the bullpens were about to take over.

Through the next four innings, both sides put their best out on the mound and completely stifled the offenses. Jensen Lewis was sensation in his 2 1/3 innings, allowing nobody to reach base in a tidy 24 pitches. The Sox Hideki Okajima matched him for an inning and a third, striking out three. Rafael Betancourt was summoned for 2 1/3 innings and had two epic battles. One with Mike Lowell in the eighth (10 pitches, K'd looking), the other with Kevin Youkilis (10 pitches, fly out) with the game winning run on second. Papelbon gave the Sox all he had for two scoreless innings. At this point, we reached the bottom of the 10th, and both teams were down to the end of their pens. It would be who's worst would be worse.

When the bottom of the 10th came around, Eric Wedge had two options other than his long man Aaron Laffey, Tom Mastny and Aaron Fultz. Anyone who saw Fultz pitch in Game One knew he wasn't the answer. So out came the man we call "Thomas Nasty." His assingment was easy enough - face the meat of the Red Sox order. The three guys Tribe pitching couldn't get out all series, Ortiz, Ramirez, and Lowell. Mastny reverted back to the guy who was the 7th inning set up man back in May, setting them down 1-2-3. All I could do was laugh. Once again, Wedge pulled the right string.

It's now past 1:00 AM EST. Things were about to change. Eric Gagne, the man who at one point was the most feared reliever in baseball, stepped into the spotlight for the Sox. He has been a failure since coming over at the trade deadline from Texas. He struck of Casey Blake to start the 11th and the wheels fell off the wagon. Sizemore singled. Asrdubal Cabrera walked. Travis Hafner's spot was due up, but in the ninth inning, Wedge had pinch run Josh Barfield for Hafner. So Wedge went to his bench one more time and summoned one time Red Sox great, Trot Nixon. I figured Sox Manager Terry Francona would counter with hhis last reliever, lefty Javier Lopez, and he did. Conventional wisdom had Wedge yanking Nixon for Jason Michaels, who hits lefties at a .287 clip. But Wedge knew something - this was Trot's moment. Maligned all year for his lack of pop and inability to move, the pie-throwing king of Cleveland delivered the biggest hit of his one-year Indian career; a single up the middle scoring Sizemore that would put the Tribe up for good. What a moment that must have been for him. What a moment for Wedge. Yet another in a series of calculated moves struck gold.

But the Tribe wasn't done there. AC scored on a wild pitch followed by a Ryan Garko RBI single for a 9-6 lead. With Joe Borowski warming, the Indians needed more. They got it. Long Man Jon Lester relieved Lopez and wasn't much better. Peralta, the big man all night offensively, doubled home Garko for his fourth RBI. Franky G then put the capper on the 11th with an absolute bomb, a three run moon shot over the Monster to give the Tribe a seven run lead. Only Casey Blake could have ended the madness. He book-ended the 11th with strikeouts.

So on to Cleveland we go, tied at one game apiece, and the Indians carry Uncle Mo with them to the Jake for three games starting Monday. There were no shortage of heroes. Nixon, Peralta, Mastny, but Wedge once again was masterful. He earned his extension last night. Lets see if he can get us two more wins.

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