Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Pleading in the Bottom of the Fifth

Are we having fun yet? You keep wondering to yourself "can it get any better" and it the answer seems to be yes. The Indians, the masters of the two out hit and the big inning, did it again to the Red Sox, scoring all seven runs in the fifth inning, five of them with two outs. Paul Byrd pitched five solid innings before turning it over to Jensen Lewis and Rafael Betancourt to close out the 7-3 win. The Indians now lead the best of seven series 3-1 and are just one win away from returning to the World Series for the first time in 10 years.

All that needs to be recapped is that monster bottom of the fifth. The Indians entered with just one hit, a fourth inning double by Jhonny Peralta. Casey Blake led off the inning. On a 0-1 count, Blake took one deep to the Home Run porch in Left to put the Tribe up 1-0. Franklyn Gutierrez followed with a single and Kelly Shoppach was hit by a pitch. With two on and nobody out, Grady Sizemore grounded into a fielder's choice moving Franky G to third. Up stepped Asdrubal Cabrera. This is where the Tribe karma kicked in. It seems to happen at least once a game. Last game was when David Ortiz was hit by a Manny Ramirez ground ball, successfully killing a potential rally. AC popped one over first base in foul territory and Kevin Youkilis went to make an over-the shoulder catch. He bobbled the ball twice before watching it hit the ground. AC had new life. The kid lined a Wakefield floater back up the middle. It was heading right to second baseman Dustin Pedroia for a potential inning-ending double play, but Wakefield got a glove on the ball, deflecting it past the mound and Cabrera ended up with an RBI single to make it 2-0. Travis Hafner struck out for the second out, which brought Victor Martinez to the plate. The man who hit .400 with two out and runners in scoring position, singled home Sizemore. That was it for Wakefield. He lasted just 4 2/3 innings, giving up five hits and five runs.

In came Manny Delcarmen and up stepped Peralta. Jhonny was ahead in the count 2-1, then smacked a ball to deep right field for a three-run back-breaking home run. Jacobs Field exploded. 44,000 Strangers were high-fiving and hugging all over the stadium. I had to save the life of the guy in front of me who leaped to his seat and slipped trying to high-five everyone in our section. I grabbed his jacket and held him up, otherwise his neck was broken. It was 6-0 Tribe. Kenny Lofton followed with another single. He stole second base, his 34th postseason steal, and became the all-time postseason stolen base king, passing Ricky Henderson, the self-proclaimed "Greatest of all time." That steal would prove to be huge as Blake, the 10th man to bat in the inning, delivered a bloop RBI single to make it 7-0, his second hit of the inning.

Byrd had been sitting for 35 minutes stiffening up. It showed as he came out for the sixth and gave up back to back homers to Youkilis and David Ortiz. That would end his night. He left to a standing ovation, just as Jake Westbrook had done a night before. Jensen Lewis came in and gave up a third home run, this one to Manny "I am a clown with zero common sense" Ramirez. Ramirez stopped, posed, and watched it fly as if it were a walk-off winner. To bad his team was still down four. That would be it for the Red Sox and Lewis and Rafael Betancourt allowed just one more hit over the last four innings. Game Over. Series 3-1 Tribe. Momentum - Tribe. The Red Sox now turn to their ace Josh Beckett to get them back to Boston for a potential Game Six. The Tribe will counter with their ace, C.C. Sabathia, who has yet to pitch like one in his two postseason starts.

One More Baby. Just One More.


1. Last night I sat in right-center field in the lower deck about 15 rows up, just under "Pronkville." It was quite the scene out there. It is definitely not where the intense fans sit, it more of a party out there. We had some real classics around us. The dudes behind me tried every chant in the book. Some of my favorites: "I Love Nachos," "Chips and Salsa," and "Manny Eats it." Then there were the idiots three rows in front if us who decided everyone should stand all game long. Everyone behind them yelled for them to sit down, and they kept pounding beers, giving us the finger while scratching their heads, and doing the worst move ever - the cellphone stand and wave. After the ushers had several chats with these buffoons that didn't take, he brought a cop in. Everytime they stood up after that, the chanters behind us would yell "sit down or we'll call the cops." Finally there was the dueling Ric Flair "woo!" chants going back and forth between the section to the left of us and the section to the right of us. It started with one fan in each section and took on a life of its own. For those Chicagoans, it was the equivalent of the "right-field sucks, left-field sucks" chants in the Wrigley Field bleachers.

2. Now down to the serious stuff, Manny Ramirez is a complete idiot. He was the tail end of the back-to-back-to back homers in the 6th inning. When he crushed his 425 foot pizza into the right-center field stands, he stood and watched it with his arms up for a good 10 seconds, before holding up his right arm all the way around first base. When he came to the dugout, he was all smiles and came in for big hugs from his teammates. I know, that was just "Manny being Manny," but you know what, that is a tired act. Have you seen the movie Boiler Room? To quote Jim Young, "Act as if." Act as if you've been there before. Memo to the space cadet - You just hit a solo homer and with your team down FIVE RUNS. It was completely unprofessional and moronic. I was at the game, so I didn't see the broadcast, but I was told Joe Buck and Tim McCarver said nothing other than "Manny stood and watched it go."

Bob Ryan of the Boston Globe said this morning: Ramírez also had to stand and watch at the plate, arms aloft, as if the blow had more relevance. You don't do this, unless, of course, you are Manny, and that's an essential part of your Mannyness. "Manny," you wanted to say, "you're down, 7-3. Show some class."

Ryan's colleague at the Globe, Dan Shaughnessy nailed it as well: Ramírez greeted Lewis with a monstrous homer to center. Establishing that he is classless as well as clueless, Ramírez raised his hands at home plate and admired his shot even though the Sox trailed, 7-3.

3. My favorite statistic of the playoffs is simple: Of the 51 runs the Indians have scored, 27 have been with two outs. 27! That is unbelievable. Just more proof that timely hitting and pitching are how October games are won.

4. If you would have told me that entering Game Five of the ALCS, the Indians would be one game away from the World Series with C.C. Sabathia and Fausto Carmona both not being able to get out of the fifth inning in their two starts, I would have told you that you are insane. Jake Westbrook and Paul Byrd have pitched 11 2/3 innings, given up three earned runs, walked just two batters, and are 2-0. Maybe this truly is our year?

5. Terry Francona's decision to throw Tim Wakefield in Game Four over Josh Beckett on short rest looked like a brilliant move over the first four innings as the Indians could only muster one hit, a Peralta double in the fourth. But in the fifth, that all changed. Wakefield lost it just like that. Now Francona is in a deep hole that he may not be able to dig out of. It always takes an at-bat or two to figure Wakefield out and that is exactly what happened last night with the Tribe bats. My worry is that if we do end up with a Game Seven, the Red Sox will have that same mind-set with Jake Westbrook and his sinker. They will have seen him for a full game and studied his approach. I pretty much guarantee they will be much better against him if they get the chance.

6. That Red Sox bullpen that was so hyped before this series has been ripped apart. Manny Delcarmen was victimized again last night, giving up the biggest blow of the evening, Peralta's three run pizza. He has made three appearances in the series and has an ERA of 16.20. Eric Gagne has been banished and most likely won't see the field again unless it is a blow out situation. Mike Timlin is still 100 years old. Meanwhile, Rafael Betancourt is pitching like the best set up man in the game. Jensen Lewis is embracing his big role with gusto, Raffy Perez only has had the one bad outing, and Joe Borowski is pitching his best at the right time.

7. It is beyond depressing to me, but because of work responsibilities, not only will I not be able to attend Game Five, but I won't see most of the game unless some sort of miracle happens. I can't even talk about it.

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