Series tied 1-1
Jhonny Peralta .307
Trot Nixon .304
Rafael Betancourt .274
Jensen Lewis .197
Grady Sizemore .173
Victor Martinez .164
Tom Mastny .143
Rafael Perez -.363
Casey Blake -.187
Fausto Carmona -.165
This one took awhile to digest. There's so many intertwining stories to this game, good and bad. Fortunately, the bad stories ended as soon as Rafael Perez left the game.
BP (Before Perez): 4.1 IP, 6 R, 7 H, 5 BB, 5 SO
AP (After Perez): 6.2 IP, 0 R, 3 H, 0 BB, 5 SO
Fausto Carmona fell into the same trap that snared CC Sabathia: not trusting his stuff. He continually pitched from behind, and wasn't able to spot his pitches to both sides of the plate. The Sox's 4 hits weren't really what did him in; it was their patience, not putting his sinker in play, cheating on one portion of the plate, and waiting Fausto out. And for the second game in a row, the Indians had to go to their bullpen in the fifth inning.
Because the game was still up for grabs (4-3 at that point), Eric Wedge tabbed Rafael Perez to keep the game where it was. David Ortiz was due up, but Perez was going to pitch to Ramirez and Lowell anyway. He was expected to give the Indians a couple of innings, just to get things to where they could go with their normal endgame configuration. It didn't happen, and suddenly the backup plan needed a backup plan.
The Indians were now facing a 6-5 deficit, and having to fill another 3.2 innings with the remainder of their bullpen. Jensen Lewis, who had pitched the night before, was the first called upon, and he settled things down, throwing 2.1 perfect innings, and doing it on just 24 pitches. By that time, the game was tied. And the Red Sox were facing a similar situation with their bullpen; Curt Schilling only lasted 4.2 innings, and their first man in, Manny Delcarmen, had to be replaced after allowing the tying run. It was now a game of reliever attrition.
And looking at who was left in the bullpen, it looked like the Indians' bullpen would be the one to falter first. Both Perez and Lewis were out by the seventh inning, and assuming the game remained tied, Rafael Betancourt was pretty much all that was left of the Circle of Trust. Boston still had Mike Timlin, Jonathan Papelbon, and the extra-inning advantage of batting last.
But Rafael Betancourt pitched a season-high 2.1 innings, making up the reliever gap. Betancourt left the game after finally finishing off Kevin Youkilis in the bottom of the ninth. In a game full of heroes, Betancourt's effort stood out, particularly given the pressure and the knowledge that he was probably it. The problem was that Papelbon was able to throw a second inning, leaving Tom Mastny to face David Ortiz, Manny Ramirez, and Mike Lowell in the 10th. The last thing you'd think would happen would be an easy 1-2-3 inning, but it did. Mastny on his impossible mission:
Mastny's inning meant that the Indians offense would finally have the opportunity to face the portion of Boston's bullpen that wasn't supposed to pitch in this situation. First up was Eric Gagne, who the Indians had some interest in prior to the trading deadline. He Game 1 outing was promising from the Indians' perspective, striking out the side but leaving the bases loaded. After striking out Casey Blake (who was the only starter not to get a hit), Grady Sizemore rapped a sharp single to right, and Asdrubal Cabrera worked a walk. Terry Francona had seen enough; after Trot Nixon was announced (he was hitting for Josh Barfield, who had pinch-run for Travis Hafner a couple innings ago), he called for his last true reliever, Javier Lopez.
Contrary to almost every tenet of late-inning match up doctrine, Eric Wedge stuck with Nixon, the left-handed hitter who was famously awful against left-handed pitching. And Nixon, who had made a career of hitting at Fenway, got the biggest hit of the game, a bloop single scoring Sizemore and giving the Indians the lead. It was the culmination of a six inning stretch of required perfection; after that hit, the Indians made sure the bottom of the inning was Borowski-proof, tacking on six more runs, capping off the inning with a Franklin Gutierrez three-run bomb.
So despite two poor outings from the two pitchers they were counting on to win the series, the Indians come to Cleveland with home field advantage. Despite giving up 16 runs in their two games in Boston, the Indians got a split. The Indians saved their most improbable victory of the season for the ALCS.
Next Up: Game 3. Westbrook vs. Matsuzaka, 7:10 PM