Indians astound Red Sox
David Ortiz, all 6 feet 3 and 240 pounds of him, was sprawled on a clubhouse couch Monday night, his sore right knee wrapped in ice, his face and voice a mixture of exhaustion and frustration.
Asked how, on a scale of one through 10, his knee felt, the Boston slugger said, “Zero.”
Spirits among the Red Sox weren’t much higher after Cleveland’s 4-2 victory in Game 3 of the American League Championship Series in Jacobs Field, a win that gave the Indians a 2-1 lead in the best-of-seven series and left the favored Red Sox a little dumbfounded.
They knew the Indians had some dominant starting pitching, but they didn’t expect to be overwhelmed by Jake Westbrook, a sinkerball specialist who threw first-pitch strikes to 21 of 27 batters and lasted 6 2/3 innings -- longer than co-aces C.C. Sabathia and Fausto Carmona in Games 1 and 2 -- giving up two runs and seven hits.
They knew the Indians had some power, but they didn’t expect it to come from 40-year-old Kenny Lofton, the erstwhile leadoff batter who drove a pitch from Daisuke Matsuzaka over the right-center field wall in the second inning for a two-run home run.
Lofton had not homered in 52 regular-season games with the Indians.
They knew the Indians had some speed, but they didn’t expect it to come from burly designated hitter Travis Hafner, who followed Asdrubal Cabrera’s run-scoring single in the fifth inning by beating out a fielder’s-choice grounder to drive in Cleveland’s fourth run.
And they knew the Indians played good defense, but they didn’t expect them to be positioned in just the right spots all game, stealing several would-be hits, including Ortiz’s rocket to the wall in the right-field corner in the eighth inning, and turning double plays to end the first, second and sixth innings.
“The only thing you can do is hit the ball,” Ortiz said. “After that, the baseball gods take over.”
The baseball gods toyed with the Red Sox on Monday night. With a runner on first in the first inning, the Indians employed the Ortiz shift, stationing Cabrera, the second baseman, in shallow right field, shortstop Jhonny Peralta on the second base side of the bag, and third baseman Casey Blake in the shortstop position.
Ortiz hit a wicked one-hopper to Cabrera, who gloved it, spun and threw to Blake at second. Blake fired wide of first, but Ryan Garko dived up the line, caught the one-hop throw and kept his foot on the bag for an unconventional double play.
“That’s about as good a double play as you’re going to see,” Cleveland Manager Eric Wedge said.
The Red Sox loaded the bases with none out in the second inning, but Jason Varitek flied to shallow left field, Manny Ramirez holding at third, and speedy Coco Crisp grounded into a short-to-first double play.
After Ortiz doubled to lead off the fourth, he couldn’t get out of the way of a Ramirez grounder and was hit in the left groin. Ortiz was out automatically, and the rally fizzled.
“When you’re running the bases, your instincts are to move forward to the next bag,” Ortiz said. “I took my normal lead, then my two steps [as the pitch was delivered] and the ball was right on me. There wasn’t much I could do.”
Varitek’s two-run homer to center in the seventh trimmed the lead to 4-2 and ended Boston’s 12-inning scoreless streak dating to Game 2, but reliever Jensen Lewis struck out Dustin Pedroia with a runner on to end the seventh, Rafael Betancourt threw a perfect eighth, and closer Joe Borowski added a perfect ninth.
“Loading the bases with no outs in the second and getting no runs, that killed us,” Ortiz said. “That was the game. If you don’t produce at the right time, it comes back to haunt you. You’ve got to put pressure on guys, especially in the playoffs.”
Now, the pressure is squarely on the Red Sox, who will turn to knuckleball-throwing Tim Wakefield in an effort to even the series tonight. If the Red Sox lose, they would face elimination Thursday night.
“This is not the end of the world, this is baseball,” reliever Mike Timlin said. “We’ve lost games all year. We’ve got to come back [tonight], tie our shoes, take batting practice, relax, have some fun, go out and play this game. We have an unbelievable team, let’s just go out and play.”