(Posted on Frostburg's The Bottom Line here)
Last Tuesday (10/16) the Cleveland Indians beat the Boston Red Sox 7-3 to increase their American League Championship Series lead to three games to one. "Why should we panic?" said Manny Ramirez a day after the game. "We've got a great team."
Ramirez received plenty of criticism for his easygoing and laid-back comments, but apparently he knew what he was talking about. After taking Games 5 and 6 in the ALCS to force a winner-take-all Game 7 in Boston, the Red Sox completed the comeback with an 11-2 win over Cleveland on Sunday night.
Dustin Pedroia homered and drove in five runs for the Red Sox, who return to the World Series for the second time in four years and the first time since their successful championship run in 2004. Kevin Youkilis went 3-5 with a two-run homer, and Jason Varitek added three more hits to help pace a Red Sox lineup that accumulated most of its 15 hits against Indians starter Jake Westbrook and an overworked Rafael Betancourt.
Looking shaky at times, Daisuke Matsuzaka managed to earn the win for the Red Sox after giving up only two runs in five innings. Matsuzaka, nicknamed Dice-K, gave up an RBI double to Ryan Garko in the fourth and a sacrifice fly to Grady Sizemore in the fifth. But after Dice-K left the game, Hideki Okajima and Jonathan Papelbon combined for four scoreless innings out of the bullpen. Papelbon also managed to earn a two-inning save.
Leading 3-2 in the seventh inning, Pedroia homered to deep left-center to put the Red Sox up 5-2. The Indians led off the top of the eighth with two consecutive singles off of Okajima, but Papelbon relieved him and shut the door on the Indians rally by retiring Travis Hafner, Victor Martinez and Garko in succession.
With the momentum entirely on their side, the Red Sox blew the game open in the bottom of the eighth. JD Drew singled home Mike Lowell, and Dustin Pedroia hit a line-drive double into the left-center gap to score three more runs. Youkilis followed with a two-run homer that increased the lead to 11-2, sealing both the ALCS victory for the Red Sox and the Indians' fate.
The series loss for the Indians only adds to the frustration of a franchise that hasn't won a title since 1948.
The Red Sox will now face the surprising Colorado Rockies when the World Series begins on October 24th in Boston. Colorado has won 21 of its last 22 games, including impressive series sweeps of the Philadelphia Phillies and Arizona Diamondbacks. The Rockies' exciting run has sparked a rallying cry of "Rocktober" from fans hoping for the franchise's first-ever championship.
In Game 1, the Rockies will hand the ball to starter Jeff Francis, who will surely be opposed by Josh Beckett, the ace of the Red Sox staff.
Colorado has been idle since its NLCS victory over the D-Backs on October 15th. Only time will tell whether the time off will help or hurt the Rockies and their recent stretch of outstanding play.