ALCS Game 2: Gagne Gamble Garrottes Sox Extra-Inning Effort

When is Terry Francona going to stop with the Eric Gagne experiment?

An intelligent person recognizes when they have made a mistake, makes the necessary and requisite adjustments to their strategy, and then executes their amended game plan. So why can’t Francona simply walk away from Eric Gagne? Why was he brought into a tie game in extra innings in the League Championship Series? It was tantamount to grabbing a can of gasoline in the hopes of putting out a fire!

Please don’t tell me that Jon Lester had to be held in reserve for Game 4… Wakefield is ready to go and if he is unavailable, Josh Beckett Can pitch—especially after having thrown only eighty pitches in the Red Sox rout in Game 1.

Gagne has no confidence on the mound… THAT fact was evident before he threw his first pitch last night. I can see it. My wife can see it. The ENTIRE world can see it—except for Tito, apparently. The former Dogers closer served as a garrotte on the Red Sox Game 2 aspirations last night, striking out Casey Blake but then allowing a Grady Sizemore single and walking the immortal Asdrubal Cabrera.

Gagne was then pulled in favor of Javier Lopez—who failed to retire a batter—but his (Gagne’s) ineffectiveness set the stage for the inning.

When all was said and done the Indians scored seven runs in the eleventh inning to win the game, 13-8… and Trot Nixon was being hailed as a hero—for hitting a ball that wouldn’t have broken an egg.

Game 2 promised to be a pitcher’s duel before the first pitch was thrown, but both starting pitchers struggled in the cold October air and turned the game over to their respective bullpens in the fifth inning.
Curt Schilling and Fausto Carmona both had rough nights at Fenway Park last night…

Red Sox starter Curt Schilling did not have his good stuff last night—he allowed five runs on nine hits (including two home runs) in just 4 2/3 innings pitched. He threw a LOT of g-o-o-d pitches.. unfortunately, when he threw a bad pitch it was hit REALLY hard. Said Schilling after the game: “Everything about this one falls on me… this was all about me coming up small in a big game”.

Meanwhile, Indians starter Fausto Carmona struggled mightily with his control—constantly pitching from behind in the count. He surrendered four runs on four hits and FIVE walks in four-plus innings pitched. And while only one of the batters who walked came around to score, the lack of control caused him to throw 100 pitches—51 strikes and 49 balls—in only four innings… thus, his removal in the bottom of the fifth inning. So much for the vaunted 1-2 punch at the top of the Cleveland rotation—after the first two games, Sabathia and Carmona have combined to pitch 8 1/3 innings to the tune of a 12.97 ERA.

The game started poorly for Boston… Schilling got ahead of leadoff hitter Grady Sizemore 0-2, but later surrendered a long double to the Indians young star. Two batters later, cleanup hitter Victor Martinez doubled off the Green Monster to put The Tribe ahead, 1-0.

The Red Sox scored a set in the bottom of the third inning and handed Schilling a 3-1 lead as they started the fourth inning. Leadoff hitter Coco Crisp singled and, after Julio Lugo struck out, Dustin Pedroia walked… then, after Kevin Youkilis struck out, David Ortiz reached base on an infield single to load the bases. Manny Ramirez then set a post-season record by drawing his third bases-loaded walk in one series to tie the game 1-1. Mike Lowell then singled to right field to plate Pedroia and Ortiz to give the Red Sox a 3-1 advantage.
Jhonny Peralta hit a three-run home run in the fourth inning to give Cleveland a 4-3 lead…

The lead lasted about ten minutes. With one out in the top of the fourth inning, Martinez and Ryan Garko hit back-to-back singles in advance of Jhonny Peralta’s LONG home run to center field as the Indians jumped back on top, 4-3.

Sizemore then homered in the top of the fifth inning to extend the lead to 5-3. After Travis Hafner and Martinez hit consecutive singles with two outs,, Francona pulled Schilling in favor of Manny Delcarmen. The Jamaica Plain native retired Garko to end the inning.
Manny Ramirez homered into the Red Sox bullpen to tie the game in the fifth inning…

In the bottom of the fifth inning, Youkilis singled and was forced out at second base… David Ortiz hustled out of the batter’s box and beat the relay throw to first by a whisker. Manny Ramirez then hit an 0-2 pitch into the deepest corner of the Red Sox bullpen to tie the game at five apiece. Mike Lowell’s long home run into the Green Monster seats provided the Olde Towne Team with a one run lead entering the sixth inning.

But once again, the Red Sox lead lasted all of about ten minutes. Peralta walked to lead off the top of the sixth… and the next batter, Kenny Lofton, singled him to third base. RF Franklin Gutierrez the grounded out to shortstop to drive Peralta home with the tying run. Hideki Okajima relieved Delcarmen and struck out Casey Blake. After a walk and an infield hit, Travis Hafner hit a line shot towards right field… but the Red Sox were playing a defensive alignment with the second baseman shifted approximately fifteen feet deeper than his normal defensive position and the ball settled into Pedroia’s glove for the third out.

The game was then taken over by the bullpens—until the top of the eleventh inning.

Cleveland reliever Jensen Lewis retired six in a row, Rafael Betancourt retired seven-out-of-eight, and Tom Mastny retired all three batters he faced. The only Red Sox threat in the late innings happened in the ninth inning when Dustin Pedroia singled and was pinch-run for by Jacoby Ellsbury… who then stole second base. Kevin Youkilis then ripped a hard line drive into left-center field… but the ball was too-well hit and hung up for Sizemore (who made a relatively easy catch).

Okajima retired four in a row before tunring the ball over to Mike Timlin—who retired all three batters he faced. Jonathan Papelbon allowed a hit and issued an intentional walk in the ninth inning but got out of the inning and then retired the side in order in the tenth.

And then came the fateful eleventh inning.

After Blake struck out, Gagne surrendered the single to Sizemore and walked Cabrera. When Trot Nixon was announced as a pinch hitter, Terry Francona called on Javy Lopez in relief of Gagne. Nixon hit a dying quail into center field that dropped in front of Crisp to score the lead (and game-winning) run… but the onslaught had just begun. Lopez threw a fastball BEHIND Martinez for a wild pitch to score Cabrera… after Martinez was intentionally walked, Garko singled to drive home pinch-runner Jason Michaels… Peralta doubled in Martinez… and Gutierrez hit a three-run home run to finish the drubbing.

It was PAINFUL to watch.

The game lasted five hours and 14 minutes… combined, the pitchers threw 416 pitches .

With a walk and a single in his first two at-bats, Ortiz reached base in ten consecutive at-bats tying the postseason record held by Billy Hatcher of the 1990 Cincinnati Reds.

Ramirez’ home run was his 23rd post-season long-ball, breaking the record he previously shared with Yankees CF Bernie Williams.

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