Notes: Beckett to start World Series
Red Sox will turn to ace when Rockies come to Fenway
BOSTON -- Red Sox right-hander Josh Beckett, who has been the definition of an ace in this postseason, proclaimed to manager Terry Francona that he was good to go should he be needed out of the bullpen in Sunday night's Game 7 of the American League Championship Series. Francona said he would take Beckett up on his offer, but only within reason.
As it turns out, the right spot never came up for Beckett, though he did warm up at one point.
Now, the Red Sox will have him fresh and ready for Game 1 of the World Series on Wednesday against the Rockies.
"Generally when you've got somebody like myself in the bullpen and I start warming up, there's a situation that basically has me coming into the game," said Beckett. "And then the situation changes, and then it was kind of like, 'Sit down, don't worry about it.'"
The Red Sox were instead able to get six outs from Hideki Okajima and six more from closer Jonathan Papelbon.
Beckett was named MVP of the series, going 2-0 with a 1.93 ERA.
Aside from Curt Schilling, who pitched Saturday's Game 6, the only member of Francona's 11-man staff who was not available for the series finale was knuckleballer Tim Wakefield.
Francona thought that Wakefield was best served throwing a side session before Sunday's game, with the hope that the Red Sox would win Game 7, in an attempt to get the veteran right-hander on course to start a game in the World Series. That hope came to fruition. The Sox will likely announce their pitching rotation for the World Series on Monday.
Wakefield, coming off a back/shoulder injury, was not at the ideal point to be pitching in relief.
"Just because of what he's gone through pitching, I think we felt like it was in his best interest," Francona said. "And we're not trying to put the cart before the horse, but getting him up quickly won't work. I think we're all hopeful that we'll have more baseball to play, and that's our best way to go about it."
Ellsbury again gets the call: Despite Coco Crisp's strong regular-season history (6-for-11) against Game 7 starter Jake Westbrook, Francona went with Jacoby Ellsbury in center field for the second night in a row. Ellsbury went 1-for-3 and scored two runs.
Crisp's career success against Westbrook did not carry over into Game 3, when he went 0-for-3 and left three men on base.
"I think our lineup tonight is just the way to go," Francona said. "I'm aware of his history. He's just been having such a tough time. He didn't swing the bat over there very well against him. We played a pretty crisp game last night with the guys we had. I just didn't want to make a change and go back the other way."
Crisp came on for defense and wound up making a spectacular catch to end the game and clinch the pennant.
Boost for Lugo? Perhaps Julio Lugo's two-run double to left field in Game 6 will jump-start his cold bat. The two RBIs were Lugo's first of the postseason.
Francona admitted that he thought about going with Alex Cora for Game 6, but Lugo wound up rewarding his faith.
"I think that was huge for him," Francona said. "Again, we don't want to make changes just for the sake of making changes."
Lugo went 1-for-3 in Game 7.
Though Cora has appeared in just two games in the postseason and has no at-bats, Francona praised him for his leadership.
"AC has been an unbelievable leader throughout this playoff and he hasn't gotten in much," Francona said. "But he's on the top step, he's got people loose. He knows the buttons to push to get guys -- to either jab at them or make them laugh. It's very much appreciated by me and the staff."
Game 7 nerves: There is always a bit of a unique feel before a winner-take-all Game 7. In fact, the Red Sox experienced a similar feeling leading up to Games 5 and 6, since a loss in either of those would have meant an end to the season.
Francona tried to sum it up.
"There's a lot of different adjectives," said the manager. "It's exciting, there's some anxiety. It's awesome. Your heart's in your throat, but you wouldn't exchange that feeling for anything. That's kind of the way it is."
By the end of the night, the nerves were entirely worth it.
Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.