10/16/07 12:56 AM ET
Bats grind to halt as Sox in 2-1 hole to Tribe in ALCS
By Ian Browne / MLB.com
At this point and time, however, the Red Sox aren't in a position to let frustration linger. Now trailing, 2-1, in this best-of-seven series, what they need badly is a win in Tuesday night's Game 4 behind the knuckleball offerings of Tim Wakefield.
Instead of dwelling on a tough loss, the Red Sox already seemed focused on a rebound performance.
"We have to play a quality game [Tuesday]," said Red Sox catcher Jason Varitek. "That's what we have to focus on. We have to focus on us, just like we have all year, and focus on the way we're playing -- and things will happen. The only thing we can control is our effort and what we do and how we go about things."
The Red Sox will try to avoid some of the misfortune that crushed them in Game 3. Hindered by three inning-ending double-play balls, the Red Sox simply couldn't get the job done against Westbrook, who induced 14 ground-ball outs.
"We didn't hit in a timely manner and we didn't get the breaks we needed," said Red Sox first baseman Kevin Youkilis. "A couple of things here and there, we could have capitalized more."
As for Daisuke Matsuzaka, his second postseason start was eerily similar to his first one. He couldn't quite put hitters away. Over 4 2/3 innings, he surrendered six hits and four runs, walking two and striking out six.
Matsuzaka was a picture of frustration after the game. He sat at his locker for nearly an hour -- breaking up the solitude only briefly by eating some of the postgame spread at a table in the middle of the clubhouse. As it turns out, Matsuzaka opted not to speak to the media.
Instead, he left a statement.
"As you saw, I allowed them to score first and I wasn't able to hang on after giving up the lead," Matsuzaka said. "I wanted to do everything I could today to win and hand it over to Wakefield in a good way."
Meanwhile, Westbrook did a number on the Red Sox, holding them scoreless for the first six innings. Varitek finally ended that by crushing a two-run homer to center in the seventh.
After that, the Red Sox just kept hoping for another clutch hit. But it never came.
"We were one hit away from having a chance," said Varitek.
Throughout the night, it wasn't as if the Red Sox lacked chances. In the second, for example, J.D. Drew hit a grounder to first that Ryan Garko literally fell down on before making a play. That made it bases loaded and nobody out. But Westbrook did what he needed to, getting a shallow flyout to left from Varitek and an inning-ending 6-3 double play off the bat of Coco Crisp.
"Our offense needs to just move forward and try to produce," said Sox slugger David Ortiz, who went 1-for-3. "We had bases loaded and nobody out, that just killed us. That was the difference in the game right there. You have to put pressure on those guys. That's how the games go, especially in the playoffs. If you don't produce at the right times, it comes back to haunt you."
Consider the Red Sox thoroughly haunted. Especially by what transpired the rest of the night.
As if the lost opportunity didn't sting enough, Kenny Lofton took Matsuzaka deep in the bottom of the inning, belting a two-run shot that landed on the top of the wall before bouncing over it. It was Lofton's seventh career postseason homer, and it came on a 93-mph fastball over the heart of the plate.
With the big boppers coming up in the fourth, the Red Sox looked to even the score. Ortiz led off with a double high off the wall in left. But in a cruel twist of fate, Manny Ramirez's hard single hit Ortiz on the way to left-center. The play was ruled a single and a putout by Indians shortstop Jhonny Peralta.
Perhaps Peralta would have made a play anyway, so it will never be known exactly how bad a break the Red Sox got.
"The ball was hit pretty sharply, it just hit David," said Varitek. "We had some other opportunities. That didn't necessarily make the difference. We had some other opportunities we could have cashed in on."
Mike Lowell then belted a towering drive to left that was about 10 feet to the left of the foul pole. That only served as more evidence of the kind of frustration Boston was experiencing.
While the Red Sox couldn't get the big hit they needed against Westbrook, the Indians again rallied off Matsuzaka in the fifth.
Casey Blake got things started with a one-out single to left. Grady Sizemore drew a walk. Asdrubal Cabrera slammed an RBI single up the middle to make it 3-0. With runners at the corners and one out, Matsuzaka badly wanted a double play off the bat of Travis Hafner. Dice-K almost got it, thanks to Dustin Pedroia, who ranged toward the middle to get a grounder before stepping on second and then firing to first. But Hafner just beat it out, and Cleveland had a 4-0 edge.
Matsuzaka then gave up a bloop single to Victor Martinez on pitch No. 101, and he was removed in favor of Mike Timlin.
"It's a lot of pitches," said Red Sox manager Terry Francona. "It's a lot of deep counts. Saying that, he made the one glaring mistake to Lofton for the two-run home run. I thought he threw some good pitches."
Once Matsuzaka left, the bullpen stepped up, at least giving the Sox a chance to come back. In fact, the Boston bullpen didn't give up a hit. Timlin got four outs, as did Hideki Okajima. Manny Delcarmen worked two-thirds of an inning, striking out two.
But the lack of timely hitting ended up being the downfall.
The last time the Red Sox were in the ALCS was 2004, and they dug a 3-0 hole against the Yankees before living to tell about it.
"We've been in worse situations than this and have bounced back and gotten it done," said Ortiz.
Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.