10/22/07 2:03 AM ET
Chess Match: Game 7 moves favor Sox
Francona pulls Okajima just in time; Lofton staying put hurts
By Jason Beck / MLB.com
The Indians made the right calls to keep the game close -- enough to give themselves a chance. However, the decision not to send Kenny Lofton home with the potential tying run in the seventh inning might well be scrutinized on both sides for a while.
The Red Sox made enough right calls to keep themselves ahead. A potential third inning for lefty Hideki Okajima created some stress in the eighth, but closer Jonathan Papelbon showed his value in a clutch situation.Re-run
The situation: Bottom of the fourth, one out, Jacoby Ellsbury on first and Julio Lugo at the plate in a 3-1 game.
The decision: Manager Terry Francona puts on consecutive hit-and-run plays with Lugo and Dustin Pedroia.The outcome: Lugo takes advantage of the hit-and-run perfectly, grounding a single exactly where Indians second baseman Asdrubal Cabrera had been before he broke for the bag with Ellsbury running. The second hit-and-run backfires when Pedroia hits a double-play ball right where Cabrera was breaking. The analysis: Those are the chances a manager takes when he becomes aggressive in trying to get a fourth run in.
Strange bounce, quick call
The situation: Top of the seventh, one out and Lofton on second in a 3-2 game.
The decision: Indians third-base coach Joel Skinner tentatively holds up Lofton at third when Franklin Gutierrez hits a ground ball just inside third base and off the camera well.The outcome: With runners at the corners and one out, Casey Blake grounds the next pitch to Mike Lowell at third to start an inning-ending double play. The analysis: Replays suggested Skinner wasn't definitive in his signal, but he certainly wasn't sending him. The ball bounced into shallow left field, but it's Manny Ramirez in left. The Indians' general philosophy for most of the series was to force the defender to make a play, but it had to be a quick, decisive signal to do it. Moreover, Blake batted just .190 with runners in scoring position during the regular season.
"Well, it's a tough corner out there when the ball heads down that way and ricochets off. It's tough to read if it's ricocheting back to the shortstop or to left-center. I think it was just a tough read for him." -- Manager Eric Wedge, on Skinner's decision not to send Lofton
Call on Paps
The situation: Top of the eighth, a 5-2 score and the top of the Indians' order coming up.
The decision: Francona keeps Okajima in the game for a third inning of work rather than start the frame with Papelbon.The outcome: Back-to-back singles from Grady Sizemore and Cabrera bring the potential tying run to the plate, forcing Francona to bring in Papelbon for a six-out save. Papelbon closes it out in the ninth. The analysis: Papelbon hadn't pitched two full innings in a game all season until he did it in Game 2 of the American League Championship Series. On the other hand, only once had Okajima pitched an outing in which he sat down and got up twice, and that was on July 7.
"We didn't want to just get [Josh] Beckett up for one or two hitters. There was talk before the game about not creating a spot for him, but if we needed him, we would go to him. Oki was throwing the ball very well, and we knew if we'd go to Pap in the seventh, and it was a long seventh or eighth, we maybe would close with Beckett." -- Francona, on stretching out Okajima and whether or not to use Beckett
Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.