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Tuesday's five cuts

Indians 'pen, Crisp's ineffectivenes and TBS disaster

Posted: Wednesday October 17, 2007 12:38AM; Updated: Wednesday October 17, 2007 12:38AM
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Jensen Lewis has been a solid option out of the bullpen for the Indians in the playoffs.
Jensen Lewis has been a solid option out of the bullpen for the Indians in the playoffs.
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Taking my cuts . . .

1. The biggest difference between Cleveland and Boston in the ALCS? The depth in the bullpens. It's been a weird series in which six of the eight starting pitchers never got an out in the sixth inning. "I don't know about weird," Boston righthander Curt Schilling said. "I'd call it disappointing."

But the Indians have survived the challenge of asking the bullpen to get so many outs night after night because Indians manager Eric Wedge has far more good options than Terry Francona, his Red Sox counterpart. Jensen Lewis, Rafael Perez and Rafael Betancourt give Wedge length and flexibility -- they can pitch multiple innings and don't need to be matched up against hitters who bat from the like side that they throw. Francona's options to settle a game on the brink of getting away from his team are an unpolished Manny Delcarmen, a 41-year-old Mike Timlin and a fatigued Hideki Okajima, who in a perfect world should be saved for the eighth innings.

What really harmed Boston from being a solid postseason team were the abject collapse of Eric Gagne and the unavailability of rookie phenom Clay Buchholz, whose shoulder was so tired at the end of the season that Boston's decision to keep him off the postseason roster was a no-brainer.

2. Loyalty to veterans only goes so far, especially this time of year. Francona must bench centerfielder Coco Crisp in Game 5 in favor of rookie Jacoby Ellsbury. It's already one game too late. Crisp has been close to an automatic out this postseason, an easy bailout spot for pitchers as they work through the Boston lineup. Looking overmatched at the plate, Crisp is batting .192 this postseason with only one walk and only one run scored.

Come to think of it, the lower third of the Boston lineup has rolled over far too easily in this series. The 7-8-9 spots aren't even National League quality. Jason Varitek, Doug Mirabelli, Crisp and Julio Lugo have combined to hit .170 (8-for-47).

3. Like most teams, the Indians run a continuous loop of video of the opposing starting pitcher on clubhouse monitors before a game. The video typically shows the pitcher in his most recent start or a start against their own team. But the Indians tried something new before ALCS Game 4. A message on the clubhouse whiteboard said it all: "Wakefield Giving Up Hits. Ch. 18." The channel showed nothing but Tim Wakefield getting raked.

"I guess," Cleveland centerfield Grady Sizemore said, "it makes you think, This guy gives up nothing but hits."

Sure looked that way in the fifth inning.

4. Hey, nice postseason for TBS, huh? Aramis Ramirez, Derek Jeter, Vlad Guerrero . . . sure, they had it tough, but if it's any consolation to them, TBS had it worse. With four Division Series and the NLCS, TBS was looking at a maximum inventory of 27 games. Instead, it got just one more than the minimum, 17. It got the New York, Los Angeles, Chicago and Philadelphia markets knocked out in the first round. It got the lowest rated LCS series ever. (Joke from one GM to Arizona GM Josh Byrnes after his team lost: The good news is nobody saw it.) And the telecasts? Virtually unlistenable, with Chip Caray leading the way with his plethora of mistakes (his insistence that Jeter bunt with his team down two in the fifth was an insult to baseball fans) and an almost total lack of information that was either interesting or in proper context (why give us save stats for middle relievers when they come into a game?).

There's only one October? With TBS, we should be so lucky.

5. Yes, the Rockies' 21-1 run is amazing, but please don't shortchange them by suggesting it's something that's unexplainable or weirdly freakish. There is a simple reason why they are so hot and it's what has carried winning teams for a hundred years: pitching. Holliday's chin, Helton's postseason wait, Tulowitzki's arm, Matsui's comeback . . . all of it nice, but window dressing to the real story.

The Rockies made it to the World Series on a 22-game stretch in which they pitched to a 2.80 ERA, allowed just two unearned runs, walked 2.9 batters per nine innings (12 percent below league average) and got wins from 10 different pitchers. That, folks, is how the Rockies roll.