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Beckett's focus, the turning point, Manny's nonsense

Posted: Friday October 19, 2007 1:12AM; Updated: Friday October 19, 2007 1:11AM
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Josh Beckett did not need Terry Francona's help to block out the distractions in Game 5.
Josh Beckett did not need Terry Francona's help to block out the distractions in Game 5.
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1. The Indians threw everything at Josh Beckett to knock him off his game. They trotted out his ex-squeeze, Danielle Peck, to sing The National Anthem and God Bless America. Kenny Lofton cursed at him, emptying the benches. The first two batters were on the corners with nobody out. Beckett never backed down. With eight more dominating innings, he improved his stellar postseason record to 5-2 with a 1.78 ERA with 73 strikeouts in 65 2/3 innings. The guy defines big game pitcher.

Of the last four 10-strikeout games in the postseason, Beckett has three, the rest of baseball one. His third career 10-K postseason game tied him with Sandy Koufax and Jim Palmer. Only Randy Johnson and Bob Gibson, with five, and John Smoltz and Mike Mussina, with four, have more 10-K games in the postseason. And the guy is only 27.

2. When did ALCS Game 5 get away from the Indians? When manager Eric Wedge sent a tiring C.C. Sabathia back out for the seventh inning after throwing 106 pitches. Sabathia wasn't going to get through the inning, not with that pitch count this deep into the year and not with the top of the order coming up. Wedge had Tom Mastny and the unhittable Rafael Betancourt warming as Dustin Pedroia opened with a double. Why not start the inning with Betancourt and keep the game at 2-1 instead of waiting for the expected crisis to develop? Wedge said he didn't want to use Betancourt for two innings. "That weakens us over the weekend," he said, looking ahead. His plan was to get Sabathia through three more batters, culminated by David Ortiz. "It just didn't work out," Wedge said. No, it didn't. Wedge let a one-run game at home -- with an off day coming up -- get out of hand.

3. There comes a point when this "Manny Being Manny" nonsense stops being amusing and becomes embarrassing. Last year's end-of-season bailout on his team might qualify. And now you have his surrender at home plate in the first inning and his failure to run out a near home run in the third.

First, Ramirez, with the Red Sox playing an elimination game mind you, had several choices heading home as Indians catcher Victor Martinez reached to catch a high, strong throw from Franklin Gutierrez: veer toward the inside of the base path around Martinez, plow into Martinez, or at least slide around Martinez and force him to make a catch-and-tag. Never occurred to me that one option was total surrender. That's right, Ramirez flat out conceded the out. He jogged home in a "tag me" offering to Martinez. In the third he got burned assuming his flyball off the top of the outfield wall was a home run. He has to be running with at least enough energy to be on second base, but he was in full-blown home run trot on a ball that never left the yard.

Ramirez did speak to reporters after the game, but when someone asked him to explain what happened on the play at the plate, he stood up from the clubhouse couch and walked away smiling without comment, ending the interview.

4. Cleveland assistant GM Chris Antonetti has emerged as the leading candidate to replace Walt Jocketty as GM of the St. Louis Cardinals. Antonetti has been a rising star among executives and is in a position to create parameters of the job the way he sees fit, which would include any arrangement that would prevent Cardinals vice president Jeff Luhnow from infringing on the GM's authority. If not, Antonetti can wait for the next offer or continue in Cleveland as the eventual successor to GM Mark Shapiro.

5. When all of this is over, the Rockies have a long list of thank you notes to write. On the list are Willie Randolph and the Mets for their historic collapse, umpire Tim McClelland for allowing Matt Holliday's phantom run in the tiebreaker game, Trevor Hoffman for blowing two Padres wins in the final three days, and Cole Hamels for wearing a long-sleeve shirt on a hot afternoon that facilitated his ineffectiveness that started Colorado on its 7-0 postseason run. A Rockies World Series wouldn't be possible without them.

But at the top of the list is Tony Gwynn Jr., the Milwaukee outfielder and son of Mr. Padre who hit the run-scoring triple off Trevor Hoffman on the final Saturday of the season with the Padres one out away from a win that would have eliminated the Rockies. Until then Gwynn had never driven in a run in the ninth inning in his career.

The Rockies would have gone home very happy with a nice 89-win season, a major step forward for the franchise. Instead here they are in the World Series. What a great game.

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