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ALCS: Sit Wakefield, start Beckett
An open letter to Terry Francona:
Come to your senses, and start Josh Beckett tonight. Your season rests upon it.
Starting Tim Wakefield, as you insist you're going to do, is putting a lot of faith in cortisone, history and baseball's most unpredictable pitch. Beckett, on the other hand, is the likely Cy Young winner, who has been dominant in two postseason outings; Wakefield hasn't pitched in 17 days and gave up four or more runs in each of his five September starts.
Terry, your players blew it last night with baserunning gaffes and horrific situational hitting, but you have the chance to put the Red Sox in the best position to win tonight's game, even the series and set yourself up for a run into the World Series.
Last night was not your fault. You managed the bullpen well, getting 3.1 scoreless and hitless innings of relief from Mike Timlin, Hideki Okajima and Manny Delcarmen. You didn't even have to use Jonathan Papelbon.
Your team lost the game in the first three innings. David Ortiz grounded into a double play in the first, hurting a chance to rattle Jake Westbrook in the first frame. Then, the real backbreaker: the top of the second. Manny Ramirez and Mike Lowell did their jobs, drawing a walk and hitting a single, and J.D. Drew reached base about the only way he can these days: on a throwing error.
Then Jason Varitek, with the bases loaded and nobody out, was unable to get a run home. No base hit, no walk, no hit-by-pitch, no catcher's interference and not even a fly ball deep enough to score Manny from third. Nope, he flew out much too shallow. Then Coco Crisp, with one out, can get a run home by any of the same scenarios as Varitek. And instead? Crisp hits into a 6-4-3 double play.
In the bottom of the second, Daisuke Matsuzaka gave up a homer to Kenny Lofton of all people –- somehow, of his seven postseason HRs, four have come against the Sox -– but otherwise the Dice Man was OK last night. Not great, but better than he was against the Angels and good enough to win if the offense had been its usual self.
Again your hitters failed you in the top of the third. After the Indians took that 2-0 lead, your lineup went out on six pitches lasting just two minutes. The Sox showed some life in the fourth with Ortiz leading off the proceedings with an opposite-field double, but he foolishly ran to third on a groundball hit right to the shortstop and, in the least agile move by any professional athlete, he failed to avoid the ball and was called out.
By then the team was lifeless anyway, save Varitek's two-run homer, but Westbrook was grooving. Of the 20 outs he induced, 14 came on groundouts, and three each on strikeouts and flyouts.
Back to the Wakefield/Beckett decision: OK, Terry, before you protest further, I understand the counterarguments. Few pitches in recent years have performed well on three days rest in the playoffs (according to Tom Verducci, those pitchers are 30-41), and pitching Beckett tonight weakens the pitching matchups for Games 5 and 6. But here's what I say: The most notable exception to the pitching-on-three-days-rest rule is Beckett himself in the 2003 World Series, and there may not be a Game 6 if you don't win tonight. If you weren't thinking about this as a possibility, why did you take him out after 80 pitches in Game 1?
Besides, it'll still be C.C. Sabathia vs. Curt Schilling and Fausto Carmona vs. Dice-K in 5 and 6. Sure, both games favor the Tribe, but Schilling typically rises to the occasion and Game 6 would be back at Fenway, where you already knocked around Carmona.
So you're worried about Schilling pitching on four days' rest and think he needs an extra day? You could even start Wakefield in Game 5. What's most important here is getting as many Beckett starts as possible.
Need anything more, Tito? How about losing Varitek's bat by starting Wakefield? I know that the Captain isn't the hitter he used to be, but his has-been self is still much better than the never-was, Doug Mirabelli.
Plus, with the new-fangled playoff schedule, Beckett can come back in Game 7 on normal rest!
To me, it seems like a no-brainer, but I'm just an armchair blogger in New York. You say there isn't much difference between a 2-1 or 1-2 series. Your credentials are certainly more impressive (ahem, the first World Series win for the Sox in 86 years) than mine, but as long as Beckett wants the ball -– and I'd be shocked if a competitor like him didn't come to your office and ask for it – then I think you should reconsider.
Labels: Indians-Red Sox
posted by SI.com | View comments |
Tim Wakefield is a big reason why the Red Sox made it to the playoffs, and he deserves to start a game. Preferably Game 5, allowing Beckett to pitch Game 4 (on three days rest) and if necessary, Game 7 (on regular rest).
Is there a letter to the Indians?
You make it sound as if Cleveland and Jake Westbrooke had nothing to do with the Red Sox defeat last night. Get a grip. Boston is getting beat by the better team.
I stopped reading after you said Drew reached on a throwing error. It was a ball that was booted by the 1B... there wasn't even a throw made. You may have written a fine column after that, but your credibility was shot after a silly mistake like that.
Asdrubel is actually a name from the ancient civilization of the Phoenicians, who were prosperous from 900 to 1200 B.C.
The whole baseball world revolves around Boston and the Yanks, apparently...everything from their point of view...if the Indians win the series, it'll be because Boston lost, not because the Indians won...same thing when the Yankees lost to the Indians instead of the Indians beating the Yanks...
Anyone want to bet that if the Indians win tonight, the whole story will be about how Francona blew it and din't start Beckett? Oh, I'm sorry, I meant if Boston loses...cause it's always from Boston's Point of View...
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