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10/21/2007 10:44:00 AM

ALCS: The Possible Dream

By Joe Lemire

There may soon be a new generation of Red Sox fan. Children in New England under the age of six are growing up in a world where the Sox are thrill-seeking comeback kids, from whom no lead is safe.

And that’s just plain ridiculous.

In the post-October 2004 world, Boston is almost expected to rally. David Ortiz is baseball’s Mr. Clutch -– how did he end up on the Red Sox?

With Boston’s 12-2 blowout of Cleveland last night -– and Game 7 beginning at 8:23 p.m. tonight -– we’re looking at two franchises in the midst of reinventing their identities. With apologies to the Cubs, the Sox have gone from Choke Artists No. 1 to a baseball power that scoffs at 3-1 series leads. Crazy stuff for a team that went 86 years between World Series titles.

While the Yankees regularly trot out big-game heroes like Yogi Berra and Bucky Dent to throw out the ceremonial first pitch, it’s amusing to see the nouveau riche Sox try the same with active players and very recent retirees. Bill Mueller threw out last night’s pitch, and Kevin Millar is slated to do the same tonight. Will Dave Roberts be in the house?

The Indians, who haven’t won the Series since 1948, were a bumbling bunch in the ’80s, spawning the movie “Major League,” improved in the ‘90s to an elite team that just couldn’t quite win the big one and have the chance tonight to clear those hurdles and, with a young core of players, assert themselves as the Next Big Thing in the American League.

Who will rally tonight?




Suffice to say, J.D. Drew’s contract was money well spent. Well, that’s the revisionist history this morning in Boston after Drew connected on the second most-important grand slam in Sox postseason history last night, on the three-year anniversary of No. 1: Johnny Damon’s 2004 ALCS Game 7 blast off the Yankees’ Javier Vazquez. (Honorable mention goes to Troy O’Leary’s granny in 1999’s ALDS Game 5, also against these Indians.) He even proved he wasn’t robotic with a gentle fist pump near second base.

But Drew didn’t stop there, adding an RBI single and finishing the day 3 for 5 with 5 RBIs—and that $70 million tab slightly more justified.

As a columnist in the Maine Sunday Telegram writes, Drew is worth every penny.

Same goes for the $36 million handed to Julio Lugo, who chimed in with a two-RBI double in the third. Of Boston’s first eight runs, seven came on RBIs from the much-maligned Drew and Lugo.

Heck, even Eric Gagne pitched a 1-2-3 ninth.

The biggest question for tonight, of course, is, Will Daisuke Matsuzaka live up to his reputation as a big game pitcher? The expectations are high and the pressure great.




Is Fausto Carmona hexed at Fenway? In his one regular-season start against the Sox in July – at Jacobs Field – he threw eight scoreless innings and got the win. But he’s far rockier in Boston. Last year he he gave up consecutive walk-off hits at Fenway in one of the worst weeks in baseball history.

And now in two ALCS starts this year, he’s given up 11 earned runs in six innings over two starts for a 16.50 ERA. It can’t be just the postseason pressure that’s getting to him – he was unhittable against Yankees, though he’s looked eminently hittable against the Sox.

One of Cleveland’s other young studs, Rafael Perez, had roughly the same thing happen to him, allowing three runs (two earned) in a third of an inning.

The Indians now turn to Jake Westbrook, whose pitch-to-contact approach was an effective counterpunch to the patient Boston lineup in Game 3. While Carmona’s sinker kept dancing out of the strike zone (four walks in two innings last night), Westbrook kept the ball in play and on the ground in his last start – a 14:3 groundball-to-flyball ratio. And he says he’s ready for tonight.

**********

  • In a shocking development, Paul Byrd, who wrote a book about his spiritual journey through pro baseball, reportedly bought nearly $25,000 of HGH from 2002-05. If you have an ESPN Insider account (I don’t), Buster Olney discusses the possible fallout.

  • Travis Hafner has endured a season-long slump. Save a first-inning homer off Josh Beckett in Game 1, he’s done nothing this series, batting just .130 (3-for-23). That was on display in the first last night when Curt Schilling grooved a straight 92-mph fastball – and left it up – and got Hafner to swing through it.

  • Speaking of Schilling, Mr. Drama King delivered another great postseason start.

  • Red Sox rookie outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury impressed in his first start of the series.

  • The Plain-Dealer’s Terry Pluto opens his playoff notebook.

  • The Globe’s Bob Ryan discusses the turn of events with Drew.

  • Boston’s whole lineup produced last night.

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    posted by SI.com | View comments |  
  • Comments:

    Posted: October 21, 2007 4:15 PM   by Anonymous
    You know what's "ridiculous?" The continuation of the lazy reporting known as this kind of crap given to the pre-2004 Red Sox. This is the same team that rallied from 0-2 (in a five game series) to the Indians, 0-2 to the A's, 1-3 to the Angels in '86 and eventually 0-3 to the Yankees. If you want to go back further in the Ignored History Department, take a look and see what they had to do to storm back in 1978 to even force the one game playoff Bucky Dent game. This team has come back from deep holes like no other, but the only thing the lazy writers remember is Bill Buckner. I dont know if they can complete it tonight, but coming back from 1-3 to tie this thing is closer to the norm than the exception.
    Posted: October 21, 2007 6:51 PM   by Anonymous
    this is a great blog! :-)
    Posted: October 21, 2007 9:03 PM   by Anonymous
    These Choke Artists, remind me of the BCS Committee who cannot figure out how to implement a playoff system for College Football.
    Posted: October 21, 2007 9:04 PM   by Anonymous
    You blog owners are real funny.
    Posted: October 21, 2007 9:05 PM   by Anonymous
    You ignore real comments, to manipulate your agenda. Good Job.
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