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As The Series Turns
As The Series Turns
As he headed into game three of the ALDS last night, Paul Cousineau expected a shootout. And somewhere along the line, a pitcher's duel broke out. Jake was vintage Jake, double play balling his way out of jams, and the bullpen was ... well ... the bullpen. After two crazy games to start this series, this felt like a regular Indians win. This is how we beat people. And we've got a chance to really twist the dagger tonight in game four.
Heading into the Jake for Game 3, I was ready for a shootout. The way that the two offenses had battered some exceptional pitchers (Josh Beckett’s intact reputation as a postseason stud being the exception), with Westbrook’s and Dice-K’s penchant for baserunners and struggles in the ALDS, I wanted to tell the fireworks guy to pay attention.
Then a funny thing happened – a pitcher’s duel broke out.
Jake was vintage Jake, the best escape artist since Houdini. Relying on a steady diet of smoke, mirrors, and sinkers, he induced grounder after grounder (15 of his 20 outs) and got out of every jam he placed himself in until Varitek finally chased him in the 7th. The Bad Jake that we saw in the Bronx was a distant memory as Good Jake shut down the potent Boston offense that had its way with C.C. and Fausto.
On the other side, Dice-K battled his way through 101 pitches, only making mistakes to the ageless K-Love and being touched up by a mini-rally that briefly reduced the churning in the acids in my stomach. The Boston bullpen came in and did what they were unable to ultimately do on Saturday, which is to keep the Indians’ hitters at bay.
But the story was Jake and the bullpen.
After Jake exited to a raucous ovation, Jensen Lewis came in and pulled a Jensen Lewis – he struck out Pedroia and rather simply at that. With that K, the stage was set up perfectly for Senor Slo-Mo and JoeBo to lock down the final 6 outs and send everyone home happy. While it certainly appeared that easy and nice on paper, the actual final two innings could have made me lose my appetite permanently (will I ever have a normal stomach again?) and had me glued to my seat in the Mezzanine because (as a worrisome Clevelander) my Mom, who was sitting next to me, convinced me that every time we stood up, something bad would happen. So there I sat, straining to see between the people in front of me, going Jerry Tarkanian on the rally towel that they gave out. Of course, the fears were ultimately unfounded and the game was won, bringing on the jubilation and the litany of car horns and screams that accompany October baseball at the Jake.
But the Game 3 win represented something bigger and I don’t just mean a 2-1 lead…though that doesn’t hurt. What happened may simply be an extension of what happened in the 11th inning on Saturday night as this Indians team has now stood up to the Red Sox and beat them both coming back and staying ahead for good, protecting a lead.
They’re up 2-1 with C.C. and Faustastic throwing (probably) as poorly as they can pitch in the first two games.
They’ve beat them in a marathon game and they’ve beat them in a tight pitchers’ duel where every pitch, every foul ball, every moment was fraught with anxiety.
They’ve stood up to the big kid on the playground and perhaps sent the bully home afraid and a little worried if they have enough to take out the upstart.
Those feelings that everyone was feeling on Friday night, after 10-3, have been replaced with the realization (it arrived sooner for others) that the Indians are standing toe-to-toe with the Red Sox and my even be better equipped to close this thing out.
If some in the national media are still surprised by this and insist on the “giant slayer” analogy or the “David and Goliath” references just won’t stop – fine. The Tribe can play that game…they’ve still got the bag of stones and a slingshot in their back pocket.
Oct 15, 2007 8:00 PM
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