2007 American League Championship Series
Both the Cleveland Indians and the Boston Red Sox advanced to the ALCS. Both teams had identical 96-66 records in the regular season. Both had had relatively little problem winning their respective Division Series, the Sox sweeping the Angels and the Indians letting the Yankees win just one game.
The Indians brought in a regular-season team ERA of 4.05, built largely around the twin towers of C. C. Sabathia (19-7, 3.21) and Fausto Carmona (19-8, 3.06). There was a weakness, however, in closer Joe Borowski’s 5.07 ERA. Victor Martinez led the offense with 114 RBIs and 25 homers. Travis Hafner hit 24 homers and had an even 100 RBIs. Grady Sizemore hit 24 homers, too, and led the league in runs scored with 118. The Sox had a .279 average and a 3.87 ERA, a bit better in both areas. Josh Beckett’s 20-7 (3.27) was excellent, but there was more of a dropoff to the two second-best: Tim Wakefield (17-12, 4.40) and Daisuke Matsuzaka (15-12, 4.76). They also had Jonathan Papelbon to close, with a strong 1.85 ERA. Mike Lowell drove in 120, and David Ortiz drove in 117.
Game One was in Boston, pitting Beckett against Sabathia. C.C. bombed, though it was something that built. Travis Hafner drew first blood with a homer off Beckett in the first. The Red Sox retaliated with three singles in a row, for a run of their own. In the bottom of the third, a bases-loaded walk by Manny Ramirez gave him his second RBI. Lowell hit a two-run double, and Jason Varitek picked up an RBI, too. Sabathia kept putting men on base, and Bobby Kielty helped bump it up to 8-1 with a two-run single and Varitek doubled, off reliever Jensen Lewis. In the sixth, after the Indians picked up one more run, Manny came up with the bases loaded again – and again walked in a run. Lowell’s sacrifice fly brought in another. The final was 10-3, not even close.
Game Two was a mirror image of sorts, with the Indians winning by seven runs, 13-6 – though the most stunning part of the game happened in the top of the 11th. The two starters were Curt Schilling and Fausto Carmona. Neither made it through the fifth. Victor Martinez drove in a run in the first; the Red Sox scored three in the third – the first of them coming on Manny’s third bases-loaded walk in two games. In the top of the fourth, Jhonny Peralta pushed the Indians ahead with a three-run homer. In the fifth, Grady Sizemore hit a solo homer, making it 5-3, but in the bottom of the fifth, Ramirez and Lowell hit back-to-back homers for three runs, giving the Red Sox the edge. A sixth-inning run tied it up and it stayed tied into extra innings. Eric Gagne took over for Papelbon in the top of the 11th and struck out the first batter, but after a single and a walk, Francona quickly took Gagne out. Javier Lopez couldn’t have been much worse: a single, a wild pitch, an intentional walk, and a single. Jon Lester came in, and he was greeted with a double, got an out, and then gave up a three-run homer to Franklin Gutierrez. Seven runs in the top of the 11th. You don’t see that every day. Borowski gave up two singles, but no runs.
In Cleveland for the middle three games, Jake Westbrook matched up against Daisuke Matsuzaka. The Indians took a 2-0 lead on Kenny Lofton’s second-inning home run, and doubled that in the fifth on three hits with a walk mixed in. That drove Daisuke from the game. In the top of the seventh, Varitek hit a two-run homer. The final score was 4-2.
Game Four was the third Indians win in a row, putting the Red Sox on the brink. Paul Byrd started for the Tribe, and Wakefield for the Sox. No one scored for the first half of the game, through 4 ½. In the bottom of the fifth, Casey Blake led off with a homer off Wakefield. A single, a hit-by-pitch, and a run-producing single made it 2-0. Another single and it was 3-0. Manny Delcarmen came in and four pitches later, Jhonny Peralta homered and it was 6-0. Lofton’s single and stolen base set up another RBI opportunity for Blake, and he cashed in. The Red Sox had a power burst in the top of the sixth with solo home runs by Kevin Youkilis, Manny Ramirez, and David Ortiz – before there were any outs. Neither team scored after that.
Reminiscent of the 2004 ALCS when the Yankees won the first three games and the Red Sox had to win four to take the pennant, now the Sox were down three games to one, and would have to win all three remaining games to advance. And the Indians had Sabathia.
Runs count no matter how they’re scored. Youkilis got to Sabathia in the first for a solo home run to kick off Game Five, but the Indians issued a rebuttal with Grady Sizemore (who had doubled) scoring on a double play two batters later. Manny singled and drove in a run in the third. The two pitchers kept it close. In the seventh, a Pedroia double and a Youk triple provided an insurance run and a sacrifice fly from Ortiz another. In the eighth, the Red Sox got three more runs – on a passed ball, a walk, and another sacrifice fly. Beckett struck out 11, and got the win, 7-1.
Returning to Fenway, the next two games were even more lopsided. Carmona had been so good during the season, but didn’t have it in the LCS. A grand slam by J. D. Drew in the bottom of the first inning was all it took to win the game, since Curt Schilling held the Indians to two runs in seven innings and neither Lopez nor Gagne gave up any. Four walks, four hits, and two errors made a mess of the bottom of the third, and Boston scored six more times. It was 12-2 by the time it was over.
Game Seven was an 11-2 win, practically the same score, but this time the rollup in runs happened late. Boston scored single runs in the first, second, and third off Jake Westbrook, two of them scoring while outs were being made. In the top of the fourth, the Indians got to Matsuzaka for one and in the top of the fifth for another. The two-run homer by Pedroia gave the Sox a bit more of a cushion in the seventh, and then to be really sure, they scored six more runs in the eighth on an RBI single from Drew, a bases-loaded double by Pedroia, and a game-capping home run by Kevin Youkilis. For the second time in four years, the Red Sox were headed back to the World Series.
By Bill Nowlin
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