Red Sox Comeback

Well, in about another 15 minutes it'll be official, and the Red Sox will be down 3 games to 1 in the ALCS. I certainly haven't lost hope (see ALCS, 2004), but it's a dire situation. These Indians are good, and they've absolutely outplayed us.

Still, before things get into the whole inevitable finger-pointing situation that happens during each playoff series where the favored team ends up on the verge of elimination, let me make a couple points.

1. Terry Francona was absolutely right to start Tim Wakefield tonight. Wakefield had a great season (17 wins), he's the perfect sort of pitcher to put into a game when you're struggling in a playoff series because he's a knuckleballer and he throws hitters off their game, he was rested and starting him means that Josh Beckett is going tomorrow on a fully-rested arm.

In fact, let's review the possible situations:

A. If Beckett pitches on three days rest and wins, bravo, you're a genius, the series is tied, you get to start Schilling in Game 5 and Dice-K in Game 6, and then Beckett in Game 7. Great choice.
B. If Wakefield pitches and wins, the series is tied and the next pitcher you face is a fully-rested Beckett, who is nearly unhittable, and the game is in Boston. All of a sudden, the series swings back completely into the Red Sox's favor.
C. If Beckett pitches on three days rest and loses, the series is essentially over. Now you've got a very shaky Schilling going up against odds-on Cy Young winner C.C. Sabathia in a deciding game. Ouch.
D. If Wakefield pitches and loses, you get to go into the next game knowing you've got Beckett to fall back on, and so there's still hope.

We end up with Option D, unfortunately, but it's better than Option C. And Option B was better than Option A, so either way, Francona made the right choice. Plus, the statistics on starters going on three days rest are pretty horrific (I don't have them here, and I'm not looking them up). It's a big sign that says "we don't think we can win this game our way. We're desperate now." Three games in, when you're only down one game, you don't want to be holding that sign.

2. Outside of Beckett, none of our starters can make it past the third inning. That's not winning baseball, no matter how good your relievers are.
3. Of course, no one is hitting in any runs early in the game, which means that when Cleveland finally does break through (and always in the fifth inning), it's always disastrous for us. The energy just disappears. When Blake homered off Wakefield in the fifth, it was like the game was over right there, and yet we were only down one run. Part of the problem with being a knuckleballer is that big homers tend to happen - when you throw the ball at 65 MPH, it only takes one bad pitch for everything to turn around. But since we had no runs to back up Wake... it was a crusher for us.
4. And, of course, a good half the team isn't hitting at all. Ortiz, Ramirez, and Lowell have done - almost literally - all the hitting. Pedroia, Varitek, and Lugo are all well below the Mendoza line, and Drew asn't exactly been earning his salary. Meanwhile, Ortiz has an OPS of 1.8 this postseason. Ramirez's is 1.6. That's outrageous.

I'll be there in front of the tv for the next game, cheering an clapping (I really do clap, even when it's just me alone in front of the tv), but I'm worried about this team. We succeded all season even though half the team wasn't hitting. The pitching slacks off, and suddenly all that hitting trouble comes back to bite us. Sigh.