Sox Thoroughly Topple Tribe In ALCS Opener

BOSTON—Unlike the last two Friday nights at Fenway Park—when the Red Sox clinched the AL East and beat the Angels on a walk-off homer by Manny Ramirez, respectively—there were no dramatics in Game One of the AL Championship Series. Just a Sox victory that was as complete as it was impressive.

David Ortiz and Manny Ramirez combined to reach base in all 10 of their plate appearances (see premium sidebar for more) and the anticipated pitcher's duel between Cy Young Award candidates never materialized as the Sox chased C.C. Sabathia in the fifth inning of a 10-3 rout in front of a sellout crowd of 36,986.

Josh Beckett, whose hopes for a third straight postseason shutout evaporated when Travis Hafner hit a solo homer with two outs in the first, wasn't as dominant as he was nine days earlier against the Angels, but he allowed just four hits and two runs in six innings and impressed Terry Francona with his tenacity.

"He gave us just what we needed," Francona said. "I thought every inning he went out—I don't think ‘struggle' is the right word, but that first hitter of each inning, he had to kind of refine himself. And once he did, he got in the flow of every inning and he was very good."

Beckett threw a first-pitch strike to just 12 of the 22 batters he faced but still retired 10 in a row following Hafner's homer and struck out seven while walking none. He's got 15 strikeouts and no walks in 15 innings this month.

"I think just throwing strikes when you need to throw strikes early in the game [is key]," Beckett said. "And then after you establish all your pitches, then I think it kind of opens some things up, because they're going to be a little more aggressive. Throwing strikes when you need to throw strikes and throwing balls when you need to throw balls."

The Sox, who fell behind for just the second time in the postseason on Hafner's homer, provided Beckett with plenty of support. Every starter had at least one hit for the Sox, who racked up 12 hits overall and drew seven walks off a quintet of Indians pitchers.

While the Sox' rallies were keyed by Ortiz and Ramirez, the big hits were delivered by Mike Lowell, who had a two-run double in a four-run third, and Bobby Kielty, whose two-run single chased Sabathia with one out in the fifth.

"I thought our approach was really, really professional," Francona said. "We didn't swing at balls. Even in the middle of the order, we had real good discipline—got behind in the count a couple times, 0-2, worked walks, hit the ball the other way, drove the ball the other way. Kind of took what [Sabathia] gave us and didn't expand the zone. Because if you do, he's going to make short work of you, and we really made him work hard."

Mike Timlin tossed a scoreless seventh and Javier Lopez allowed a run in the eighth before Eric Gagne threatened to make things interesting in the ninth, when he managed to strike out the side despite loading the bases via two hits and a walk.


Diehard managing editor Jerry Beach can be reached at diehardmag@yahoo.com. To receive a free issue of Diehard, call 888-501-5752. To subscribe to Diehard or diehardmagazine.com, please CLICK HERE.

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