Let the ALCS begin, again
Indians prove that they will not be pushovers for Red Sox
CLEVELAND -- The appropriate adage is that a postseason series doesn't really start until somebody wins a game on the road.
So the 2007 American League Championship officially left the ground at 1:37 a.m. ET on Sunday, when the Cleveland Indians wrapped up an 11-inning, 13-6 victory over the Boston Red Sox.
The timing on this was crucial, and not just because the bars would still be open for a few minutes. Had the Red Sox won this game and taken a 2-0 series lead, many of the predictions for a Boston romp would have seemed more like truth instead of conjecture.
But the Cleveland victory, and the 11 innings, not to mention the 5 hours and 14 minutes that were required to play this contest to a conclusion, all seemed to indicate the degree of difficulty involved. Far from being a walkover, this should be a highly competitive series.
The Red Sox swept the Angels in the Division Series, utterly dominating the proceedings. This led to a belief in the minds of some citizens of Red Sox Nation that this postseason was going to be sort of a triumphal march. Well, at least for these five-plus hours, not quite.
"It would be a nice idea if you could run through the postseason without losing," Red Sox manager Terry Francona said. "I don't know how realistic that is."
On the Red Sox side of the argument, there is considerable ammunition. There is no question, for instance, that Josh Beckett is establishing himself as one of the true October gems of the game.
And for the first 14 innings of the Championship Series, the Red Sox offense could not be stopped, or even temporarily slowed. Every time you looked up, one Boston hitter or another was setting a postseason record. David Ortiz reached based in 10 consecutive plate appearances, tying the record set by Billy Hatcher. Manny Ramirez hit his 23rd postseason homer, moving past Bernie Williams into sole possession of first place on the all-time list.
To that point in the series, things were looking extremely bleak for the Indians, in part because both of their lead starters, C.C. Sabathia and Fausto Carmona, had been completely unsuccessful in keeping the Red Sox off the board. But then six straight innings of shutout pitching by the Cleveland bullpen restored both order and competitive balance.
And then there was the matter of the seven-run tidal wave of runs in the top of the 11th inning. In total, Game 2 of this series not only tied the event, but also demonstrated some valid reasons why this competition would be close.
"These guys persevere, they find a way to get it done," Indians manager Eric Wedge said. "We don't just win with one area of the club or another area of the club. We find multiple ways to win.
The Red Sox would still be the betting favorites in this series, although again, if you're serious about paying the mortgage and/or putting food on the table for the kiddies, you won't bet on baseball.
But Game 2 of the 2007 AL Championship Series had the double-barreled action of demonstrating how the Cleveland Indians were not going to be mere pushovers, and providing evidence that this could be a very competitive, maybe even a very compelling series.
Francona said that this was "one of the most exciting games I think I've ever been part of." If there was more rejoicing on the Cleveland side of the outcome, there should not have been an argument about the quality of the game from either side.
Even if it took five-plus hours and Sunday dawn on the horizon to get it going, this AL Championship Series, the one with two teams, is now under way. There will be no sweep. There will be three games at Jacobs Field. Let the ALCS begin, again.
Mike Bauman is a national columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.