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10/14/07 4:00 AM ET
Nixon haunts Sox as Indians tie ALCS
Former Boston outfielder's RBI single sparks seven-run frame
By Anthony Castrovince / MLB.com
BOSTON -- The passion of the postseason tends to swallow all rational thought. We get lost in the mighty at-bats of David Ortiz and Manny Ramirez, caught up in the roughshod outings of C.C. Sabathia and Fausto Carmona and, somewhere along the line, we begin to wonder if this supposedly evenly matched American League Championship Series is really much of a series, after all. Then comes a good, solid smack to the cerebrum and a dose of reality. A series it is, now that the Indians have conquered the calamity of seeing their dual aces turn in a couple of clunkers and evened the ALCS up. They did so with a 13-6, 11-inning victory in Game 2 at Fenway Park on Saturday night/Sunday morning that was as electrifying as it was elongated. "I hope we made a statement," reliever Tom Mastny said after the five-hour, 14-minute affair was complete. "We did tie [Boston] for the best record in baseball this year. We are a good team. We might not have the big-name superstars that everybody else has, but that's just because we're a smaller market." What, you don't consider Mastny to be a big-name superstar? Well, no, of course you don't. But Mastny and his mates in the Tribe bullpen sure pitched like superstars in the wake of a surprisingly tough turn of events for Carmona and setup man Rafael Perez. And you probably didn't expect Trot Nixon to emerge from the bowels of the bench, return to his Fenway roots and come through with the pinch-hit RBI single that would ignite the seven-run 11th inning and seal this one in favor of the Indians. Yet that's just what happened. So perhaps it's time to legitimately expect the unexpected from an Indians team that many had begun to write off after a shaky start from Sabathia in a 10-3 loss in Game 1. "These guys persevere," manager Eric Wedge said. "They find a way to get it done. We don't just win with one area of the club or another area of the club." Coming into this series, though, the Indians were banking on 19-game winners Sabathia and Carmona giving them a chance to win. But as was the case with Sabathia a night earlier, Carmona had trouble attacking a Red Sox lineup with a penchant for patience. The hard-throwing sinkerballer served up four runs on four hits, walking five and and striking out five in four-plus innings. The inning of Carmona's unraveling was a 39-pitch third. Staked to a 1-0 lead afforded him by Victor Martinez's RBI double off Curt Schilling in the first, Carmona let the Sox load the bases for Manny Ramirez. Ramirez had walked twice with the bases loaded in Game 1, and he did so again -- on four pitches, no less. Mike Lowell then stepped up and sent a flare to right field that scored two runs to put the Red Sox up, 3-1. The Indians offense, though, had little trouble retaliating off Schilling. Consecutive singles from Martinez and Ryan Garko in the fourth set up a towering three-run shot to center field off the bat of Jhonny Peralta, putting the Tribe back ahead, 4-3. "That was a big moment when I hit that homer," Peralta said. "It showed we never give up. We try to play until the end of the game. We try to finish."
All Betancourt did was strike out Ramirez to end the seventh, pitch a perfect eighth and toss a scoreless ninth. "Our bullpen did a fantastic job," Wedge said. Ah, but the bullpen was looking a little thin when extra innings rolled around. Wedge had to turn the game over to mid-reliever Mastny in the 10th, with Ortiz, Ramirez and Lowell all due up. "You can't give them too much credit going into it," Mastny said of that tough spot. "They're not giving you credit, so why should you? It's a two-way street." The end result? Groundout, flyout, flyout. To the 11th it went. And in the 11th, after the Indians had put two aboard against Eric Gagne, Nixon was brought out to pinch-hit and the Red Sox turned to left-hander Javier Lopez. "I was excited to finally get in there at 1:30 a.m.," Nixon said. He wasn't as excited to face a lefty, but he had no trouble lining Lopez's 1-0 pitch into center field to score Sizemore with the go-ahead run. "I think if you can keep your emotions in check in those situations, you've probably got a little bit better chance," Nixon said. "I was fortunate. I didn't hit it hard, but I hit it where I needed to." Nixon's hit opened the floodgates. Cabrera scored from third on Lopez's wild pitch, making it 8-6. And, after Martinez was intentionally walked, Ryan Garko singled up the middle to score another run and knock Lopez out of the game. It didn't end there. With two out, Gutierrez turned it into an outright massacre when he pounded Jon Lester's first-pitch fastball over the Green Monster for a three-run blast. An 11th-inning touchdown was complete, and a series was born. "This is what we've played all year for," Mastny said. "This moment. Tonight." And this win ensured they'll play longer than some had come to expect.
Anthony Castrovince is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.