10/22/07 2:15 AM ET
Tribe basepath decisions prove costly
Lofton at center of two big plays before Game 7 gets away
By T.R. Sullivan / MLB.com
It may have cost the Indians a big inning. Gutierrez and Blake followed with singles, and Grady Sizemore's sacrifice fly cut the Red Sox lead to 3-2. But it was still that way when Lofton came up with one out in the seventh.This time Lofton, facing Red Sox reliever Hideki Okajima, hit a high pop into shallow left field that shortstop Julio Lugo dropped for an error. Lofton ended up on second and Gutierrez followed with a sharp grounder over the third-base bag and into foul territory down the line. Right there, one of Fenway Park's unique features came into play. Beyond third base, the grandstands angle out toward the foul line. Gutierrez's grounder hit the wall in front of the stands and caromed out into short left field. Skinner held Lofton at third while Lugo and Ramirez went after the ball. Skinner said later he thought Lugo would get it. Instead, Ramirez picked it up well after Lofton reached third and it appeared the Indians missed a chance to tie the game, especially when Ramirez later said after the game that he was "going to throw it to the cutoff man and let him deal with it." "I've had plays where the ball kicks off and goes right to the shortstop," Skinner said. "Where I'm at, I have to make a decision, and I did. From a higher vantage point, you might see the carom better, but from the ground level, it looked like it struck right behind shortstop. "The ball probably ended up deeper than I thought, but we still [had] runners at first and third with one out." Lofton said he was looking to score on the play and appeared to be surprised that Skinner held him up. "I'm always thinking I have a chance to score, no matter what," Lofton said. "If there's a base hit, I'm always thinking I have a chance to score. But my job there is to pick up the third-base coach. I can't see what's happening behind me." Red Sox third baseman Mike Lowell has seen that play before and agreed with Skinner that there are times when baserunners get thrown out at home by a hustling shortstop. "Sometimes that ball caroms right to the shortstop," Lowell said. "I don't know, that's a tough angle. I had a tough angle at it. After the fact, maybe you say, 'He has a chance.' But I don't think you can second guess that play." Perhaps it would have been forgotten if Lofton eventually scored. Instead, Blake immediately brought the inning to an end by with a double-play grounder right at Lowell. "I had a good approach," Blake said. "I was looking for something soft in the zone. I was a little ahead of it and cued it off the end of my bat. If I had waited a second longer, I might have hit it harder."
Instead, Cleveland fans have another disappointing moment to remember for a long time to come.
T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.