Bret Saberhagen would have preferred to be the one to hit the high notes, not his wife and the Cleveland Indians, in that order.
Dennis Eckersley would have preferred Boston’s last (?) memory of him to be something other than balls flying out of Fenway Park.
Pedro Martinez would have preferred that Jimy Williams give in to his pleas to pitch this afternoon instead of risking the possibility that the Sox will reach the end of their road with aspiring NASCAR driver Pete Schourek on the mound.
There was disappointment aplenty to go around on Yawkey Way yesterday afternoon. The Indians, behind two home runs by that paragon of hustle, Manny Ramirez, and one apiece by Kenny Lofton and Jim Thome, withstood a ninth-inning two-run homer by Nomar Garciaparra to beat the Red Sox, 4-3, and take a 2-1 lead in their best-of-five American League Division Series.
The Red Sox, who have yet to show the capacity to score a run in this series unless Mo Vaughn and Garciaparra are in the mix, face elimination this afternoon with Williams adamantly sticking to his decision to pitch Schourek, whose tenure with Boston is so brief, he’s still living in a hotel here.
``I really hope Jimy decides to throw Schourek tomorrow,’’ said Saberhagen, expressing a view decidedly different from the one Williams heard from the fans who yelled, “Please, Jimy, please pitch Pedro,’’ as he made his way back to the clubhouse from the postgame interview room.
“Pete has thrown well the last weeks of the season,’’ Saberhagen added, ``and I’d like to have Pedro going into Jacobs Field for the final game.
“The bottom line is we’ve got to win two games and Pedro can’t win them both.’’
Saberhagen, with a World Series MVP on his resume by the age of 21, could have halved that requirement by beating the Indians yesterday. Instead, he was outdueled by righthander Charles Nagy, who generated almost as many home runs (34) this season as Garciaparra (35) but yesterday had the Red Sox beating the ball into the dirt while Saberhagen was victimized by the long fly.
The Red Sox scored a run in the fourth on singles by Darren Lewis and Vaughn and a fielder’s choice by Garciaparra. But they advanced only one other runner as far as second base against Nagy, who threw only 88 pitches in eight innings and recorded 15 ground-ball outs to maintain his Rocky Marciano record in Fenway Park -- undefeated (4-0).
Saberhagen, meanwhile, took a 1-0 lead and a no-hitter into the fifth but gave up a leadoff home run to Thome, the Indians’ lefthanded-hitting strongman who launched a changeup into the TV camera well in dead center field.
``I was throwing the ball well,’’ Saberhagen said, ``but giving up a run right after we scored a run is a momentum change. You always want to be on the other end of it.’’
An inning later, Lofton cleared the leap of rookie Trot Nixon with a home run into the Red Sox bullpen, the second of the series by the Indians leadoff man, and Ramirez led off the seventh with a drive into the left-field screen.
``They hit more over the fence than we did,’’ said Saberhagen, who, when asked about his wife, Lynn, singing the national anthem, said, ``She did a lot better than I did.
``They weren’t terrible pitches, but of course, I’d love to have those pitches back. But unfortunately, there are no mulligans in this game.’’
There can be nasty flashbacks, however, as Ramirez demonstrated in the ninth against Eckersley, who had faced the Indians right fielder once before -- three years ago when the Eck was still closing for the A’s and gave up a game-winning grand slam.
Eckersley, who turns 44 today and has given up home runs in each of his last three appearances at Fenway, watched Ramirez turn on a pitch that was supposed to be down and in and park it in the screen.
Unlike the first two games in Cleveland, when he was surprised twice as balls he hit did not leave the premises, Ramirez, who now has 11 postseason home runs to go along with the 45 he hit during the regular season, did not begin his home run trot until he was approaching second base.
``I’m surprised he kept it fair,’’ Eckersley said. ``I thought he would hook that ball.
``He’s pretty amazing. Everything he hits is hard. I think even he thinks that everything he hits is going out. That’s why he’s always styling.’’
The Red Sox’ style was limited to desperation against Indians closer Mike Jackson. John Valentin lined out hard to third before Vaughn singled and Garciaparra hit his second home run of the series, giving him 10 RBIs in three games. But Jackson retired Mike Stanley and Troy O’Leary on grounders as the Nos. 5-9 hitters went 1 for 17 and are just 9 for 57 in the series.
So now the burden falls on Schourek, despite Martinez’s appeal to pitching coach Joe Kerrigan that he be given the ball. ``I’m available if he decides to change his mind,’’ Martinez said. ``I asked but I can’t argue with him. He’s the boss. I’m only an employee.’’