The first round of curtain calls at Fenway Park, while well-deserved, were a tad premature. The bows by Manny Ramirez and Mike Lowell after their back-to-back home runs in the fifth inning were a Hallmark moment in Game 2 of the American League Championship Series, especially for Ramirez, who became the all-time leading home run hitter in postseason history (23 and counting).
But the handshakes did not come until long after midnight as the Indians took advantage of a colossal collapse of the bullpen in the 11th inning, scoring 7 runs to slap a 13-6 loss on the Red Sox to tied the series at 1-1 heading to Cleveland tomorrow night.
Eric Gagne started the inning for the Sox, and he started strong, whiffing Casey Blake. Grady Sizemore followed with a single and Abdrusal Cabrera walked. Gagne was lifted for Javy Lopez, brought in to face former Sox hero Trot Nixon.
As he has many times in the past, Nixon delivered at Fenway, singling to right to deliver Sizemore for the go-ahead run. The Indians followed by tacking on six more runs capped by Franklin Gutierrez’s three-run shot off Jon Lester.
Kevin Youkilis tried to bring down the house in the bottom of the ninth with an epic at-bat, fouling off six straight two-strike pitches with pinch runner Jacoby Ellsbury on second before lining out to center to end the inning.
Indians reliever Rafael Betancourt, who had given out a two-out single to Dustin Pedroia before Ellsbury stole second base, threw 11 straight fastballs to Youkilis before the first baseman’s sinking liner was caught by a sliding Grady Sizemore.
Before Pedroia’s hit, Indians relievers had set down 12 straight Sox hitters.
It seemed incongruous when he said it, Curt Schilling casting himself as the underdog to a 23-year-old kid who a summer ago sat in front of his locker, a towel draped over his head, his confidence somewhere south of Santo Domingo after giving up a walkoff home run to David Ortiz.
But despite his glittering record of postseason success, perhaps Schilling had the slightest inkling that the Indians were going to prove a severe test for a 40-year-old pitching mostly on grit, guile, and gall, while his mound adversary, Fausto Carmona, possesses the kind of golden arm that a young Schilling once showed off.
Schilling’s teammates gave him an early advantage against Carmona, who threw a mind-numbing 95 pitches through the first four innings as the Sox took a 3-1 lead. But on this night, Big Game Curt was as much hunted as hunter. Jhonny Peralta hit a three-run home run in the fourth inning as the Indians seized back the lead, and Grady Sizemore followed with a solo home run in the fifth to make it 5-3.
Schilling was unable to finish the inning. Singles by Travis Hafner and Victor Martinez (his third hit of the night) finished him off, manager Terry Francona summoning Manny Delcarmen in an effort to minimize the damage.
Schilling’s line for the night: 4 2/3 IP, 9 H, 5 ER. It was his second shortest outing in 17 postseason starts for the Phillies, Diamondbacks, and Sox. The only one shorter came in Game 1 of the 2004 ALCS against the Yankees, when a bum ankle forced Schilling to give way to Curtis (the Mechanic) Leskanic after just three innings and six runs.
That, of course, was the prelude to the legend of the Bloody Sock. The Indians were hoping last night would be the start of something worth remembering, too, other than tabulating how many times David Ortiz could get on base without making an out.
Ortiz, who reached base all five times he came to the plate in Friday night’s 10-3 Sox win in Game 1, tied a postseason record by reaching base 10 consecutive times, walking in the first inning and hitting a single off Carmona’s glove in the third, when the Sox scored three times, one run scoring on Ramirez’s bases-loaded walk, the others on Lowell’s two-run single.
The Sox DH was finally retired in the home half of the fifth by Indians lefthander Rafael Perez, who replaced Carmona after Kevin Youkilis opened the inning by lining a single to left on Carmona’s 100th pitch. Perez, who during the regular season had retired all but 2 of the 41 first batters he faced, an .049 batting average that was the lowest in the American League, fell behind Ortiz, 3 and 0, continuing a trend established by Carmona, who went to a three-ball count to eight hitters.
But after getting a couple of strikes on Ortiz, Perez induced him to ground into a force play. That kept Ortiz tied with Billy Hatcher of the Reds, who reached base 10 straight times in the 1990 postseason.
But Perez, a 25-year-old rookie who was called up in May and was one of the top lefty relievers in the league (1.78 ERA in 44 appearances), barely had time to enjoy the moment, as Ramirez drove a 95-mile-per-hour fastball on the outside corner into the bullpen to tie the score, and Lowell followed with a home run that gave the Sox a 6-5 lead.
Delcarmen came back out for the sixth and promptly gave up the tying run before Hideki Okakjma came in retire the Indians.