Friday, October 17, 2008

ALCS Game 5: What might have been

Let me take you through the process a little bit: When a game like this starts late and goes late, we sports writers have to have something on deck. We just do. And when a game is 7-0 during "Take Me Out To The Ballgame" and it's getting close to 11 p.m., well, you'd better assume the game is going to end with a score close to 7-0 and get typing as fast as you can.

When David Ortiz hits a home run to cut the deficit to 7-4, well, you get a little nervous, but you'd better keep typing because editors aren't forgiving when your excuse is, "Well, maybe they could have come back, so I didn't have anything."

No, you have to write something. You have to write something based on the 99 percent chance that the Red Sox aren't going to rally from a 7-4 deficit against the American League East champions and a bullpen (Dan Wheeler, J.P. Howell, Grant Balfour and Chad Bradford) that had a combined 2.24 ERA, based on my 2:30 a.m. calculations.

It's not that you're dismissing the possibility of a comeback. You just don't have any other choice.

And if that comeback happens, the story you write in the middle innings never sees the light of day.

But this game was ridiculous. It was so ridiculous, in fact, that I'm going to let the first story I wrote see the light of day. Here's the story I wrote in the middle of the game, updated after Ortiz hit his three-run home run in the seventh and had to scrap when J.D. Drew hit his two-run home run in the eighth inning:


BOSTON – On the bright side, at least the Red Sox have all winter to rest.
Josh Beckett won’t have to pitch through his strained oblique in Game 6. Jon Lester won’t have to pitch through a season’s worth of fatigue in Game 7. David Ortiz won’t have to swing at fastballs with an aching wrist.
Even Mike Lowell can have his hip surgery Monday in peace, knowing that he’s not missing anything by being away from his team.
Three Tampa Bay home runs in the first three innings made an early laugher of Thursday’s American League Championship Series finale. B.J. Upton, Carlos Pena and Evan Longoria all went deep off Daisuke Matsuzaka as the Rays beat the Red Sox by a INSERT SCORE HERE to advance to the World Series for the first time in franchise history.
A three-run home run from Ortiz, his first extra-base hit of the series and his first home run in 61 postseason at-bats, injected some excitement into the late innings but wasn’t quite enough.
Matsuzaka, who twirled a gem in Game 1 of the ALCS, became the third straight Red Sox pitcher to get shelled in his home park; he gave up five earned runs and left after issuing a leadoff walk in the fifth inning.
Before that, Tim Wakefield and Jon Lester had combined to give up seven home runs and nine earned runs in Games 3 and 4. The entire Boston pitching staff surrendered 38 runs in losing the final four games of the series.
Upton, who knocked Matsuzaka out of Game 1 with an eighth-inning single, knocked Matsuzaka into the offseason with his second swing of Game 5. The center fielder jumped on a cut fastball that tailed back over the inner half of the plate and crushed a home run over the Green Monster.
And after Upton singled to center field in the third inning, Carlos Pena yanked a fastball around the Pesky Pole for two more runs. Third baseman Evan Longoria followed with another moonshot home run to left, his fourth home run of the series.
Upton capped the scoring with a two-run double off Jonathan Papelbon in the seventh inning to wrap up ALCS Most Valuable Player honors.
Red Sox hitters, meanwhile, did nothing to make Tampa Bay manager Joe Maddon pay for his surprise decision to start shaky left-hander Scott Kazmir. Kazmir, who endured 4 1/3 up-and-down innings in Game 2, allowed two hits and struck out seven in six innings in Game 5 and once again looked like the staff ace he’s been for the last four seasons.
He’ll give the Rays a left-handed power arm to match Cole Hamels, who likely will be Philadelphia’s Game 1 starter when the World Series opens at Tropicana Field on Wednesday.

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