If the Indians needed a hint as to how last night was going to unfold, they got it on the third pitch of the night. Grady Sizemore hit a home run, but he didn't score.
Oh, hours later the leadoff shot was but a memory in a game the Red Sox won, 12-2, but it set in motion an ugly first inning for Cleveland in Game 6 of the American League Championship Series.
Sizemore's high, hard shot down the right-field line appeared fair, but was called foul by Gary Cederstrom, the umpire positioned on the right-field line. First base umpire Randy Marsh and plate umpire Dana DeMuth conferred briefly, but upheld the call, much to the chagrin of Indians manager Eric Wedge, who came out to debate the issue with DeMuth.
As a bookend, Wedge left the dugout to go face to face with DeMuth at the end of the first, but this time he was a bit more animated. The bottom of the first was a series of mishaps and tough calls that did not go Cleveland's way, starting with leadoff batter Dustin Pedroia's weak chopper over the mound.
Charging to his right and cutting in front of second base, Asdrubal Cabrera barehanded the ball, but throwing across his body was unable to throw out the Sox' leadoff hitter. The next batter, Kevin Youkilis, hit one into the hole where Jhonny Peralta went deep to field the ball, then threw to second. Pedroia probably beat the throw, but it was academic because Cabrera dropped it.
That's right, Cabrera fielded a ground ball with his barehand, but dropped an easy toss with his glove. Talk about your omens . . . because after David Ortiz walked to load the bases, Fausto Carmona became frustrated with DeMuth's strike zone. He seemed to settle down with a strikeout of Manny Ramírez and a lazy fly ball by Mike Lowell, but when a 2-and-1 pitch to J.D. Drew was called ball three by DeMuth, the big righthander hung his head.
Meanwhile, the Cleveland bench let DeMuth hear it, only it became drowned out when Drew, knowing Carmona had to groove one, hammered a grand slam to straightaway center.
Little did Wedge know how things would only go downhill from there.
So he's the one
Cleveland catcher Victor Martinez has figured out Curt Schilling. He was 4 for 8 in his career vs. the Red Sox righthander coming into the ALCS and went 3 for 3 in Game 2. Last night he homered to lead off the second and singled in the fourth. Though Schilling struck him out in the sixth, Martinez is hitting .643 in his career vs. Schilling . . . Ryan Garko launched a leadoff triple to left-center in the seventh and has hit safely in six straight postseason games, dating to Game 3 in the Division Series vs. New York. He sat out Game 4 in that series, the clincher, but has gotten a hit in each of his five starts against the Red Sox . . . The Indians made just two harmless errors in the series before they tossed it around like a Pony League club in Boston's six-run third. On a Youkilis single to left, a relay from Kenny Lofton to Cabrera seemed to have Youkilis hung up. But on the rundown, Cabrera's soft toss to first hit Youkilis in the helmet, so he was in safely. The next batter, Ortiz, hit a ground ball to Garko, who stepped on first then had an easy throw to double up Youkilis at second. Garko's throw was low, bounded away from Peralta, and Youkilis was safe.
No whiff of success
The woes for Travis Hafner continued. Cleveland's designated hitter went 0 for 3 with two strikeouts against Schilling and flew out to center against Eric Gagné, stretching his hitless stretch to 15 at-bats. Since hitting a home run in his first at-bat in the ALCS, he has gone 2 for 22 with 11 strikeouts . . . Lofton received a loud round of boos in his first at-bat, definitive proof (at least at Fenway) he was not the favorite in that verbal exchange with Josh Beckett in Game 5. The boos continued every time Lofton batted, but the Sox have handled him pretty well since his Game 3 home run in Cleveland highlighted his club's 4-2 win. Since then, Lofton is 1 for 12 . . .. Aaron Laffey hadn't pitched since Sept. 30 when he answered the call for Wedge as the third pitcher of the night. He retired 15 of the 17 batters he faced, though it was easy to lose sight of that fact in such a mismatch . . . Wedge chose to sit right fielder Franklin Gutierrez in lieu of Trot Nixon. It wasn't so much that Gutierrez had hit just .133 over the first five games as it was a defensive consideration. In Game 1, Gutierrez seemed to hesitate while chasing a Lowell fly ball into the right-field corner and it went for a double during a four-run third inning uprising. "Trot has obviously played so many games here in right field," said Wedge. Nixon entered the game 2 for 9 in his career vs. Schilling, 1 for 3 this season, though he improved those numbers by getting two singles in three at-bats.