Game 7. One more, and then on to the World Series.
For either the Red Sox or the Indians, this is the game that will push them to October’s greatest stage (and, if it gets that far, November’s). And, for the two teams, as it has all series, it will come down to their starting pitching: Daisuke Matsuzaka vs. Jake Westbrook.
Judging from their last performances, the edge would seem to go to Westbrook, whose 21-of-27 first-pitch strikes spun through the Red Sox lineup in Game 3. Matsuzaka couldn’t get through the fifth inning, as the Indians went on to their second straight win over the Sox.
But Matsuzaka will be on an extremely limited leash tonight. He has to be. Once he gets in trouble, manager Terry Francona will reach back to his bullpen for whoever is there, whoever he has most faith in — and that very likely will include Josh Beckett, who would be on two days rest from his brilliant Game 5 start.
Can the Indians still win this thing? Technically, sure. But being on the brink of heading to the World Series and losing two straight games doesn’t exactly bode well for them. The Red Sox have the momentum. And they have a very, very determined starter. He needs this game, this performance, almost as much as the Red Sox need it as a whole.
So this is it. It all comes down to tonight. By tomorrow, the Red Sox will be in the World Series. Or they will be done.
And it’s all in Matsuzaka’s hands.