Friday, October 19, 2007


I don't blame C.C. Sabathia for Game 5.

Sabathia made vast improvements since Game 1 of the ALCS where he walked 5 and gave up 8 runs in 4.1 innings. There's really no comparison between the two starts, which is good news for Cleveland.

In Game 5, C.C. gave up 4 ER, 10 H, and a HR over 6 IP. The most important stat of the night was the fact he only surrendered 2 walks, while throwing 62.5% of his pitches for strikes. Again, this is a near complete turnaround from 5 walks and 51.7% pitches for strikes in his last start. Throw in 6 strikeouts and you have a solid bounce-back start for the Tribe's ace. Not great, but certainly winnable.

As encouraging as Sabathia’s Game 5 seems on the surface, the numbers lie a little bit. Sabathia's more aggressive approach (more strikes, less nibbling) resulted in less walks, but his stuff was far from dominant. Instead, he gave up 10 hits and allowed at least one baserunner in every inning except the 6th. He also hit two batters and threw a wild pitch. C.C. walked a thin line all night, owing a saved run to Gutz in the 1st, narrowly avoiding an additional run from Ramirez's "single" in the 3rd, and escaping from a bases loaded jam in the 5th.

Like a Joe Borowski save, the bottom line is what matters most. C.C. got the job done tonight by giving his team a chance to win.

I’m still on the fence as to whether Wedge should have brought Sabathia back out for the 7th inning. Wedge had to have known he was playing with fire by having Sabathia face the top of Boston’s lineup again. The 7th would have been C.C.’s fourth time facing Pedroia, Youkilis, and Ortiz. Based on the lead-off double and triple from said batters, Sabathia wasn’t fooling anyone. At 106 stress-filled pitches, Sabathia probably didn’t have much left in the tank and may have been struggling with his focus.

I understand why Wedge stuck with C.C., but it was still a very risky decision. Wedge said if he had pulled C.C. after six, Betancourt would have had to pitch two innings and the remaining reliever matchups would have been difficult to deal with; these were things Wedge did not think benefited the team in the long run. Wedge also cited Sabathia was having his best start of the playoffs and didn’t want to hamper his rhythm or confidence. He felt Sabathia could handle the large pitch count, citing past starts where he threw 120 pitches.

I emphasized Wedge’s long term mentality to the situation because I feel it’s important in understanding his decision. The team has been riding Betancourt the entire postseason. Betancourt leads the regular relievers with 6.1 innings pitched and has appeared in four of the five ALCS games. Jensen Lewis is not far behind with 5.1 IP. This may not seem like much, but you have to rest these guys at some point. Many people will point to the two off-days dividing the series as enough rest, but Wedge knows how his pitchers feel better than we do. I think some of the bullpen guys are feeling a little drained, otherwise Wedge would not have expressed concern when citing his reasons for sticking with Sabathia.

Wedge did not concede the game in the 7th inning; he took a calculated risk that backfired. Further proof of this is Betancourt having to pitch anyway in an attempt to preserve the 3-1 deficit Sabathia left behind.

Despite my dwelling on Wedge and C.C., Beckett’s performance was the real story of Game 5. If any other Boston starter was on the mound tonight, I think Cleveland would have won this game.

Wedge cited a lack of adjustment by his players as a contributing factor. It’s good to hear the manager get in the players’ ear a bit. Wedge’s analysis makes sense, as the Tribe started strong against Beckett. Cleveland had three hits and a run against Beckett in the first inning, but managed only two hits and a walk the rest of the night. I realize Beckett was pounding the strike zone and threw all kinds of filth, but Cleveland drew first blood early on and failed to counter Beckett’s game. Obviously this is easier said than done as no one has touched Beckett all post-season, but given the infrequency of overtly negative comments from Wedge, I think the criticism holds some water.

The offense can not allow Schilling to fall into a similar rhythm in Game 6.

On Lofton

Did anyone else want to see Lofton KO Beckett cold? I really, really wanted to see Beckett leave with a bloody nose after screaming at Lofton while he jogged to first after a pop-up. Yeah, I know Lofton would have faced a suspension for the rest of the series, but the mental image of the Mayor of Cleveland slamming Beckett the Blister with a left hook combo is just awesome.

Fortunately, Lofton is too classy to take a swing at another player, even if that player is a preening prima donna who thinks he’s God’s gift to baseball. Seriously, Beckett has become the A-Rod of pitching. Aren’t there enough smug, blowhards in the AL East? That division is like a personality roach-motel. It’s too bad Albert Belle wasn’t the one jogging to first, because that would have been entertaining.

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