King Kaufman's Sports Daily

Beckett shuts down Indians, sends ALCS back to Boston. Plus: Torre, McCarver, Lofton. And: NFL Week 7.

Published October 19, 2007 11:00AM (EDT)

Josh Beckett threw a wrench in Major League Baseball's apparent plan to have more off days than baseball games during the playoffs by shutting down the Cleveland Indians and extending the American League Championship Series with a 7-1 win.

The Indians' lead over the Boston Red Sox is now three games to two, with Game 6 scheduled for Saturday at Fenway Park.

Beckett was nasty as he outdueled C.C. Sabathia in a close game the Red Sox broke open in the seventh and eighth innings. He struck out 11 in his eight innings, allowing a run on five hits and a walk before turning the ball over to Jonathan Papelbon, who got some work in by protecting a six-run lead.

Kevin Youkilis homered in the first inning and drove in the Sox's first insurance run in the seventh when he tripled off a diving Grady Sizemore's glove. Manny Ramirez broke a 1-1 tie with a single that just missed being a homer in the third.

The Red Sox win and the continuation of the ALCS should go a long way toward preventing total sports-media saturation coverage of the Joe Torre story in New York, though they'll have their hands full on that score. Torre turned down the Yankees' offer of a one-year contract with a big cut in his base salary but incentives that could have paid him more than he made this year if the 2008 Yankees reached the World Series.

That ends by far the longest, most stable and most successful managerial era of the Steinbrenner era for the Yankees, and it probably would have totally overshadowed the ALCS if the Red Sox hadn't been playing. As it is, ESPN is playing it cool, though it has commissioned Philip Glass to write an opera about Torre's contract negotiation that will debut Sunday afternoon.

Beckett's dominance revives the question of whether Boston should have had him start Game 4 on three days' rest, both to give the club a better chance of winning that game and tying the series and also to have had him available for a possible Game 7 on his regular rest. Beckett was reported to be stiff with a sore back Wednesday, when Game 4 was played, but he showed no ill effects Friday.

Unlike many of his contemporaries, Beckett does not have ugly numbers on three days' rest, though he has rarely tried it. In the regular season he has pitched twice, started once, giving up one run in eight innings.

In the postseason he's started on three days' rest once, the famous clinching Game 6 shutout in the 2003 World Series for the Florida Marlins against the Yankees. He also turned in a four-inning, one-run relief appearance on two days' rest in the NLCS against the Chicago Cubs that year.

Now the Red Sox, who three years ago came from a 3-0 deficit to beat the Yankees in the ALCS, return home trailing only 3-2. The Indians have to like the Game 6 pitching matchup, when they'll send their other Cy Young candidate, Fausto Carmona, against Curt Schilling, who struggled in Game 2, getting knocked out in the fifth inning.

Then again, the Indians had to have liked that matchup in Game 2, and the Red Sox beat up Carmona pretty good, though the Indians won in extra innings.

Game 7 Sunday, if it gets that far, would be Jake Westbrook and Daisuke Matsuzaka, a rematch of Game 3, won by Westbrook and the Indians. Again the advantage would figure to be with the Indians.

But you just get the feeling the Indians would have preferred to spend the next few days reading about poor old disrespected Joe Torre, don't you?

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Robin Ventura, the forgotten man [PERMALINK]

Manny Ramirez's drive in the top of the third bounced off the top of the right-field fence and back onto the field. Ramirez thought it was a home run, but the umpires correctly ruled that the ball never went out. David Ortiz scored from first to give the Red Sox a 2-1 lead that would stand up, but Ramirez, who had loafed out of the box, ended up at first base with a long single.

Fox's announcers, Joe Buck, Tim McCarver and Chris Myers, repeatedly referred to Ramirez's shot as some variation of "the longest single in postseason history," or even in baseball history. I spent several innings wondering how long it would take before one of them remembered Robin Ventura's grand-slam single in the 1999 NLCS. That single went over the fence. And it was only eight years ago.

Answer: Whole game. And counting, I guess.

What's funny about that is that not too many people in baseball history have hit a single over the fence, which is how it goes in the books when you hit a home run but pass a base runner. And even fewer have done it with the bases loaded, as Ventura did in 1999. But you want to know the name of one of the few players other than Ventura who has hit a grand-slam single?

He was Steve Carlton's personal catcher with the Philadelphia Phillies, which is why he was playing on July 4, 1976, in Pittsburgh, where he hit a home run with the bases loaded, but was called out after passing Garry Maddox at first base.

Ladies and gentlemen, meet Tim McCarver. (At the link, scroll down to the play-by-play.)

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And another thing: Your shoelaces! [PERMALINK]

What is Josh Beckett's problem with Kenny Lofton flipping his bat when he walks? Of all the things batters do in the box after a walk or a hit, Lofton's little bat flip, really just a quick laying down of the bat, is about a 1.5 on the insult-o-meter. Out of 100. It's nothing. It just gets Beckett's goat for some reason.

Thursday night's almost fight was the second time in three years the two have had words after Lofton flipped his bat upon walking -- or, in the case of Thursday night, thinking he'd walked, since the pitch Lofton dropped the bat on was called a strike. Lofton said after the game that Beckett's the only pitcher who has a problem with it. Strange.

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Next: McCarver lectures on win-expectancy matrices [PERMALINK]

Whoa, Tim McCarver said "small sample size" when discussing Jacoby Ellsbury's high batting average against left-handed pitching this year.

He actually warned that maybe we shouldn't conclude that Ellsbury is a good hitter against lefties, and therefore that he should have started Game 5 against C.C. Sabathia, just because he hit .346 in 26 at-bats against left-handers this year, his rookie season.

I would have bet on a lot of things happening before I bet on that one.

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During the baseball playoffs this column imposes a two-sentence rule on NFL game blurbs, because otherwise the Friday column would get too long and the fact that I'm not paying much attention to the NFL this month would be obvious. I'd rather you not know that.

The correlation between my not paying much attention to the NFL and my success at picking winners is ridiculously but not surprisingly high. I figure if reducing blurbs to two sentences improves my success rate, think what reducing them to one sentence can do. This column is nothing if not willing to embrace change, especially when it saves a little work, so for NFL Week 7, we have a one-sentence rule.

The picks of my kids, 4-year-old Buster and 2-year-old Daisy, are included as usual. Both take all favorites of six points or more. Daisy flips a coin for the remainder of the games, Buster just picks 'em.

Winners in caps:

Sunday early games

BALTIMORE (4-2) at Buffalo (1-4)
The Bills are better than their record, but not by a lot.
Buster: Buffalo
Daisy: Baltimore

TAMPA BAY (4-2) at Detroit (3-2)
Detroit's two losses are by a combined 66 points.
Kids: Detroit

Tennessee (3-2) at HOUSTON (3-3)
You can't go home, again, Vince Young.
Buster: Houston
Daisy: Tennessee

New England (6-0) at MIAMI (0-6)
What the Heck™ Pick of the week, and maybe the What the Heck™ Pick of all time.
Kids: New England (16.5-point favorite)

San Francisco (2-3) at N.Y. GIANTS (4-2)
Is it possible Tom Coughlin isn't a lame duck?
Kids: New York (9-point favorite)

Atlanta (1-5) at NEW ORLEANS (1-4)
"And here come the Saints!" -- Chip Caray
Kids: New Orleans (9-point favorite)

Arizona (3-3) at WASHINGTON (3-2)
I just didn't see Kurt Warner getting hurt, did you?
Kids: Washington (8.5-point favorite)

Sunday late games

N.Y. Jets (1-5) at CINCINNATI (1-4)
So at what point does it become just stupid not to turn the Jets offense over to Kellen Clemens so he can get the take-his-lumps part of his career out of the way in a lost year?
Kids: Cincinnati (6-point favorite)

Kansas City (3-3) at OAKLAND (2-3)
The Chiefs are a lot better than I thought they'd be, the Raiders are a little better than I thought they'd be, and that isn't saying much about either.
Buster: Kansas City
Daisy: Oakland

Minnesota (2-3) at DALLAS (5-1)
The Cowboys get back to the soft part of their schedule.
Kids: Dallas (9.5-point favorite)

St. Louis (0-6) at SEATTLE (3-3)
Will 8-8 be good enough to win at least a share of the NFC West title, and will anyone notice whether it is or not?
Kids: Seattle (9-point favorite)

CHICAGO (2-4) at Philadelphia (2-3)
Big NFC Championship Game preview -- whoops.
Buster: Philadelphia
Daisy: Chicago

Sunday night game

PITTSBURGH (4-1) at Denver (2-3)
The Broncos are struggling, but they're good enough, and tough enough at home, that we'll get a good idea here if the Steelers are for real, which I think they are.
Kids: Pittsburgh

Monday night game

INDIANAPOLIS (5-0) at Jacksonville (4-1)
Hey, Patriots, the Colts are 5-0 and nobody's talking about them. They get no respect. Isn't that outrageous? Pats respect-card humor gets a pass from the one-sentence rule. And as long as it's broken: I'm taking the Colts here, but this will be a tough one for them.
Kids: Jacksonville (Go, kids!)

Season record: 55-34
Last week: 8-5
What the Heck™ Picks: 0-6
Change in winning percentage since the start of October and the general ignoring of the NFL by this column: +.070

Previous column: Cleveland Indians minstrel show

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  • By King Kaufman

    King Kaufman is a senior writer for Salon. You can e-mail him at king at salon dot com. Facebook / Twitter / Tumblr

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