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Sunday, October 14, 2007

Indians 13, Red Sox 6 (11 innings)

BOSTON (AP) -- Trot Nixon spent 13 years in the Red Sox organization trying to prove he could hit lefties.

That ought to be pretty clear to everyone now.

The longtime Boston outfielder snapped an extra-inning tie with a pinch-hit single, and the Cleveland Indians scored a record-setting seven runs in the 11th to beat the Red Sox 13-6 early Sunday and even the AL championship series at a game apiece.

"I think we all know how a player can cross over to the dark side, but I fully expect that I'm the enemy coming in here," Nixon said. "I was excited to finally get in there at 1:30 in the morning."

The anticipated pitching matchup of postseason star Curt Schilling and 19-game winner Fausto Carmona fizzled into a stalemate that lasted 5 hours, 14 minutes before Joe Borowski got Julio Lugo to ground into a game-ending double play.

The best-of-seven series moves to Cleveland for Game 3 on Monday night, when Red Sox rookie Daisuke Matsuzaka will face Jake Westbrook.

"We'll go have our workout in about 10 hours," Boston manager Terry Francona said. "It would be a nice idea if you could run through the postseason without losing. I don't know how realistic that is."

Manny Ramirez set a record with his 23rd postseason homer, and Mike Lowell followed with a shot that gave the Red Sox a 6-5 lead in the fifth and a chance to take control of the series.

Then their big bats finally went quiet, and Boston dropped to 4-1 in the playoffs.

Tom Mastny got the win and deserved it: He retired David Ortiz, Ramirez and Lowell in order in the 10th -- a task few pitchers would relish.

"I really didn't have a choice, did I?" Mastny said with a smile. "It's what we play for. It's exciting. It happened to be the heart of their order."

With Red Sox closer Jonathan Papelbon done after pitching two innings, Eric Gagne came in for the 11th.

The trade deadline acquisition fanned Casey Blake to start the inning, then gave up a single to Grady Sizemore and walked Asdrubal Cabrera.

Nixon, the seventh overall pick in the 1993 draft, singled to right-center off Javier Lopez.

"I didn't hit it hard, but I hit it where I needed to," Nixon said.

It was his seventh postseason hit against a lefty in 132 at-bats.

"I've struggled at times against left-handers," Nixon added. "But I felt good. I felt like the first pitch I saw, I saw real well. You know, for some reason, I just felt a calmness out there in the batter's box."

The Indians, handcuffed by Josh Beckett and the Boston bullpen in Friday's opener, weren't done.

After a run-scoring wild pitch and Ryan Garko's RBI single chased Lopez, Jon Lester came on and gave up Jhonny Peralta's RBI double and a three-run homer to Franklin Gutierrez -- the outfielder who squeezed Nixon out of the starting lineup -- that made it 13-6.

"Trot hasn't been playing much, but he's kept working hard," Garko said.

The seven runs for Cleveland were the most by a team in one extra inning in postseason history.

A career .224 hitter against lefties, Nixon was allowed to leave as a free agent last winter so the Red Sox could pursue J.D. Drew. But Drew also struggled during his first season in Boston and was replaced in the lineup for Game 1 of the ALCS against lefty C.C. Sabathia.

Nixon batted .251 with three homers and 31 RBIs this year, but didn't drive in a run after July 29 as Gutierrez took over the everyday duties. Nixon played one game in the first-round series against the New York Yankees, facing Roger Clemens and going 2-for-4 with a homer and a double.

Even when Nixon is out of the lineup, Indians manager Eric Wedge is glad he's around.

"He's taught a lot of our young players what it means to be a leader," Wedge said. "You've got to be your strongest when other people are sometimes at their weakest, and you've got to pick people up. Trot's season this year, whether he's playing or not playing, he's been very consistent in that clubhouse, on that bench."

Now, Cleveland hopes Westbrook, its No. 3 starter, can do what co-aces Sabathia and Carmona couldn't: Keep Ortiz and Ramirez off base, or at least keep Lowell from driving them in.

The third baseman, who had a career-high 120 RBIs protecting Ortiz and Ramirez in the lineup, has driven home a run in all five Boston playoff games. On Saturday, he hit a bases-loaded single in the third to knock in two runs and then joined Ramirez in back-to-back homers -- and curtain calls -- in the fifth when the Red Sox briefly took a 6-5 lead.

The Indians tied it in the sixth on Gutierrez's RBI groundout.

Ramirez's homer broke a postseason mark he had shared with former Yankees star Bernie Williams. The left fielder, who tipped his cap to the crowd when the accomplishment was noted on the scoreboard, also drew his third bases-loaded walk in two days, setting the record for one postseason.

Ortiz, who walked in the first and singled in the third, tied a postseason record by reaching base safely in 10 straight plate appearances before grounding into a fielder's choice in the fifth. But the big slugger hustled down the line to beat out a potential double play before Ramirez went deep.

Schilling made his first playoff appearance at Fenway Park since his second bloody sock outing, Game 2 of the 2004 World Series, when he took the mound with a surgically repaired ankle and allowed the St. Louis Cardinals just one unearned run in six innings.

He pitched seven shutout innings against the Los Angeles Angels on Sunday in the first-round clincher.

But the Indians got to him quickly.

"Everything about this one falls on me," Schilling said. "It's about me coming up small in a big game."

Sizemore doubled leading off the game and scored on Victor Martinez's double. After the Red Sox took a 3-1 lead in the third, Peralta put Cleveland back on top with a three-run homer to center in the fourth.

Sizemore made it 5-3 with his solo shot in the fifth, then Travis Hafner and Martinez reached on consecutive singles with two outs and that was all for Schilling. It was the second-shortest postseason start of his career, and his postseason ERA went from 1.93 to 2.53.

"We put together a great inning to take a lead, and I forced our bullpen into a situation. You're asking your bullpen to put up a lot of zeros and it's not fair," Schilling said.

Carmona also was chased in the fifth. He pitched nine innings of three-hit ball in "The Bug Game," an extra-inning victory over the Yankees in the division series.


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