Well, no room for error now.
Tim Wakefield pitched four solid innings and got into a pitchers duel with Paul Byrd, but the wheels came off in the fifth as he allowed five runs including a Casey Blake home run, as the Indians went on to a 7-3 victory. They are now one win away from going to the World Series for the first time since 1997.
Wakefield was also the victim of some bad luck in that horrible fifth. Kevin Youkilis juggled a foul pop on a tough play that extended an at-bat by Asdrubal Cabrera, who lined a ball off Wakefield's glove. The ball was heading right for Dustin Pedroia, who might have had a shot at a double play. That drove in the second run, and Wakefield eventually departed with the score 3-0 and two on.
Manny Delcarmen didn't look good at all, and gave up a three-run shot to Jhonny Peralta to make it 6-0. One run later it was 7-0 and it looked all but over.
But the Sox finally came alive in the sixth, as Kevin Youkilis and David Ortiz hit homers off Byrd, who was then finished for the night. Manny Ramirez then launched a long home run to center off Jensen Lewis. He then went into that stupid "pimping"at home plate, raising his arms in the air like he just won the game (like in Game 2 of the ALDS). As much as I love Manny as a ballplayer, that was a total bullshit thing to do, especially being down by five runs at the time. I am honestly surprised that the next time he was up, Rafael Betancourt didn't put one behind his ear.
Betancourt came on in the seventh and shut the Red Sox down the rest of the way, and now the Sox face elimination on Thursday night with Josh Beckett getting the ball. In many corners of Red Sox Nation, the second guessers are having a field day with Francona's decision to give Beckett more rest instead of going to him on short rest last night. If Wakefield had given the Sox innings and they had won, Francona's a genius. It didn't happen, so now he's probably being called "Francoma" by his critics. He took a calculated risk, and it didn't work.
But let's face the facts here. The starting pitchers have let the Sox down in this series. Neither Curt Schilling nor Daisuke Matsuzaka could give them five innings in their starts, and put the Red Sox into holes. Wakefield had not pitched in 17 days and was terrific for 4 innings. But he also couldn't get them to the sixth either. It is the first time all year that the Red Sox have had three straight games when the starter couldn't finish the fifth inning. Going to Beckett last night would have been seen as a panic move as well.
And the offense has to take some blame here too. Up until the sixth inning last night, they had gone the previous 20 innings and scored just 2 runs. The bottom of the order has not hit when it has counted, and it's also a tribute to the quality pitching of the Indians.
Cleveland has outplayed the Sox in just about every phase of the game in their three wins. It's no accident they are up 3-1 right now. This is a very good Indians team, a team that finished the regular season with the same record as the Red Sox.
But it's not over yet. The Red Sox have been in deep holes in the postseason in their recent history as we all know, so they're not dead yet. But they've got to pitch better and get hits when they really matter.
It won't be easy against this Cleveland team. But they've done it before.
Pick the cliche of your choice. But a loss on Thursday means the next game after that would be next April.