* Kenny Lofton must really want a World Series ring. Over the course of the playoffs Lofton has arguably been the team’s MVP. He’s certainly been the the team’s spark plug, coming up with huge hits left and right. The crowd sure loves him, too.
* Jake Westbrook was huge tonight. Not only did he shut down the Sox for the better part of 6 2/3 innings, but he was able to give the bullpen some much needed rest. Lewis faced one batter. Betencourt had an easy eighth inning. Borowski was just fine closing things out in the ninth. This could be huge dividends for the Indians tomorrow. Who knows how long Byrd can go?
* Hated the amoeba-like strike zone. Westbrook was getting squeezed a bit more than Dice K, but neither pitcher should have had to deal with that ump. Westbrook’s fourth pitch to Manny in the sixth was definitely a ball, but I’m not totally sure the previous three pitches were all balls, either. And I know everyone groaned when Garko struck out with two on in the seventh (eighth?), but at that point it wasn’t clear just how far the strike zone extended off the plate. He probably felt as though he needed to swing at anything that wasn’t too high or low. Oh, and both Pronk and Varitek came pretty darn close to exploding right there in the batter’s box. All told it was laughably bad umping. At least it wasn’t a playoff game.
* The Indians now have a huge advantage in the series. The Red Sox — according to every report available — will be starting Tim Wakefield tomorrow. Wakefield hasn’t pitched since late September, he was left off the ALDS roster, and he’s nursing an ailing back. If his knuckle ball is flat he’ll be out of the game by the fourth inning and even if his stuff is on there’s no telling how long he’ll be able to go. The Red Sox’s bullpen is a little tired and was never robust to begin with and if Wakefield can’t go more than five innings the Indians will have a huge advantage.
* Why aren’t the Red Sox pitching Beckett on short rest? There are a lot of reasons, but here’s a big one that’s not being discussed: If Beckett goes in Game 4 then the Indians will have a HUGE advantage in Games 5 and 6. Sabathia would face Schilling in Cleveland and then Fausto would face Dice K in Boston. Right there are two games the Indians should win. By not pitching Beckett in Game 4 the Red Sox are counting on no worse than a split in Games 5 and 6 and will be happy to take Dice K vs Westbrook at home in Game 7.
* Of course, none of this really matters if the Indians win Tuesday. Up 3-1 with Sabathia, Fausto, Westbrook, and a rested bullpen the Indians will have too much pitching for Boston.
* Ortiz, Manny, and Lowell definitely scare the crap out of me (and Youkalis is annoying) but once you get beyond Lowell the Red Sox do not scare me at all. It’s like there is a black hole for 1.1 innings. Say what you will about Casey Blake or Franklin Gutierrez, but they can both smash. From top to bottom I think the Indians have the better lineup. At least right now.
* Keep your fingers crossed that Tuesday’s game is played. There is a 50% chance of rain. If the game gets rained out the Red Sox will pitch Beckett in the rescheduled Game 4 and then on short rest in Game 7. That’s much less attractive than Wakefield-Beckett-Schilling-Dice-K.
* (Photo courtesy of Getty Images)