Game 15 - Red Sox
Red Sox 5, Indians 3
Spotted on Theo Epstein's desk late last night: a carbon copy from a Western Union telegram. (Work with me - it's got more scene-making grit than an email printout.)
To: Mark Shapiro
From: Theo Epstein
Please pass along the gratitude of the Boston American League Baseball Club to your manager, Eric Wedge, for his kind actions over the past two nights. It was one thing to bring in Borowski when Betancourt was just killing us on Tuesday, but when Wedge removed Paul Byrd after 6 innings and only 78 pitches last night...and then brought in Jorge Julio to boot? Words fail us - truly a mensch you've got running your team.
Jed Lowrie drove in 3 runs in his major league debut to pace the Sox (and tie him with David Ortiz for RBI on the season. Oof.), Tim Wakefield struggled and puffed through 6 innings of 2-run ball before the bullpen tried hard to blow another game, and Jason Varitek finally rescued the Sox with a 9th-inning pinch-hit homer to plate the eventual winning run.
But the story of this one was Wedge's inflexible and robotic game management. The Indians led 2-1 after 6 innings, with Byrd confusing the Sox with his maddening slowball arsenal. Everyone watching the game from Bangor to Berea would have kept Byrd in the game, especially given the fact that stud relief arm Rafael Betancourt was unavailable to the Tribe after throwing 23 high-stress pitches on Monday. Eric Wedge doesn't truck with popular opinion, dear reader. Instead, he brought on old friend of MLC Jorge Julio (sorry, Whit) to open the 7th in place of Byrd.
Predictably, Julio walked the first 2 Sox batters he faced and was promptly lifted. The runners eventually came around to score, and the musical relief pitchers doomed the Indians to have to rely on Jensen Lewis for 35 late-inning pitches - including the one that Varitek smoked over the fence. Textbook overmanaging by Wedge and a gift of a series sweep handed to the Sox.
Two more against the Yankees starting tonight, with More Wang! Combine C.M.'s dominance of the Sox with Clay Buchholz' Yankee Stadium debut this evening, and I'm already ducking for cover.