August 28, 2014

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Elation in 11 innings: Indians down Red Sox, even series

BOSTON — A bad outing from Fausto Carmona on Saturday night was supposed to spell defeat for the Indians in Game 2 of the American League Championship Series.
Thanks to Cleveland hitters, namely Trot Nixon, it didn’t.
On the bench for 10 innings, Nixon, who made his name as a Boston outfielder for eight seasons, came back to burn his old teammates, delivering a one-out, pinch-hit, RBI single that snapped an 11th-inning tie and sent the Indians to a surreal 13-6 victory.
Nixon’s hit ignited a seven-run inning for Cleveland, which built a lead that closer Joe Borowski could not blow, as the Indians tied the series at a game apiece, with the action shifting to Jacobs Field for Game 3 on Monday.    
Though one of the majors’ best pitchers, Carmona, and legendary postseason performer Curt Schilling were on the mound, the game was dictated by offense.
Both starters were gone before the end of five innings, Carmona leaving with a man aboard and the Indians leading 5-3 in the fifth, while Schilling was chased with two outs in the top of the inning after allowing a solo homer to Grady Sizemore and two consecutive singles to Travis Hafner and Victor Martinez.
Carmona, 5-0 with a 1.62 ERA in his last six starts, including nine shutout innings in his Game 2 ALDS start against the Yankees, allowed four runs on four hits and five walks, while Schilling surrendered five runs on nine hits (two homers).
Staked to a 1-0 lead on doubles from Sizemore and Martinez in the top of the first, Carmona, like Game 1 starter C.C. Sabathia, struggled with control, walking two in the opening inning, but emerged unscathed after Manny Ramirez bounced into an inning-ending double play.
He retired the side in order, but Carmona’s pitch count began to climb following a three-run third for Boston, which forced the right-hander to throw 39 pitches.
In the midst of the uprising, Carmona walked Ramirez on four pitches with the bases full, the third time during the series that Boston’s cleanup hitter walked to force in a run. It was the first time a hitter drew three bases-loaded walks during the postseason, let alone a single series.
Mike Lowell’s two-run double scored Dustin Pedroia and David Ortiz to put the Red Sox up 3-1. Ortiz’s infield single off Carmona’s glove accounted for the 10th straight time the Boston DH reached base, tying a playoff record set in 1990 by the Reds’ Billy Hatcher.
By the end of the fourth inning, Carmona’s pitch count had risen to 95, but the Indians were back in the game after Jhonny Peralta connected on a three-run homer to center that put his team on top 4-3. It was Peralta’s first career postseason homer.
Carmona was removed after allowing a leadoff single to Kevin Youkilis in the fifth on his 100th pitch.
Schilling, who entered the game with a 9-2 career mark in the postseason, worked his second-shortest playoff outing.
Cleveland turned to Rafael Perez to rescue Carmona in the fifth, and got unfavorable results, with the normally effective left-hander allowing consecutive homers to Ramirez (two-run shot) and Lowell that put Boston back in front 6-5. Ramirez connected on his 23rd postseason homer, surpassing Bernie Williams for the most ever.
The Indians tied the game off Manny Delcarmen in the sixth, with Peralta drawing a leadoff walk, moving to third on a hit from Kenny Lofton and scoring on Franklin Gutierrez’s grounder to short. Gutierrez later hit a three-run homer in the 11th, leaving Casey Blake as the only player in Cleveland’s lineup without a hit.
Once the game was tied, the offense stopped, with both teams going scoreless over the next three innings to force extra frames.
Rafael Betancourt struck out Ramirez for the final out of the seventh before pitching two straight scoreless innings. Boston closer Jonathan Papelbon kept the game tied with a scoreless ninth and 10th.
Tom Mastny retired Ortiz, Ramirez and Lowell in order in the bottom of the 10th to set up the 11th-inning heroics.
Contact Chris Assenheimer at 329-7137 or cassenheimer@chroniclet.com.

NEXT UP

WHO: Cleveland vs. Boston
WHAT: ALCS Game 3, best-of-seven series tied 1-1
WHEN: Monday, 7:10 p.m.
WHERE: Jacobs Field
PITCHERS: Westbrook (6-9, 4.32 ERA) vs. Matsuzaka (15-12, 4.40)
TV/RADIO: Channel 8; WEOL 930-AM, WTAM 1100-AM, WKNR 850-AM