August 29, 2014

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Scott Petrak: Relax, this Tribe team won’t fail

CLEVELAND — Take a deep breath and relax.
Yes, the Indians lost Game 5 7-1 Thursday night.
Yes, the ALCS is headed back to Boston.
Yes, the Indians failed to clinch at home.
Yes, ace C.C. Sabathia fell to 0-2 in the series.
No, it’s not time to panic.
No, this won’t be a repeat of 2004 when the Red Sox became the only team in postseason history to rally from a 3-0 deficit to oust the Yankees and win their first World Series since 1918.
No, Northeast Ohio won’t add The Collapse to The Drive, The Fumble and The Shot.
This Indians team is better than the Red Sox and will prove it once and for all in cramped Fenway Park. Sure, a home-field celebration would’ve been nice, but silencing Red Sox Nation in its house will be just as sweet.
“The champagne tastes just as good on the road as it does at home,” first baseman Ryan Garko said.
It’s understandable to worry — you are a Cleveland sports fan. It’s not OK to doubt — this team has given you no reason.
Game 5 was a tough one to lose, especially after two days of anticipation. But it’s easily explainable.
First, it’s hard to beat a good team — the Red Sox won 96 regular-season games for a reason — four straight times. Secondly, Josh Beckett is about as clutch as clutch gets in October.
With his ex-girlfriend, country singer Danielle Peck, on the field twice to belt out the national anthem and “God Bless America,” Beckett wasn’t the least bit affected. He must have won the breakup.
He pitched eight innings, allowing just a run on five hits and a walk. He struck out 11 by mixing a 97 mph fastball with a wicked curveball. If Manny Ramirez is Cleveland’s public enemy No. 1, Beckett has made himself 1A.
“Obviously Beckett was sticking it to us,” manager Eric Wedge said.
Beckett’s stuck it to a lot of teams. In eight postseason starts (5-2, 1.78), he has never gone fewer than six innings, while allowing more than two runs just once.
Here’s the good news for Tribe fans: Beckett, who has both Boston victories, won’t start another game in this series.
Fausto Carmona will for the Indians, and that’s some more good news. Carmona will get the ball in Game 6 on Saturday.
Although he wasn’t his sharpest in Game 2 — four runs in four innings — he was the Tribe’s best starter in the second half of the season, and he didn’t allow more than three runs in back-to-back starts all year.
Carmona went 9-4 with a 2.26 ERA in the second half. He was 19-8 with a 3.06 ERA for the year. If on, his heavy sinker will make the Green Monster a non-factor, and his overall stuff is good enough to handle Ramirez, David Ortiz and Kevin Youkilis — the threesome carrying the Red Sox lineup.
“He just needs to be aggressive and pitch his game,” Wedge said of Carmona. “He needs to focus on his strengths and go after it. If he does that, I think we’ll be in pretty good shape.”
The Red Sox will counter with Curt Schilling in Game 6 and Daisuke Matsuzaka if there is a Game 7. The Tribe knocked both of them out after 42/3 innings earlier in the series.
Looking for more reason for optimism? The Indians care. They run out balls off the wall, unlike Ramirez. They dive for fly balls, unlike Ramirez. They slide into home plate, unlike Ramirez.
Sometimes they care too much. Sabathia overthrew in his first two postseason starts, and designated hitter Travis Hafner looks like he’s about to turn the bat handle into sawdust. He struck out twice Thursday, which gives him six strikeouts in his last eight at-bats.
“We need him to get it going,” Wedge said. “He’s getting in his own way a little bit.”
One win is all that blocks the Indians’ way to the World Series. They have everything they need to get it done.
As Journey wailed on the stadium speakers before the game Thursday: Don’t stop believin’.
Contact Scott Petrak at 329-7135 or spetrak@chroniclet.com.