If you just looked at the overall team stats, you’d have a difficult time in explaining how this series went seven games. Boston hit .318/.395/.521 as a team, while the Indians managed just .254/.302/.410, The Red Sox drew 31 walks, the Indians just 16. The Indians had a team ERA of 6.82; the Red Sox’s ERA was more than two runs lower (4.57). This huge disparity came about largely after Game 4; Boston outscored Cleveland 40-5 in the last three games of the series.
Indians starters pitched less innings, struck out less, and walked more than their counterparts. Sabathia and Carmona, the Indians’ best pitchers, were mostly horrible. After the Indians stole Game 2, Westbrook and Byrd gave the Indians two decent starts, which was really all they needed. Sabathia was decent in his second start, but Carmona’s two efforts were anything but. The short outings of Carmona and Sabathia meant Indian relievers needed to take over as early as the third inning, something they weren’t accustomed to. It’s possible the back end of the bullpen simply wore out towards the end of the series.
Betancourt and Lewis were fantastic until Game 7; both played a key role in Game 2, throwing 4.2 scoreless innings between them. Borowski retired the Red Sox in order in his only save opportunity of the series. It was Perez who really let the team down, first in Game 2, necessitating long outings from Lewis and Betancourt, and later in Game 5. He wasn’t used again, and rightfully so, but his absence from the regular bullpen rotation meant more innings for the relievers who were left.
Manny Ramirez: 22 AB, .409/.563/.727, 1 2B, 2 HR
David Ortiz: 24 AB, .292/.424/.542, 3 2B, 1 HR
Mike Lowell: 27 AB, .333/.375/.519, 2 2B, 1 HR
Kevin Youkilis: 28 AB, .500/.576/.929, 1 2B, 1 3B, 1 HR
The Indians couldn’t contain these four; which was fine as long as the rest of the Sox lineup wasn’t hurting them. But after Game 4, Boston’s lineup turned into a top-to-bottom weapon.
Grady Sizemore: 27 AB, .222/.313/.407, 2 2B, 1 HR
Victor Martinez: 27 AB, .296/.367/.444, 1 2B, 1 HR
Travis Hafner: 27 AB, .148/.207/.296, 1 2B, 1 HR
Jhonny Peralta: 27 AB, .259/.276/.556, 2 2B, 2 HR
The Indians couldn’t match Boston’s consistent attack, though they scored seven runs in an inning twice in the series. Hafner was the main culprit, disappearing offensively as the series went on. Hafner’s struggles meant that Martinez, who hit behind him, didn’t have as many opportunities to drive in runs. Conversely, once Dustin Pedroia got hot, Boston’s offensive output erupted.
Even with the statistical disparity in almost every category, the Indians were up 3-1 at one time, and had an opportunity to win Game 7. Starter Jake Westbrook settled down after a shaky first three innings and left the game having gotten the Indians through six. It was probably the best start of the series by a Cleveland starter, and exactly what the Indians needed. Betancourt and Lewis, the duo who had handled the Red Sox all series, were both available for multiple innings. Down just one run, all the Indians needed was an opportunity, and they got a golden one in the seventh when Julio Lugo dropped a Kenny Lofton pop fly, leaving Lofton on second with just one out. Franklin Gutierrez then lined a single right down the third base line, and with Lofton getting a good jump, it appeared he would easily score the tying run. But third base coach Joel Skinner held him up, Casey Blake grounded into a double play, and Lofton never scored.
The second devastating blow came just minutes later. Blake played a Jacoby Ellsbury grounder into a two-base error, and two batters later Betancourt gave up just his fifth home run in almost 90 innings of work, a two-run shot off the bat of Dustin Pedroia. Betancourt got out of the inning without allowing any more damage, but the Red Sox finished him and the Indians off in the eighth, scoring six more runs.
Although the Indians got unexpected help from some of their supporting cast, the poor performances from players expected to carry the team, especially Fausto Carmona, Travis Hafner, and Rafael Perez, allowed the Red Sox to first extend and finally win the ALCS. The 2007 campaign should be counted as a success especially given where the Indians were a year ago, but blowing a 3-1 series lead against any team, even one as good as the Red Sox, is a disappointing coda to an otherwise promising season.