Notes: Gagne's struggles continue
Former closer looking to find groove in setup role with Sox
BOSTON -- At a time the Red Sox appear to be putting just about everything together, there remains one mystery. What is the matter with Eric Gagne?
The Red Sox acquired the accomplished closer from the Rangers on July 31, expecting him to be the final piece to a dominant bullpen. But one thing after another has gone wrong for Gagne since his arrival. The right-hander's first three postseason outings have all been shaky, the last of which contributed to a 13-6, 11-inning loss to the Indians in Saturday's Game 2 of the American League Championship Series.
Gagne took the loss, allowing a hit and a walk while retiring just one batter in the 11th.
"We need him to win," said Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia. "I don't know what to say. We need him to help us win the World Series. We're all 100 percent behind him and pulling for him."
Gagne left the clubhouse before the media was granted access following Game 2.
The right-hander struck out the side in Game 1, but he also allowed three baserunners.
"At times [in Game 1], he threw some great offspeed pitches, which I think are obvious, because he got the swings and misses," said Red Sox manager Terry Francona. "And then at times, it was the guy we've seen maybe losing the balance on the follow-through or the recoil on the follow-through and the fastball up here [in the zone]. It's a very difficult fine line right now. We're in the postseason. It is a little tough."
Manny Delcarmen, Mike Timlin and Hideki Okajima are all ahead of Gagne on the setup man depth chart, which is definitely not the way the Red Sox envisioned things at the time of the trade.
At that point, Gagne had gone 2-0 with a 2.16 ERA while converting 16 of 17 save opportunities for the Rangers. With Boston, thrust into the unfamiliar setup role, he went 2-2 with a 6.75 ERA in 29 games.
Gagne will be a free agent in the offseason and will most likely find a closer's job somewhere. But he waived his no-trade clause to come to Boston so he could be on a championship-contending team, and Francona is impressed the way the right-hander continues to put the team's success ahead of his own struggles.
"The one saving grace for me is the way he handles it," Francona said. "He's trying [hard]. It's just not as clean as we would like it to be."
Even though, as Francona noted, it's a tough time of year for experimentation, he hasn't given up hope that the former Cy Young Award winner can play an important role at some point this October.
"Just the consistency in his outings and the timing of his outings probably aren't helping," Francona said. "We'll keep at it. Hopefully we'll have some time to figure this out."
Beckett still set for Game 5: In case fans were wondering, Francona did not lift Josh Beckett following 80 pitches and six innings on Friday with the idea of bringing him back in Game 4 on three days' rest.
"That had nothing to do with it," Francona said. "It was just a long inning, pitching change [for the Indians], it was cold. He was back in the [clubhouse], as a lot of guys do, trying to stay loose, and the longer the inning went, I just went back and told him he had had enough."
There was some speculation before the series started that the Red Sox would bring Beckett back on short rest for Game 4 and then be able to bring him back on regular rest for a potential Game 7. But Francona opted to go with Tim Wakefield in Game 4 and Beckett for Game 5.
In special company: Speaking of Beckett, he is building himself quite a legacy in October.
Beckett has made just seven playoff starts and one relief appearance in his young career, but some of his numbers are already among the best in history.
Beckett's 1.87 ERA is the 14th best among pitchers with at least five starts and 35 innings pitched in postseason. But he has other numbers that rank much higher, according to STATS Inc.
BECKETT VS. KOUFAX
Red Sox ace Josh Beckett has seven postseason starts and one postseason relief appearance. That's the same as Hall of Famer Sandy Koufax, who won World Series MVP Awards in 1963 and '65.
Beckett has held opponents to a .147 batting average in the playoffs, and that's the lowest among pitchers with at least five starts and 35 innings pitched. He is also the lowest with 4.53 hits per nine innings and 6.71 baserunners per nine innings.
Beckett, with 62 strikeouts in 572/3 innings, has also struck out 9.68 batters per nine innings. That's the third highest, trailing only Bob Gibson (10.22) and Randy Johnson (9.82).
Dynamic duo: What David Ortiz and Manny Ramirez did in Game 1 was nothing short of historic. They each reached base in all five of their plate appearances. That marked the first time that a pair of teammates both reached base in every plate appearance when each batter had at least five plate appearances.
"You know, it's tough, because what they're doing right now is pretty incredible," said Indians manager Eric Wedge. "You've got a guy behind them [in Mike Lowell] who only knocked in 120 [runs]. So it's not just about those two guys, but obviously they're the backbone of what they do here offensively."
Grinding out at-bats: Though Ortiz and Ramirez are getting a lot of accolades -- and rightfully so -- for their tremendous success thus far in the postseason, the truth of the matter is that the entire Boston lineup has stepped up in terms of quality at-bats.
"Right now, there's a lot of confidence in keeping the line moving," Francona said. "That's the best way to do it anyway. I think it just comes back to swinging at strikes. I think good things happen when you swing at strikes. You leave the zone and it doesn't work."
Papelbon is ready and waiting: Sox closer Jonathan Papelbon was used just once in the first four games of the postseason, leaving Francona with a fresh flamethrower for last call.
Papelbon, who hasn't pitched since Game 2 of the Division Series on Oct. 5, did work a simulated game on Tuesday.
"I'm not worried about him," Francona said. "He got up last night, he's been up in just about every game, at least off the mound. There's a pretty good chance, if there's any kind of a gray area, he's going to throw tonight. He's got a pretty good grip on the touch and feel. That's what we kind of struggled with the first six weeks of the season. Not the health, but remember, he was walking people, he wasn't commanding like he can. We're to the point now where when he doesn't pitch, he knows what to do."