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10/16/07 12:15 AM ET
Gutsy Westbrook gives Tribe 2-1 lead
Lofton's two-run homer supports righty's 6 2/3 strong innings
By Anthony Castrovince / MLB.com
CLEVELAND -- He didn't win 19 games this season. No one puts "ace" in front of his name. And when the Cy Young Award voting is announced, you won't find him anywhere among those getting votes. Jake Westbrook, in short, is everything C.C. Sabathia and Fausto Carmona are not. And for the Indians, that was a good thing in Game 3 of the American League Championship Series on Monday night. A Tribe team that didn't get the outings it had expected from Sabathia and Carmona in Games 1 and 2 got much more than it could have bargained for from Westbrook. His dipping and diving sinker devastated the potent Red Sox bats, as the Indians won, 4-2, to take command of the series in front of a sellout crowd of 44,402 at Jacobs Field. The Indians have a 2-1 advantage in this best-of-seven ALCS, thanks in large part to the 14 ground-ball outs and three inning-ending double plays induced by Westbrook in an outing that demonstrated why the Tribe still views him as a cornerstone of the rotation. "I just came in tonight wanting to get ahead and get strike one with a quality pitch," Westbrook said. "I was able to do that, and it showed by the way I pitched." Did it ever. It was evident from the outset that Westbrook, coming off a roughshod outing against the Yankees in Game 3 of the AL Division Series, had his best sinker working. He got David Ortiz, who had reached base safely in 18 of 23 postseason plate appearances, to hit into the first of those double plays. With the Indians in full-shift mode on the fearsome left-handed hitter, second baseman Asdrubal Cabrera made a nice pick of a hard-hit ball and tossed it to third baseman Casey Blake at second to start the rare 4-5-3 turn. "That's about as good a double play as you're going to see," manager Eric Wedge said. The second inning was textbook Westbrook. The Red Sox put three on with none out against the contact-inducing right-hander, with first baseman Ryan Garko's fielding foible on what should have been a routine groundout from J.D. Drew loading them up. It was the type of inning that might have blown up in Westbrook's face in that start against the Yanks. This time, however, he got Jason Varitek to fly out to shallow left, then got the ground ball he was looking for out of Coco Crisp for a 6-3 double play. "I got behind Coco, [2-1], and then just told myself to trust the sinker, and I was able to do that," Westbrook said. "I made a good pitch and got a double play, which was big for us." It loomed larger in the bottom of the inning, when, with one on, Kenny Lofton pounded Daisuke Matsuzaka's first-pitch fastball over the right-center-field wall to give Westbrook a 2-0 cushion. An inning that could have easily gone the Red Sox way instead belonged to the Tribe. The rest of the game would follow suit. Westbrook was aided further in the fifth, when the Indians pushed two more runs across against Dice-K to knock the $100 million Japanese import out of the game. Blake got that inning going with a one-out base hit, moved to second when Grady Sizemore walked and came around to score when Cabrera scooted a ground-ball single up the middle.
Anthony Castrovince is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.