10/16/07 1:00 AM ET
Defense finishes job for Westbrook
Critical double plays help Indians overtake Red Sox in ALCS
By David Briggs / MLB.com
An error by Indians first baseman Ryan Garko had loaded the bases with nobody out, putting starter Jake Westbrook into full-throttle damage control.
"Try to just keep it to one run," Westbrook thought.
Instead, he did one better. Westbrook got Jason Varitek to pop up a slider and used his faithful sinker to induce a double-play grounder from the fleet Coco Crisp.
The game remained tied, and as the towel-waving sellout crowd flew off the handle, the Tribe's dugout knew the night had taken a defining turn.
"Big momentum swing," Garko called it.
All night, Westbrook used his unfailing sinker while relying on a masterful infield defense to consistently snuff Boston's hopes by drawing three inning-ending double plays over his 6 2/3 innings of two-run ball.
As Westbrook said, "It was fun to be a sinkerball pitcher tonight."
Before finally being touched by Varitek's two-run homer in the seventh, Westbrook had been able to count on the twin killing to stifle every Red Sox rally.
And it was a theme set early. In the top of the first, Westbrook issued a one-out walk to Kevin Youkilis with David Ortiz and Manny Ramirez, the game's hottest tandem, looming.
No worries, though. As the Indians employed an exaggerated shift to the infield's right side, Ortiz laced a Westbrook sinker to Asdrubal Cabrera in short right field. Cabrera fielded it cleanly, tossed an absurdly long double-play throw to Casey Blake at second before the Tribe's third baseman nailed Ortiz by a step with a short-hopped throw to Garko at first.
"That's about as good a double play as you're going to see with three players being pretty good with what they're trying to do there," manager Eric Wedge said.
Westbrook was hoping for a reprise in the second. In other words, as Ramirez, Mike Lowell and J.D. Drew consecutively reached to lead off the inning, he was willing to sacrifice a run.
Yet, after getting Varitek to weakly fly out to Grady Sizemore in center, the man got greedy.
"I just told myself to trust the sinker," he said.
So he did, and Crisp lined a grounder directly at Peralta, who turned the 6-4-3 double play.
Doubling up Crisp, Boston's fastest runner, perhaps signified another aspect of Westbrook's night -- plain good fortune.
As well as Westbrook pitched on a night in which he recorded 15 of his 20 outs via the grounder, it simply seemed to be his night. When the grounders weren't finding Cleveland's infielders, they were finding Boston's runners. Ortiz, with nobody out in the fourth, saw his leadoff double go to waste when Drew bounced a ball off his legs as he ran to third.
"We had some luck on our side tonight," Garko said.
Finally, Westbrook completed the hat trick in the sixth. As if Boston hadn't been deflated enough, Westbrook erased the Red Sox two-on, one-out rally by getting Ramirez to ground into a 6-4-3 double play.
"You always know you've got a good chance to have a good day with Jake putting the ball on the ground the way he was," Wedge said. "Whenever you have the chance to get two outs with one pitch, it goes a long way for you.
David Briggs is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.