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10/21/07 1:05 AM ET
Westbrook out to reprise Game 3 role
With two-game edge gone, Game 7 all-or-nothing for Tribe
By T.R. Sullivan / MLB.com
BOSTON -- Their 19-game winners couldn't get the job done, so now the Indians turn to Jake Westbrook to pitch the biggest game of their now-in-jeopardy season.
Westbrook will be on the mound for the Indians when they take on the Red Sox at 8 p.m. ET on Sunday night in Game 7 of the American League Championship Series. He will be opposed by Daisuke Matsuzaka for the Red Sox, with the winner advancing to the World Series.
"You can't get much bigger than that," Westbrook said after the Indians' 12-2 loss to the Red Sox in Game 6 on Saturday. "It's going to be a challenge and definitely a lot of emotions. But I'm excited to be the guy on the mound."
Westbrook was asked how he will sleep.
"I'll be able to sleep pretty well," Westbrook said. "It's already pretty late, so I'm pretty tired."
Westbrook, a six-game winner, was far from the Indians' best pitcher during the regular season as he struggled to recover from an abdominal strain that sidelined him for six weeks in May and June. But he was terrific for the Indians in a Game 3 matchup against Matsuzaka at Jacobs Field.
Westbrook took a four-hit shutout into the seventh inning before giving up a two-run home run to Jason Varitek. He still ended up the winning pitcher in the Indians' 4-2 victory.
"He did a good job for us," Indians manager Eric Wedge said. "We're just looking for him to go out and give us a chance to win the ballgame. Jake has pitched some big ballgames for us and he's aggressive. He knows what he needs to do to be successful."
Westbrook did one thing particularly well against the Red Sox. He threw a first-pitch strike to 21 of 27 hitters he faced, including 18 of the first 20. He also used his secondary pitches effectively in addition to pounding the strike zone with the sinker.
"They've got a veteran ballclub and very patient hitters, and they make you work," Westbrook said. "That's my job, to kind of mix it up and do the best I can.
"I think, for me, it's just a matter of having a good game plan, sticking with it, making some good pitches when I need to make them and do the best thing that I can, which is keep them off balance."
Westbrook will have extra backup. Paul Byrd, who was the winning pitcher in Game 4 and pitched just as well as Westbrook, will be available out of the bullpen.
"It's all hands on deck," Byrd said. "Everybody who is eligible will be available. Everybody who is available will be in the bullpen. It will be a big party out there."
The Indians were hoping the party would be over by now. They had a 3-1 lead in the ALCS after four games but now find themselves in a must-win situation after the Red Sox came back to beat both C.C. Sabathia in Game 5 and Fausto Carmona in Game 6.
That leaves it up to Westbrook, who was 6-9 with a 4.32 ERA in 25 starts during the regular season but 5-5 with a 3.44 ERA in 16 second-half starts.
"Jake started off the season banged up, but he came back and did a great job," outfielder Trot Nixon said. "He's one of our top pitchers. We look forward to seeing him out on the mound. We have every bit of confidence in Jake as we do any of our pitchers.
Including his start in Game 3, Westbrook is now 4-2 with a 4.46 ERA in seven career starts against the Red Sox. He has held David Ortiz to just one hit in nine at-bats against him but Manny Ramirez is 9-for-18, Kevin Youkilis is 6-for-10 and Varitek is 4-for-9.
"It's going to be a good matchup," Red Sox outfielder J.D. Drew said. "As far as facing Westbrook, he kind of had us off balance in the first game. We'll have to make some kind of adjustments and maybe watch a little videotape and be ready to go."