BOSTON -- This is the place for updates to see if the Indians can find their equilibrium and somehow stop the Boston momentum in Game Seven of the ALCS. Or if the Tribe will simply become the next version of the '96 Cardinals. That St. Louis team had a 3-1 lead in the NLCS -- but the Braves outscored them, 32-1, in the final three games. Boston has a 19-3 bulge over the Tribe in Games Five and Six.
It's over: Sox win, 11-2. A long, cold winter for the Tribe after blowing the final three games. Sox-Rockies starts here Wednesday night.
End-8th: So close. Jonathan Papelbon inherited a first-and-second, no-out jam and got out of the inning unscathed -- but not before Ryan Garko fell about five feet shy of a game-tying three-run homer. The ball died in Jacoby Ellsbury's glove in deep right-center just in front of the bullpen. The Sox blow it open with a six-run eighth to make it 11-2. A three-run double by Dustin Pedroia (right) and Kevin Youkilis' two-run homer are the big blows.
End-7th: Josh Beckett has sat back down, with Hideki Okajima pitching his second inning. Closer Jonathan Papelbon is up and I'm betting the Sox may use him for two innings. Meanwhile, Jake Westbrook has done a terrific job for Cleveland, retiring the last seven hitters. The Tribe just blew a golden opportunity to tie the game as Kenny Lofton got to second when Julio Lugo dropped his popup in short left field and went to third on Franklin Gutierrez's single down the line. But why didn't he score? The ball caromed into short left field and third-base coach Joel Skinner first waved Lofton home, then held him up. On the next pitch, Casey Blake banged into an around-the-horn double play to end the inning. Wow.
Blake must have still been thinking about his DP ball because he butchered Jacoby Ellsbury's leadoff chopper. One out later, Rafael Betancourt gave up Pedroia's two-run homer over the Monster. It's 5-2 Boston after it probably should have been 3-3 in the top of this inning. Poor Skinner. Think he just hurt his chances of managing the Pirates next season? Yikes.
Top-6th: Daisuke Matsuzaka is gone, replaced by Hideki Okajima. But the big news is this -- Josh Beckett is warming in the Boston bullpen. Dice-K's line: 5 IP, 6 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 0 BB, 3 Ks.
Mid-5th: We're at the halfway mark and the Indians have crept within 3-2 on Ryan Garko's RBI double in the fourth and Grady Sizemore's sacrifice fly in the fifth. The Tribe fifth could have been bigger but Kenny Lofton was gunned out (right) by Manny Ramirez trying to stretch a leadoff single to a double. A 50-50 call that went Boston's way and probably cost the Indians a run as Franklin Gutierrez followed with a single up the middle. Jake Westbrook has induced three double plays in four innings, giving Boston an LCS-record 14 in the series.
End-3rd: The Red Sox have a leadoff hit in each inning and that runner has scored to produce a 3-0 lead. Kevin Youkilis has two hits, including a double in the third that became run No. 3 on Mike Lowell's sacrifice fly. Daisuke Matsuzaka retired the first eight Indians before Casey Blake's two-out single was the Tribe's first hit. He he went to second on a wild pitch but Grady Sizemore fanned for the third out. Boston's run in the second scored on Julio Lugo's double-play ball after Jason Varitek led off with a double and Jacoby Ellsbury singled him to third.
End-1st: The Red Sox lead, 1-0, on Manny Ramirez's RBI single that should have been an inning-ending double play. Just like last night, Dustin Pedroia and Kevin Youkilis led off with singles. David Ortiz struck out and Manny-being-Manny ripped a wicked one-hopper off the lip of the grass. Shortstop Jhonny Peralta was down (?) and the ball kangarooed over his head off his glove into left-center. In this situation, that play has got to be made to get Westbrook off the field. Things could have been much, much worse as J.D. Drew came up with the bases loaded but there was no grand slam tonight. Instead, it was a DP -- with second baseman Asdrubal Cabrera making a terrific barehand catch and relay to first.
Pregame: The Paul Byrd-Mark Shapiro press conference was pretty chaotic, with nearly 100 reporters jammed in a hallway near the Indians' clubhouse. Byrd was pressed up against a brick wall for his chat (left), during which he explained his shipments of HGH were prescribed by doctors for medical reasons. Why not do this in the official interview room? The word is that MLB didn't want the room used with its official backdrop so the Indians were on their own. There is no basement here and the clubhouse is right in the concourse. Cordoned off by a fence from fans, you could still hear all their chatter and smell the Italian sausage and onions. Pretty bizarre setting for a serious talk.
Anyway, the Dropkick Murphys (see the Game Six blog) got the crowd in a good mood by performing the national anthem and their signature tune, Tessie, from a stage in front of the center-field wall. Ex-Sox utility man Kevin Millar got a rousing ovation when he tossed the first pitch. Meanwhile, the Boston police tell us they are planning for a celebration as they just handed out a press release saying the Fenway neighborhood will be locked down from the seventh inning on (e.g. no one gets in who isn't already in). Hope they work on the public drunkenness.
I left the park at 2 a.m. last night and college kids were stumbling all over the place. Cabs simply refused to pick anybody up (isn't one point of a cab to help stem DWI?). Took me a mile walk away from the park -- at 2 a.m. remember -- to get one to stop. Brutal cab town and the subway shuts down at 12:45 a.m. Wonderful.
(Photos: Associated Press)