The Lofton Get Back: Cleveland 4, Boston 2
In the top of the second inning of last night’s Game 3 between Boston and Cleveland, left fielder Kenny Lofton caught a mid-range routine fly ball and noticed Mannny Ramirez mimicking a tag at third. Lofton seemed very annoyed Manny would entertain such a ridiculous idea. Maybe Manny was just being Manny but Kenny simply wagged his finger and let his emotions chill until he could come through in the clutch. Manny showing Lofton up seemed to awaken the fire that Kenny wanted and needed.
Kenny is the consummate water bug. Anyone who has played or watched basketball knows the term very well. Water bugs are usually diminutive guards who are all over the court barking, smacking, snatching and clawing any chance they get to pry the ball out of the opposition’s possession and into theirs. From his days of playing passionate in your face defense backing up pg Steve Kerr and dropping dimes on Sean Elliot, Kenny knew how to get in Boston’s head. If you watched the game, you might have noticed that little used Royce Clayton was mic’d up. In what seemed like a baseball dream movie scene, Royce vocalized his displeasure in Lofton intentionally slowing down the game. He arrogantly motioned Lofton into batters box even though his teammates weren’t exactly feeling his vibe. Kenny was taking his sweet ole time as if to say, “Brotha you aren’t even playing. This is my house. Pull up a chair and while you are at it, grab some of TO’s popcorn. I want what Boston has and I’m about to take my shot. Watch me!” Kenny was doing what he should have been doing in this instance–throwing off Matsuzaka’s timing–and also getting in the head of any Boston fan, fake fan, coach or player taking notice. He took Manny’s gesture the previous half inning personal and seemed to not care less who the hell he pissed off.
Matsuzaka was pitching well but routinely fell behind hitters early. His breaking ball was sick and had enough spirit covering his fastball to keep the very potent Indian hitters at bay. Lofton would have none of this and guessed right that Matsusaka would groove the first pitch to get ahead. In story book timing–as the crowd begins to chant his name–Lofton swells up and smashes colossal a line drive which barely creeps over the right center field fence and gives the anticipating crowd a lifetime Mayor memory.
The hypothetical Mayor of Cleveland‘s two run blast conjures images of mid ’90’s glory where The Jake was rocking away to over 400 consecutive sellouts. Imagine Lofton giving the home crowd a curtain call in the second inning.
Cleveland tacked on two runs in the fifth. Casey Blake scored on a hard Asdrubal Cabrera single up the middle and also Grady Sizemore scoring when Dustin Pedroia failed to miraculously turn a double play that would have ended the inning. It was an amazing attempt. Pedroia is gonna be good.
Cleveland’s bullpen weathered a Jason Varitek two run homer to claim an improbable victory.
Daisuke Matsusaka’s practice of warming up a half and hour before game time instead of the standard fifteen minutes might be the reason he has trouble pitching into the fifth inning. He has this little rocking motion just before delivering, which combined with his vast assortment of pitches keeps the opposing hitters guessing. Trouble is, if he gets behind early in the count a mid-game shower is in his future. Boston broke the bank bidding for Daisuke, and it seems American League hitters have figured out his stuff. How much money did they pay for this cat again?
Jake Westbrook got ahead of Boston batters all night–throwing first pitch strikes to most of the batters he faced–and pitched six plus strong innings, allowing two runs, two hits as Cleveland used the Kenny Lofton inspired crowd championship starved groundswell to take a 2-1 lead in the ALCS. Boston could be in serious trouble after surrendering home field advantage to the Indians. Look for Cleveland’s hungry hitters to spray Game 4 pitcher Tim Wakefield’s knuckle balls all over the Jake. Terry Francona’s decision not use the unstoppable Josh Beckett on three days rest might come back to haunt a franchise that seems a little overconfident. 2004 was a long time ago and Boston’s arrogance might have helped the Indians smell an October dream realized.
Good job Manny, somewhere Albert Belle is smiling.
Photo credit: Bill Snyder/Reuters