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Indians forced to Boston for Game 6

Indians forced to Boston for Game 6

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CLEVELAND -- Protective plastic did not line their locker stalls. The champagne bottles that had been chilling in a back room remained uncorked.

And the prevailing sound in the Indians clubhouse after Thursday night's 7-1 loss to the Red Sox in Game 5 of the American League Championship Series at Jacobs Field was that of complete and utter silence.

This was to be the Tribe's coronation -- a punch of the ticket for the organization's first AL pennant in a decade. Instead, what transpired in front of 44,588 amped-up fans was merely a kick-in-the-gut confirmation of a flight to Boston this weekend for Saturday's Game 6 at Fenway Park.

Disappointment? Sure.

"Who wouldn't want to wrap it up here?" third baseman Casey Blake said. "But some things just aren't in the cards."

Dread and despair? Maybe in the minds of the Cleveland faithful, who have grown all too accustomed to such deflating experiences, but not in the minds of the Indians players and manager Eric Wedge.

"When you talk about beating a team like Boston four in a row," Wedge said, "that's tough to do, particularly in the postseason. We put ourselves in a pretty good position by the way we played here at home, and we did not play particularly well tonight."

No, they did not.

For the second time in this best-of-seven series, Indians ace C.C. Sabathia was outdueled by Boston's Josh Beckett, who has a reputation of coming up large with his team's season on the line.

As for Sabathia's reputation, well, he certainly improved upon his showing at Fenway Park in Game 1. But the postseason stage still hasn't been one he's managed to conquer this October.

Sabathia gutted out six-plus innings in which, once again, he clearly didn't have his best stuff. He fought himself out of a few potentially crippling conundrums, most notably when he stranded the loaded bases in the fifth, with the Indians down, 2-1.

"I felt like I was staying within my delivery and just going out and throwing," Sabathia said. "This start here, I can live with a little more than my last one."

This start, though, wasn't one that was going to last deep in the night. Sabathia, after all, needed 106 pitches to get through six.

Beckett, on the contrary, was efficient, effective and flat-out dominant. The Indians eked out a run against him in the bottom of the first, when the struggling Travis Hafner grounded into a double play that allowed Grady Sizemore to score from third to tie the game up at 1.

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But that was it. In eight innings of work, that's all Beckett allowed. He gave up just a run on five hits with a walk and a season-high 11 strikeouts. And the Indians' scant opportunities against him were squandered.

That first-inning run might have tied the game, but the double play was a buzzkill after Sizemore's leadoff double and Asdrubal Cabrera's ensuing single. Down, 2-1, after Manny Ramirez put the Sox ahead on the longest of long RBI singles off the top of the center-field wall in the third, the Indians had runners on the corners with two out in the fifth. But Cabrera went down swinging on three pitches to end that threat.

What made Beckett so tough? You name it.

"No one talks about his sinker, but he's got a great sinker," said first baseman Ryan Garko, who went 0-for-3 off Beckett. "And he's got a good curveball. It's different than some other guys. Usually you can look for the fastball and adjust to the breaking ball, but with him, he's got such good arm action that it's hard to put a good swing on his breaking ball. We just couldn't get that big hit off him."

Wedge wasn't pleased with the effort of the offense.

"Where my disappointment lay," he said, "was the lack of adjustments in hitters. We just saw him four or five days ago. And not to take anything away from Beckett, because he was very good, but we were in between all night long. When you've got somebody throwing against you like that with that type of stuff, you can't live in between."

Wedge found himself in between a rock and a hard place with regard to how to handle Sabathia in the seventh. He knew his ace was at 106 pitches and was fighting uphill all night, but he also didn't want to go straight to Rafael Betancourt for two innings.

So Wedge stuck with Sabathia. And he paid.

Dustin Pedroia led the seventh off with a double, and Kevin Youkilis knocked him in with a triple on a ball that bounced off a diving Sizemore's glove.

That ended Sabathia's night and began a trend in which the Indians would begin to kick the ball around down the stretch. The Red Sox kept adding to their lead off relievers Rafael Perez and Tom Mastny, both of whom were erratic in the three-run eighth, and it became abundantly clear that this was no clincher.

When it was over, the Tribe's locker room was sparsely occupied and decidedly dead in feeling.

The players' words, though, betrayed the atmosphere.

"It's nothing disappointing," catcher Victor Martinez said. "We're still in a good spot. Everybody wants to win. You've got to give credit to those who deserve credit. What else can we do?"

Well, they can pack up their bags and hope Fausto Carmona can out-pitch Curt Schilling in Game 6.

"Ask anybody in here," Sabathia said, "and we just want to clinch, period. Whether it's Boston or here doesn't matter. We just want to get it done."

They didn't get it done on this night. Keep that champagne on ice.

Anthony Castrovince is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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{"content":["league_championship_series" ] }
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