BOSTON -- Much has been made of the Indians being forced to return to the quirky, antique environment of Fenway Park for Game 6 of the American League Championship Series. With his team still on the verge of clinching a World Series berth, manager Eric Wedge opted to do his part to diffuse whatever intimidating aura this environment might impose upon his players by leaning on the one player who knows Fenway better than any other. So there he was again. Trot Nixon, in the lineup, batting eighth and manning right field.
"He gets us a little more experience here," Wedge said. "He knows right field here, and he's a left-handed bat [against right-hander Curt Schilling]." Nixon, who came into the game 2-for-9 in his career against Schilling, was not expected to have much of a meaningful role with the Tribe when the postseason began. But this marked his third start in 10 games. It is, however, as much a credit to Nixon as it is a comment on regular right fielder Franklin Gutierrez's troubles to hit the breaking ball and navigate Fenway's bizarre right-field terrain. In Game 1, Gutierrez, who is batting .160 in October, misplayed a ball hit by Mike Lowell that turned out to be a two-run ground-rule double. "Trot's obviously very familiar with it out there," Wedge said. "And Trot's a great teammate. He worked with Gutierrez [on playing right field here] before the game." Being a great teammate had been Nixon's primary contribution to this club in the second half, as Gutierrez began getting more of the playing time. "He's important to us as a ballclub, because he's been a mentor," Wedge said of Nixon, "and in some ways to some of our core players who are developing into leaders themselves. Trot has probably been more out front than anybody." Lately, though, Nixon has had a chance to contribute in more tangible ways. His pinch-hit RBI single in the 11th inning of Game 2 here was as big an at-bat as the Indians have had this postseason. The Indians came into Game 6 hoping for more of the same. K is for Kleveland: The way Josh Beckett was pitching in Game 5, he probably could have gotten just about any lineup in baseball to strike out 11 times. Beckett or no Beckett, though, the Indians are in the middle of a disturbing trend when it comes to their strikeout susceptibility. The Indians struck out 10 or more times in Games 3, 4 and 5. The postseason record for consecutive games with double-digit Ks is four games, set by the '97 Mariners. On the whole, the Tribe has struck out 34 times during this stretch. "We've always been a team with our share of strikeouts," said Wedge, whose club ranked third in the AL with 1,202 strikeouts this season. "But we want to make sure the damage comes along with it. That's what I want to see happen. When opportunities arrive, we want to be sure we take advantage of those opportunities and separate a little bit on the scoreboard."
Anthony Castrovince is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.