Chess Match: Sox 'pen spotless
But even with Papelbon on hill, Francona had backup plan
ST. PETERSBURG -- The win-or-go-home mentality has a huge effect on how a game is managed. For Red Sox skipper Terry Francona, it was urgent enough to have Manny Delcarmen warming up in the ninth while Jonathan Papelbon threw his fastball to Rays hitters at 92-93 mph in Game 6 of the American League Championship Series on Saturday night.
"If something goes wrong," Francona said later, "you're picking out your Halloween costume."
The Rays could at least look forward to another chance Sunday with a loss, but they obviously didn't want it to go that far. Moreover, manager Joe Maddon approached some of his moves with that sense, trying to be aggressive on the basepaths and working the relievers according to the situation.
In the end, the home runs couldn't be planned, certainly not from Jason Varitek. The relief work turned out to be a product of solid planning.
Navi on the move
The situation: Dioner Navarro's leadoff single puts the potential tying run on base in the fifth for the bottom of the Rays order.
The decision: Maddon gives Navarro the go sign on a hit-and-run play with Jason Bartlett up and one out.
The outcome: Varitek throws out Navarro at second a few pitches before Bartlett homers, tying the game.
The analysis: The chance to avoid a potential inning-ending double play was crucial for the Rays, especially with the top of the order looming. Even with Josh Beckett's slow breaking ball, however, Navarro didn't stand much of a chance if Bartlett couldn't make contact. As it turned out, he didn't have much of a chance with the pitch.
The explanation: "Yeah, that was just a bad pitch for J.B. to work with." -- Maddon
Five and out for Beckett
The situation: Beckett overcomes home runs from B.J. Upton and Bartlett to last five innings with two runs allowed before Varitek's homer.
The decision: Francona replaces Beckett at 78 pitches with Hideki Okajima for the sixth.
The outcome: Okajima turns in two scoreless innings for the third time this series. Justin Masterson and Papelbon finish off the win from there.
The analysis: In terms of pitches, it was the shortest outing of Beckett's postseason career, but it wasn't the vintage Beckett in terms of stuff or health. All the Red Sox wanted was to take a lead into the later innings so that the bullpen could carry it from there. With the middle of Tampa Bay's order looming in the sixth, it would've been tempting fate to ask much more.
The explanation: "Five innings in combination with the 12- or 14-minute delay, and where we were in the lineup, as well as [the fact that] Oki's pitched against them, we felt it was an opportunity to bring him in with a clean inning and call it a night for Josh." -- Pitching coach John Farrell
Papi wins again
The situation: Coco Crisp's two-out single in the sixth brings up Dustin Pedroia and puts David Ortiz on deck against Rays starter James Shields, who's at 109 pitches.
The decision: Maddon pulls Shields in favor of lefty J.P. Howell to not only face Pedroia, but Ortiz.
The outcome: Bartlett's error on Pedroia's bouncer to short extends the inning for Ortiz, whose liner back up the middle drives in Crisp for a 4-2 lead.
The analysis: All that debate from a couple nights earlier about using a lefty against Ortiz turned out to be moot in this case. Ortiz was 1-for-9 for his career off Howell, yet found his pitch and did enough damage to send in the insurance run. Realistically, though, Howell shouldn't have had to face Ortiz until the next inning except for the error.
The explanation: "Just had that preset, and J.P. got the ground ball. Just didn't work out." -- Maddon
Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.