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ALCS has different vibe

ALCS has different look after Tribe's win

BOSTON -- The last time the Indians played baseball at Jacobs Field, the bugs were the story. As they head back home for the middle games of their American League Championship Series, they've made their statement -- like flying ants, they won't easily go away.

That Red Sox domination that seemed imminent after Manny Ramirez and Mike Lowell homered off lefty Rafael Perez in the fifth inning on Saturday proved premature. But then, this is the same path the Indians took to the World Series in 1995 and '97, winning Game 2 of the ALCS on the road to salvage a split before heading home. It's not the only piece of postseason history in their favor.

Seven out of the past eight seasons, the team that won Game 2 of the ALCS ended up winning the series. Four of those teams had lost the first game of the series, and all four advanced to the Fall Classic. Since the LCS went to the best-of-seven format in 1985, two-thirds of the Game 2 winners have gone on to win the series.

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If playing so late into the night wasn't enough reason for the Indians to sleep easy on their way home early Sunday morning, they could count statistics to get to sleep.

"It's the postseason. It's one game," manager Eric Wedge said after the Game 2 win. "It was a big win for us to come out of here with the split. We've got the day off [Sunday], and we'll be ready to play the next day."

That said, Wedge's counterpart doesn't expect the loss to linger.

"If this does us in," Red Sox manager Terry Francona said of their Game 2 loss, "we're not as good as we thought we were."

It's under that backdrop that Daisuke Matsuzaka will face the Indians for the third time this year, having split the first two outings. He put Indians hitters to sleep at Jacobs Field on July 24 with seven scoreless innings, allowing the Red Sox's lone run against C.C. Sabathia to stand for a 1-0 victory. It was a notable rebound for Matsuzaka, whose first brush with the Indians on May 30 saw him give up a season-high 12 hits over 5 2/3 innings with six runs allowed.

Essentially, his followup performance dismantled the notion that teams can hit him better the second time they see him and pick up on his unique traits. His rebound attempt on Monday will be more about overcoming the rough outing that he had in the AL Division Series against the Angels, who knocked him out in the fifth with seven base hits and three earned runs.

Matsuzaka hasn't won on the road since he tossed seven innings of two-run ball on Aug. 4 in Seattle. He hasn't had a quality start away from Fenway Park since going six innings against the Rays on Aug. 22 in a 2-1 defeat at Tropicana Field.

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His opponent, Jake Westbrook, didn't exactly thrive in his postseason debut, either. He took the only loss the Indians suffered in their ALDS when the Yankees pounded out six runs on nine hits in five innings off of him. However, his willingness to go after hitters and throw strikes is a big reason for his second-half recovery, and it's a trait the Indians desperately need from a starter after the Red Sox waited out walks from Sabathia and Fausto Carmona in the first two games.

Only once in Westbrook's last 13 starts has the 30-year-old right-hander walked more than two batters in an outing. For that matter, he gave up four or more walks in just four of his 25 starts this season. One of those, however, was his loss to Boston in July.

Jason Beck 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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