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Chess Match: Easy Game 3 moves

Chess Match: Easy Game 3 moves

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CLEVELAND -- With the way Game 3 of the American League Championship Series went, there weren't a whole lot of strategic moves. Most of the decisions dictated themselves, like putting on shifts or keeping runners stationary. The tough choices in this one involved how long to stick with the two starters -- one effective, the other less so.

It's Trot time now
The situation:
Indians manager Eric Wedge is weighing who on his roster has the best shot at hitting Daisuke Matsuzaka.


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The decision: Less than 48 hours after Trot Nixon's go-ahead single helps the Indians win Game 2 in extra innings, he's in the starting lineup for Game 3, playing in right field instead of young Franklin Gutierrez.

The outcome: Nixon goes 0-for-3 with a strikeout and two groundouts.

The analysis: Wedge told reporters beforehand that he made the switch less for momentum and more to keep Gutierrez away from Matsuzaka's breaking ball. It didn't work out, and ironically, Nixon struck out on a Dice-K breaking ball. None of Nixon's at-bats came with runners on base, so it didn't make a big difference in the offense.

"You know, I look at Gutierrez, and we've thrown a lot at him for a young kid, and he's done a great job. He had a big home run the other night. But they've been feeding him a steady diet of breaking balls, and I think we'll see more of that tonight with Matsuzaka. -- Wedge, on Gutierrez before the game

Enough for Westbrook, plenty for Lewis
The situation:
Top of the seventh inning, two outs and runner on first for Dustin Pedroia, who's the potential tying run.


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The decision: Wedge removes Westbrook for rookie reliever Jensen Lewis, who pitched in each of the first two games as well.

The outcome: Lewis strikes out Pedroia for his only out to carry the lead to Rafael Betancourt in the eighth.

The analysis: Though Pedroia has been struggling this postseason, the last thing Wedge probably wanted to do is put Westbrook in a position to lose this game. That said, the move showed a lot of trust in Lewis, who now has 3 1/3 scoreless innings in this series.

"I really didn't want to use Betancourt for more than an inning. I know that he would've been more than willing to, but more times than not, I'd probably bring him in and let him run through the eighth. But with the way Lewis has been throwing the ball and the way he's been competing, we were able to go to him right there and had [Rafael] Perez ready if needed, and we were able to keep Betancourt to one inning." -- Wedge

Sticking with Dice-K
The situation:
Bottom of the fifth, one out, runners at the corners and one out for Travis Hafner in a 3-0 game.


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The decision: Red Sox manager Terry Francona sticks with the struggling Matsuzaka -- who had given up three straight baserunners -- against Hafner, who had taken a called third strike and walked in his previous plate appearances.

The outcome: Hafner grounds into a fielder's choice, barely beating a double-play throw, but Grady Sizemore scores from third base to make it a 4-0 game. Francona lifts Dice-K a batter later after Victor Martinez singles on Matsuzaka's 101st pitch of the night.

The analysis: Matsuzaka has worked into big pitch counts all season, so one more batter wouldn't be a big deal to him. Plus, Boston's bullpen depth is questionable at best. Still, Hafner had a chance to further pad Cleveland's lead. Francona's only choices were to hope for the double play or strikeout.

"I thought he threw some good pitches. I thought he had some depth to his slider and there was some differential, and I thought his fastball was good. Just a lot of deep counts." -- Francona, on Matsuzaka's performance

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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{"content":["league_championship_series" ] }
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