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