Nixon Nails Former Teammates, Indians Tie ALCS
Sunday, October 14, 2007; 3:08 AM
BOSTON, Oct. 13 -- The Cleveland Indians had every force of nature, and perhaps even a few supernatural ones, working against them Saturday night.
The forest green walls of Fenway Park were closing in on them. The dynamic duo in the middle of the Boston Red Sox' lineup was rewriting the record books. As this weekend's events played out, folks across New England were beginning to allow themselves to think their team was another blessed one, another team of destiny -- reminiscent of another Red Sox team, the one from 2004, the curse-breakers, the franchise's first World Series champs in 86 years.
The Indians had to deal with all that and more in Game 2 of the American League Championship Series. But then, into the game as a pinch-hitter came the antidote, a man with as legitimate a claim to that 2004 Red Sox legacy as nearly anyone in the building. Trot Nixon silenced 37,051 fans the same way he used to set them aflame when he was one of theirs.
Pinch-hitting in the top of the 11th, Nixon -- the Red Sox's longtime right fielder, now a reserve for the Indians -- singled home Grady Sizemore with the go-ahead run in what became a 13-6 Indians victory at the end of a five-hour, 14-minute marathon. The best-of-seven series is tied at one win apiece, as the whole enterprise shifts to Cleveland for Game 3 on Monday night.
"I think we all know how a player can cross over to the dark side," Nixon said with a smile. "I'm the enemy coming in here. [But] I had some great years here in Boston."
Red Sox relievers Eric Gagne and Javier Lopez needed only a handful of pitches apiece to undo what had been, to that point, a captivating duel of bullpens following the unexpectedly early exits of starters Fausto Carmona and Curt Schilling.
"Both of us had gotten to our bullpens so early, and the bullpens did such a good job getting the game to extra innings," said Red Sox Manager Terry Francona. "You're trying to [prevent] one run. And then the bottom kind of fell out on us. [...] But this was one of the best-played games -- up until the last 15 minutes -- by both teams, as any game I've ever been a part of."
Gagne, the former superstar closer in Los Angeles turned struggling mop-up man in Boston, opened the 11th -- after the Red Sox ran out of relievers they could trust -- but departed after allowing a one-out single to Sizemore and a walk to Asdrubal Cabrera.
Lopez, a lefty, was brought in to face the left-handed-hitting Nixon, who, on a 1-0 pitch, lifted a soft single into shallow center field. The throw from Red Sox center fielder Coco Crisp was off line and weak, and Sizemore scored easily. From there things devolved, as first Lopez, then Jon Lester, failed to stop the onslaught in what became a seven-run inning for the Indians.
"I was excited to finally get in there," said Nixon, who signed with the Indians this winter. "It was 1:30 in the morning... For some reason, I felt a calmness out there in the batter's box."
Lopez said, "If anyone knows this ballpark, it's Trot Nixon."
It was unquestionably a game the Indians had to win. Lose, and they would go back to Cleveland down two games to none, with their season riding on the arms of Jake Westbrook and Paul Byrd in Games 3 and 4 at Jacobs Field.