for this game

Westbrook, Lofton lead Indians past Red Sox in ALCS

Oct 16, 2007 - 4:29 AM CLEVELAND (Ticker) -- The Cleveland Indians have been searching for a shut-down starting pitcher during the American League Championship Series. Surprisingly, Jake Westbrook turned out to be the guy.

Westbrook pitched 6 2/3 strong innings and Kenny Lofton provided some offensive fireworks as the Indians earned a 4-2 victory over the Boston Red Sox on Monday in Game Three of the ALCS.

Rookie Asdrubal Cabrera had two hits and drove in a run for Cleveland, which took a two games to one lead in the best-of-seven series and hosts Game Four here on Tuesday.

"Anytime you can get a 2-1 lead in the series, it's special," Indians closer Joe Borowski said.

The Indians entered the series with two of the top starters in the AL going in Games One and Two in C.C. Sabathia and Fausto Carmona. When neither 19-game winner was able to complete five innings, Cleveland was left searching for an answer in the rotation.

Westbrook (1-0), who suffered the Indians' lone ALDS loss to the New York Yankees, was an unlikely choice to shut down a Boston offense that had scored 35 runs in five postseason games and boasted the formidable duo of David Ortiz and Manny Ramirez in the middle of the order. But Westbrook stepped up to the challenge, pounding the strike zone early in at-bats and getting ahead of the Red Sox hitters to set up his trademark sinker.

"You try to get early contact and you try to keep hitters off base," Westbrook said. "But when they are on base, that's what you try do is to get a double play. That's kind of what I worked for."

The righthander started the first 11 hitters he faced with strikes and threw first-pitch strikes to 21 of the 27 batters he faced. He induced 14 ground-ball outs and allowed two runs and seven hits while walking three and striking out two to earn his first career postseason win.

"He did a great job keeping the ball down in the zone," Cleveland catcher Victor Martinez said. "He was getting ahead of hitters."

Lofton staked his pitcher to an early lead when he got to Boston starter Daisuke Matsuzaka in the second for a two-run blast. With Ryan Garko aboard following a one-out single, Lofton drove the first pitch he saw from Matsuzaka just over the right field wall for a 2-0 advantage.

"I wanted to be aggressive at that point and I got lucky," Lofton said.

The 40-year-old outfielder stepped out of the batter's box before the pitch was thrown and waited an extra few seconds before stepping back in to face Matsuzaka.

"Well you know whatever I got to do to get them rattled," Lofton said, "and if that works I'll keep doing it."

Lofton's blast was his first since beginning his third tour of duty with the Indians on July 27, and marked his seventh career postseason homer - the first since taking Curt Schilling deep in Game One of the 2004 ALCS when he was with the Yankees.

"The guys have been ragging me for it ever since I've been here," said Lofton about his first home run with the Indians this season. "I haven't had a home run and I had seven before I got here."

The two-run homer came one-half inning after the Red Sox failed to score after loading the bases with no outs in the top of the second. Westbrook walked Manny Ramirez and allowed a single to Mike Lowell before J.D. Drew reached on an error.

The veteran sinkerballer recovered to retire Jason Varitek on a popup to short left field before inducing a double play grounder from Coco Crisp.

"I was trying to get Varitek into a double play or try to keep it to one run," Westbrook said. "But I made a pitch on him and he got a pop fly. And then got behind Coco and then just told myself to trust my sinker and I was able to do that. I made a good pitch and got a double play which was big for us."

"It was really a pivotal point," Red Sox manager Terry Francona said.

For the second game in a row in the ALCS the Indians bullpen came up huge, with three relievers combining to toss 2 1/3 innings of perfect baseball. Borowski notched the final three outs for the save.

"Jake stepped up," Borowski said. "You couldn't have asked for more."

Included in that scoreless stretch was another solid performance by Rafael Betancourt, who pitched a scoreless eighth - retiring Kevin Youkilis, David Ortiz, and Manny Ramirez in order.

"With those guys you have to battle with your best stuff," Betancourt said. "I knew who was coming up in that situation. I didn't want Youkilis to get on base with David and Manny coming up."

Matsuzaka (0-1) struggled for the second straight time in the postseason, allowing four runs and six hits in 4 2/3 innings to suffer the loss. The Japanese righthander walked two and struck out six while throwing 101 pitches in less than five frames.

"It was a lot of pitches," Francona said. "It's a lot of deep counts. Saying that, he made one glaring mistake to Lofton."

Cleveland knocked Matsuzaka out with a two-run rally in the fifth, getting RBI from Cabrera and Travis Hafner to extend the lead to 4-0.

"I thought he was pretty good tonight," Varitek said. "I thought he threw it pretty well. It was coming out of his hand well, but he was just missing some of his spots."

The Red sox cut the lead in half in the seventh when Varitek clubbed a two-run homer off Westbrook, but failed to get anything else going in the late innings against the Indians' bullpen.