Westbrook rises to the occasion for Indians

Oct 16, 2007 - 5:01 AM By Todd Krepop PA SportsTicker Contributing Writer

CLEVELAND (Ticker) -- Jake Westbrook may not have the Cy Young credentials of teammates C.C. Sabathia and Fausto Carmona, but he does have a win in the American League Championship Series.

Westbrook pitched like an ace Monday, holding the vaunted boston Red Sox lineup to only two runs in 6 2/3 innings in the Indians' 4-2 victory.

Using his sinkerball to perfection Westbrook recorded 14 outs via the ground ball - including three double plays - to give the Indians a 2-1 lead in the ALCS.

Westbrook has been overshadowed most of the season. Sabathia and Carmona, both 19-game winners, have shared most of the spotlight and 15-game winner Paul Byrd has had his share of publicity as well.

But on Monday it was Westbrook who pitched deep into the game and gave the Indians bullpen a much-needed rest. Sabathia and Carmona failed to get through the fifth inning in the first two games of the series.

"They have been our two best pitchers all year and they have had success by attacking the zone and getting ahead," Westbrook said. "They didn't do that as well as they had during the season (in) the first two ballgames."

Where Sabathia and Carmona failed, Westbrook excelled. He threw a first-pitch strike to the first 11 batters and 21 of 27 he faced overall.

"I came in tonight wanting to get ahead and get strike one with a good quality pitch," Westbrook said. "I was able to do that and it showed by the way I pitched."

Of the three double plays, none were bigger than the one Westbrook recorded in the second inning.

The Red Sox had a chance to take control of the game and the series in the inning, loading the bases with nobody out.

With over 44,000 people in Jacobs Field on the edge of their seats, Westbrook got Jason Varitek to fly out to shallow left field and then got the speedy Coco Crisp to bounce into an inning-ending double play.

"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."

The momentum switched to the Indians dugout and carried into the bottom half of the inning when Kenny Lofton hit a two-run homer to give Westbrook a lead that he wouldn't relinquish.

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

Westbrook bounced back from a shaky start in the ALDS against the New York Yankees - where he lost Game Three by giving up six runs in five innings.

The 30-year-old righthander served notice that his sinker was working early as he got Boston slugger Ortiz to ground into an unusual 4-5-3 double play to end the first inning.

Westbrook got his final twin-killing in the sixth as cleanup hitter Manny Ramirez bounced into a 6-4-3 double play to end the inning. Westbrook fell behind Ramirez, but battled back to work the count full before Ramirez hit a one-hopper to short.

"He was making all the right pitches at the all the right times," Varitek said. "He got the ground ball outs when he needed them."

The only mistake Westbrook made was a 2-2 pitch to Varitek in the seventh that the Red Sox captain crushed over the center field wall to cut the Indians' lead to 4-2. Westbrook struck out Crisp for the second out of the inning, but yielded an infield single to end his night.

"You always know you've got a good chance to have a good day with Jake putting the ball on the ground the way he was," Indians manager Eric Wedge said. "I felt like he was aggressive. He worked ahead. He was consistent with his delivery."

By going deep in the ballgame, Westbrook allowed Wedge to use his bullpen the way he wanted and it worked to perfection.

"He came up so big for us today," reliever Jensen Lewis said of Westbrook.

Lewis struck out Dustin Pedroia to end the seventh, Rafael Betancourt worked a perfect eighth and closer Joe Borowski had a 1-2-3 ninth. The trio combined for 2 1/3 perfect innings.

"We needed it," Wedge said. "Our bullpen has been working hard. For Jake to get us deep in the ballgame and control the ballgame the way he did, right along with his defense, that was something we needed."

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