Red Sox-killer Charles Nagy again turned a Game 3 into a lost cause for Boston and a big step toward the ALCS for Cleveland.
Nagy, the winner in the clincher of a three-game division series sweep over the Red Sox in 1995, pitched eight strong innings as the Indians won 4-3 Friday to take a 2-1 lead in the best-of-5 playoff.
Manny Ramirez hit two home runs and Jim Thome and Kenny Lofton also connected. The Indians got only one other hit, but still spoiled the latest stage in Bret Saberhagen's long comeback.
Nomar Garciaparra hit a two-run homer in the ninth off Indians reliever Mike Jackson. But Jackson retired the next two batters for his second save.
"We're still in Boston and we still have to win," Cleveland manager Mike Hargrove said. "That's a tough proposition."
Bartolo Colon (14-9) can clinch the series Saturday against Pete Schourek (1-3). Red Sox manager Jimy Williams admitted he was tempted to use his ace, Pedro Martinez, who won Game 1 Tuesday but would pitch on three days' rest for the first time this year.
"Temptation? Yeah. Come to my senses? No," Williams said. "That's my opinion. I'll live with it, regardless of what other people believe. That's the right decision."
Martinez said he asked pitching coach Joe Kerrigan to talk with Williams about starting on Saturday, but Williams denied the request.
"I really believe I'll be pitching on Sunday" when a fifth game would be played, Martinez said.
The teams split the first two games at Jacobs Field, but Nagy, a Connecticut native, may have had the home-field advantage in Fenway Park. He's never been beaten there, winning five games, and is 8-1 in his creer against the Red Sox.
"It doesn't matter what ballpark you're in, you just have to trust your stuff and go with it," Nagy said. "I was able to get some ground balls and, in a game like this, every run counts."
His 1997 postseason ended in disappointment as he allowed the winning hit in Florida's Game 7 victory in the World Series. And he was mediocre in the first half of this season. He was 5-1 in his last seven starts after going 8-6 as he struggled to keep his pitches from rising.
| Charles Nagy pitched eight strong innings, allowing one run, before giving way to Mike Jackson. (AP) |
He had no such troubles Friday, getting the Red Sox to pound the ball into the ground all day.
He faced just four hitters over the minimum and gave up four hits - singles by Darren Lewis and Mo Vaughn in the fourth, John Valentin in the sixth and Trot Nixon in the eighth.
He retired the first nine batters - six on grounders, two on strikeouts and one on a fly ball. He finally allowed a single leading off the fourth to Lewis, who scored Boston's first run.
Even that came in on a ground ball, as third baseman Travis Fryman forced Vaughn at second but Garciaparra beat Joey Cora's relay to avoid the double play. Nagy ended that inning by striking out Mike Stanley. In all, he struck out three, walked none and retired 15 batters on grounders.
The Red Sox had turned to Saberhagen, who was 11-3 after losses this season, to bring them back after Wednesday's 9-5 setback in Cleveland that followed an 11-3 win.
Finally, the Cy Young award winner at age 21 who rebuilt his career as he rebuilt his shoulder following surgery in May 1996, was in the game he had worked so hard to reach. The former World Series MVP was happy with his 15-8 record, his most wins since 1989, but said contributing in the playoffs was his goal.
He did that for four innings as he kept the Indians hitless and allowed just one runner on a leadoff walk in the fourth to Ramirez.
He gave up his first hit - and run - when Thome, who missed Thursday's off-day workout with flu-like symptoms, led off the fifth with his eighth homer in 33 postseason games to tie it at 1.
"When the Red Sox pushed theirs across, it didn't take the wind out of us, but it made you realize you got put behind the eight ball," Hargrove said, "and when Jimmy got that home run, it picked everybody up. It was the first sign that we had that we might be able to get to Saberhagen."
Saberhagen settled down, retiring the next four batters, before Lofton gave Cleveland the lead for good with his second homer of the series with one out in the sixth.
"I felt very good going into the game, probably the bst I've felt all year," Saberhagen said. "Knowing Nagy has pitched well against us, I knew I couldn't give up a lot of runs."
Ramirez started the seventh with a long shot over the Green Monster in left field. He added another in the ninth off Dennis Eckersley, his club-record 11th postseason homer, that was the margin of victory when Boston scored twice in the ninth.
Jackson relieved to start the inning, and Vaughn singled off the left-field with one out. Garciaparra followed with his second homer of the series, giving him 10 RBI in three games.
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