Indians Lookback: Tribe Blows Golden Opportunity for a Trip to the World Series in 2007 ALCS Meltdown

Mark Warmuth

The 2007 baseball season is one of the big "what ifs" of Cleveland sports history.

Mostly because we all assume if the Indians, who had a 3-1 lead in the American League Championship Series over the Boston Red Sox, had played in the World Series against Colorado, they would have steamrolled them much like Terry Francona's team did in a four game sweep.

Instead, the series is viewed as another huge disappointment.

The series began in Fenway Park with the Tribe getting bludgeoned 10-3. After both teams scored single tallies in the first, the Sox scored four in the third, three in the fifth, and two in the sixth.

C.C. Sabathia gave up eight runs in 4-1/3 innings, and with the ace getting hammered, things didn't look good.

Especially with Curt Schilling pitching Game 2 for Boston.

It looked more glum after the Red Sox scored three in the third to take a 3-1 lead. But Jhonny Peralta hit a three run HR off Schilling in the 4th, and made it 5-3 when Grady Sizemore homered in the 5th.

Back-to-back dingers in the bottom half (Manny Ramirez and Mike Lowell) gave Boston a 6-5 lead, but Cleveland tied it in the top of the 6th.

And then no one scored. For awhile, as the game headed to extra innings.

In the bottom of the 10th, the Sox had David Ortiz, Ramirez, and Lowell to face rookie Tom Mastny, after Eric Wedge had used his most reliable relievers, Rafael Perez, Rafael Betancourt, and Jensen Lewis.

Talk about a feeling of dread...except Mastny retired them in order.

Cleveland scored seven in the top of the 11th, capped by Franklin Gutierrez' grand slam homer (after run scoring hits by former Boston player Trot Nixon and Ryan Garko) and the Tribe went home even in the series.

Returning to Jacobs Field, the Indians won game three 4-2 with Jake Westbrook beating Boston, and Kenny Lofton hitting a two run homer, and took a commanding 3-1 series lead scoring seven runs in the 5th to win 7-3 behind Paul Byrd, who went five, and the bullpen.

Casey Blake and Peralta belted homers, and the Tribe was one win away from the pennant.

But Beckett spoiled the party, going eight innings in a 7-1 win. It was a 1-1 tie heading into the 7th, but Sabathia had given up 8 hits in his six innings, and was over 100 pitches.

Wedge sent him back out there, and he gave up back-to-back extra base hits to Dustin Pedroia and Kevin Youkilis, and the game spun out of control, sending the series back to Boston.

Game 6 was over before it started as Fausto Carmona (as he was known then) didn't have it, giving up four in the first and six more in the third.

Meanwhile, Schilling rebounded from his poor Game 2 start to throw seven innings, allowing just two runs to set up a one game playoff for the American League pennant.

Westbrook got the start for Cleveland, while Daisuke Matsuzaka got the nod from Francona. Before the game, it was revealed that Byrd took HGH. Byrd said it was prescribed by his doctor.

It created a stir in the Indians' organization and locker room though.

Westbrook allowed seven hits in the first three innings, but limited Boston to just single tallies in each frame, so he kept his team in it.

The Indians crept back into the contest with runs in the fourth (doubles by Travis Hafner and Ryan Garko) and a sacrifice fly by Sizemore in the fifth, following three straight singles. It could have been a bigger inning, but for Lofton getting thrown out trying to stretch the first hit into a double.

Westbrook held the Sox off the board through the sixth, so it was still a very close game heading to the seventh, with the Tribe trailing 3-2.

With one out, Lofton reached second on an error by Boston SS Julio Lugo. The next batter, Gutierrez, singled and third base coach Joel Skinner held Lofton at third, putting runners on the corners with one out, and a golden chance to tie the game.

The hit was down the third base line and caromed off the wall at Fenway into short left field. It looked as though Lofton hit third well before Ramirez picked up the ball in left, meaning it would have taken a great throw to get Lofton, who still had good speed.

Blake followed by swinging at the first pitch, banging into a 5-4-3 double play. Threat ended. And when Pedroia homered off Betancourt with a man on (ironically due to an error by Blake), the game was virtually over.

In retrospect, should Wedge have removed Sabathia earlier in game five to keep the game close?

Would the bullpen have held Game 7 if Skinner had not held Lofton? Could the Indians have scored more had Lofton tied the game?

Those are the "what ifs". Another case of so close, but yet so far...