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Chess Match: Right men for the job

Chess Match: Right men for the job

BOSTON -- Other than arguing vehemently with home-plate umpire Dana DeMuth about his strike zone after the first inning, there wasn't much that Indians manager Eric Wedge could do to avert disaster in Game 6 of the American League Championship Series.

Once Julio Lugo's two-run double in the third inning made it an 8-1 game, Saturday night's strategy became more about setting up Game 7, when strategy and pitcher management will become huge.

Red Sox manager Terry Francona's biggest decisions in this win, in fact, came when he made out his lineup. His selective shakeup didn't jumpstart Boston's offense, but it made some level of difference.

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Rally off Raffy
The situation:
Top of the third inning, nobody out and runners on first and second after J.D. Drew's RBI single made it a 5-1 game.


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The decision: Wedge takes out starter Fausto Carmona in favor of lefty specialist Rafael Perez.

The outcome: Perez retires Jason Varitek, but he puts the next four Red Sox on base, leading to five more Boston runs.

The analysis: You can't blame Wedge for looking short term here and thinking it could still be a winnable game if Perez could get out of the jam, which Wedge confirmed later. But like Game 2, once Perez got past Varitek and Jacoby Ellsbury, he struggled against the right-handed hitters. The saving grace is that Wedge got him out of there early enough to still have Perez available for Game 7 on Sunday if he wants to use him.

"We're trying to give them a different look with a left-hander, and also trying to get Perez going a little bit. Initially, just trying to work." -- Wedge, on Perez

Ells' Bells
The situation:
Francona is trying to make out his lineup on Friday for Game 6, debating whether to sit the slumping Coco Crisp in favor of speedy rookie Ellsbury.


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The decision: Francona makes the move, but he does not bat Ellsbury leadoff. Dustin Pedroia remains in the top spot, with Ellsbury hitting eighth.

The outcome: While Ellsbury singles in a run in the third, Pedroia reaches base safely in each of the first three frames, scoring twice.

The analysis: Part of the reason Francona was reluctant to play Ellsbury earlier was that he hasn't played much lately, so he wasn't about to put Ellsbury in a high-pressure situation like leadoff.

"I think with Ellsbury, even if he makes soft contact, there's always the ability to use the wheels to get hits." -- Francona, on Ellsbury before the game

Holding the deficit
The situation:
Bottom of the eighth, with the Indians trailing the Sox, 10-2.


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The decision: Wedge sends out Joe Borowski for an inning of work.

The outcome: Borowski gives up two runs on three hits and two walks.

The analysis: Borowski hadn't pitched in five days, so the outing was meant to shake off any rust in case he's needed in a save situation or a close contest in Game 7. However, the inning wasn't as easy as the Indians would've hoped, and it broke his string of three scoreless innings over three appearances in the ALCS. For what it's worth, Borowski had a 4.84 ERA over 23 appearances when pitching without any rest during the regular season, but a 7.71 ERA in seven appearances with five or more days of rest.

Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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