Francona questioned, too, for ALCS moves

Like Little, Sox manager finds few answers vs. N.Y.

sore foot benches Olerud

Alcs Notebook

October 18, 2004|By JOE CHRISTENSEN | JOE CHRISTENSEN,SUN STAFF

BOSTON M-y With last yearM-Fs Grady Little saga still fresh in the criticsM-F minds, Boston Red Sox manager Terry Francona could face an offseason of scrutiny for the decisions made in this American League Championship Seri e s , especially Game 3.

The result Saturday was a 19-8 drubbing, but the score was tied 6-6 after the third inning, when Francona was searching for someone, anyone, who could get the New York Yankees out.

Starter Bronson Arroyo was so ineffective, Francona pulled him before he recorded an out in the third, turning to Ramiro Mendoza. But the former Yankee wasnM-Ft much better, so Francona turned to right-hander Curtis Leskanic, who took his place in Red Sox infamy.

Leskanic entered the fourth inning with no out and a runner on first. Derek Jeter lined out, Alex Rodriguez walked and then Gary Sheffield drilled a three-run homer into the Green Monster seats above the leftfield wall.

After blowing two earlier leads, the Yankees never looked back.

M-tLesky has had a lot of success against the guys he was facing,M-v Francona said.

And that was true.

Sheffield was 2-for-16 for his career against Leskanic, including a strikeout in Game 1. Rodriguez was 2-for-7 against him, i n c l u d i n g a doub l e - p l ay grounder in that same inning.

Leskanic had entered in relief of Curt Schilling that night, and started a chain of positive relief appearances that helped the Red Sox trim an 8-0 deficit to 8-7.

This time, it wasnM-Ft to be.

In LeskanicM-Fs defense, New YorkM-Fs hitters were so locked in Saturday, it would have been tough for anyone to get them out.

M-tThe best hope we had,M-v Francona said, M-twas that Sheffield swung so hard he hurt himself.M-v

After SheffieldM-Fs blast, Hideki Matsui drilled a double against Leskanic, and Francona turned to Tim Wakefield, who was scheduled to start Game 4. Wakef ield had approached Francona and pitching coach Dave Wallace in the dugout to say, M-tWhat do you need me to do?M-v

The Yankees made it 13-6 against Wakefield by the fifth inning, but Francona still gave him credit.

M-tHe didnM-Ft get to start in the first series [against Anaheim],M-v Francona s a i d . M-tHe gets bumped back in this series. He volunteers to lose his start to do that for our ballclub. It makes you pretty proud. I hope we get to play long enough where he gets to pitch again.M-v

All the scrutiny aside, Francona sounded in pretty good spirits yesterday.

Asked whether he planned to deliver a message to his team, Francona said: M-tWell, IM-Fve got to be real honest with you. This entire season, weM-Fve had about M-y IM-Fm not exaggerating M-y about one minute worth of meetings. WeM-Fve had two 30-second meetings. ... I think they know how I feel about things. ... So I donM-Ft think I need to go drop a Knute Rockne on them.

M-tI know they call themselves idiots, but they are smart enough to know if they lose, weM-Fll go home.M-v

Schilling looks M-fgoodM-F

Schilling tested his injured right ankle in a 10-minute bullpen session, and the Red Sox seemed poised to announce him as their projected Game 6 or 7 starter.

M-tHe looked good, considering the circumstances,M-v said Boston general manager Theo Epstein. M-tAfter the game, if we win, [Francona] will have some announcements regarding the rotation.M-v

The Red Sox were planning to go with Pedro Martinez for Game 5. Francona said they never considered using him last night on three daysM-F rest because they needed to win four more games, not one.

M-tWeM-Fre trying to win the series,M-v Francona said. M-tThat [bringing back Martinez early] doesnM-Ft give us, in our opinion, an advantage.M-v

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