Charles Nagy put the Indians a win away from the ALCS with another dominant game in Fenway Park. They could get there because of Boston's decision not to use its best pitcher.
Four homers, two by Manny Ramirez, and Nagy's eight strong innings gave Cleveland a 4-3 victory Friday and a 2-1 lead in the best-of-5 division series. And it magnified Boston's controversial choice of Pete Schourek over Pedro Martinez in Saturday's fourth game.Schourek was 1-3 but pitched well in his last four starts. Martinez, last year's NL Cy Young award winner, would have pitched on three days' rest for the first time this season.
"Temptation? Yeah. Come to my senses? No," manager Jimy Williams said. "That's my opinion. I'll live with it, regardless of what other people believe."
"I could go" on Saturday, Martinez said, but Williams' decision "makes sense. He's protecting me. It's for sense. He's protecting me. It's for the good of the team."
Nagy, as he always is in Fenway, was excellent. He allowed just four singles and no walks and struck out three as he turned another Game 3 into a lost cause for the Red Sox. He is 8-1 against the Red Sox in his career, 5-0 at Fenway with a 1.27 ERA.
He was the winner in the clincher of a three-game division series sweep over the Red Sox in 1995, leaving after seven innings in an 8-2 victory.
"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."
It did Friday. Jim Thome and Kenny Lofton each hit his second homer of the series for a 2-1 lead after six innings and Ramirez added solo shots in the seventh and ninth. Ramirez's second homer, off Dennis Eckersley, was the difference as Nomar Garciaparra hit a two-run homer in the bottom of the inning off Mike Jackson.
"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 on Saturday. But Martinez was confident there would be a Game 5.
"I really believe I'll be pitching on Sunday" in Cleveland, he said.
The Indians had only one hit besides the homers but still spoiled the latest stage in Bret Saber-ha-gen's long comeback as he gave up homers in the fifth, sixth and seventh innings after holding Cleveland hitless in the first four.
"I felt very good going into the game, probably the best 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."
The teams split the first two games at Jacobs Field, but Nagy, a Connecticut native, may have had the home-field advantage in Fen-way Park, where he's never been beaten.
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.
He had no such troubles Friday, getting the Red Sox to pound the ball into the ground all day.
He gave up 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.
Saberhagen 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."