CLEVELAND -- I'm not advocating Red Sox manager Terry Francona go into panic mode as we count down to Game Five of the ALCS. But if he wants this series to go back to Fenway, I think he better do something other than just expect Josh Beckett to be lights-out. Some quick thoughts:
1). Coco Crisp is batting .192 in the playoffs and is just 3 for 16 in this series. How about telling him to grab some bench in favor of Jacoby Ellsbury, who wowed the Fenway fans in September?
2). How about Kevin Youkilis (6 for 15, three walks in the series) leading off instead of struggling Dustin Pedroia (3 for 16)?
3). With Crisp, Pedroia and Julio Lugo (2 for 14), mostly silent, it's been tough to do much on the bases. If they start getting on, however, some steals and hit and runs should be in order. The Sox have manufactured virtually nothing the last three games. In fact, they have eight runs in the last 26 innings -- and all of them have scored via the longball. That won't cut it in October.
4). Assuming Beckett's back is OK, Francona should ride his ace as long as possible. Face it, Beckett isn't going to pitch again in this series. If he's healthy, wouldn't 120 pitches from Beckett be better than anything we'll see from the Sox middle relief?
5). Forget about bringing Eric Gagne out of the bullpen. Don't even let him put on a uniform.
(Photo: Francona at Wednesday's workout/Associated Press)