By JAY LeBLANC
October 12, 2008
Rays 9, Red Sox 8
Series tied 1-1
Pinch-runner Fernando Perez raced home with the winning run on B.J. Upton’s sac fly to shallow right in the bottom of the 11th inning to give the Rays a hard-fought 9-8 win over the Red Sox in Game 2 of the American League Championship Series at Tropicana Field. With the win, the Rays avoided going down 2-0 as the series shifts to Fenway Park, where the Red Sox took seven of nine from the Rays during the regular season.
Game 1 of the ALCS featured a thrilling pitchers’ duel between Boston’s Daisuke Matsuzaka and Tampa Bay’s James Shields, and more of the same was expected in Game 2 with Josh Beckett taking the hill for the Red Sox and Scott Kazmir for the Rays. Instead, the A.L. East rivals treated fans to a five-plus hour extra-inning slugfest that featured 24 hits, seven homers and 17 runs.
The Red Sox took a 2-0 lead in the top of the first. David Ortiz drew a two-out walk and advanced to second on a Kevin Youkilis single, and both of them came around to score on a double by Jason Bay. Boston’s lead was short-lived, as the Rays responded in the bottom half of the frame with a two-out rally of their own. After Beckett got Akinori Iwamura to pop out and fanned Upton, Carlos Pena doubled to deep left-center. Evan Longoria followed with a two-run bomb to left to tie the score.
Dustin Pedroia homered to lead off the top of the third, putting the Red Sox up 3-2, but again the lead didn’t last long. Upton took Beckett deep with one out in the bottom of the third to knot the score once again, this time at three apiece. After Pena fouled out to first, Longoria doubled to deep left. The All-Star rookie came around to score the fourth Rays run when the next batter, Carl Crawford, singled to right field. Cliff Floyd smacked a solo shot in the fourth to put Tampa Bay up 5-3.
Boston blasted its way back into the lead in the top of the fifth. Pedroia opened the frame by taking Kazmir deep for the second time to pull the Red Sox within a run at 5-4. The Rays lefty got Ortiz to fly out to right but then served up another gopher ball, this time to Youkilis, to make it 5-5. Tampa Bay manager Joe Maddon then summoned Grant Balfour from the bullpen, and the righty promptly allowed the third Boston homer of the inning to Jason Bay to put the Red Sox ahead 6-5.
The Rays answered with three runs of their own in the bottom of the frame. Upton drew a one-out walk, stole second, and came around to score on a Pena single to tie the game at six. Longoria followed with his second double and third RBI-hit of the game to score Pena and put the Rays up 7-6. Left-hander Javier Lopez took over for Beckett but failed to provide any actual relief, allowing an RBI single to Crawford on the first and only pitch of his outing to give the Rays a two-run lead. Manny Delcarmen came on for Boston and retired the next two batters in order, but the damage was done.
The Red Sox got back within a run in the top half of the sixth. Pedroia worked a one-out walk against Rays lefty J.P. Howell, who then fanned Ortiz for the second out. Right-hander submariner Chad Bradford came on to pitch to Youkilis and allowed a single to put runners on first and second with two outs. Bay followed with his third RBI-hit of the night, a single that scored Pedroia to make it 8-7 Tampa Bay. Bradford managed to preserve the lead by getting Jed Lowrie to fly out to center.
Boston tied the game at eight in the eighth inning. Pedroia led off with a single off Bradford. Veteran lefty Trever Miller came on to face Ortiz and walked him to put runners on first and second with no outs. Righty Dan Wheeler replaced Miller and got Youkilis to ground into a double play, with Pedroia advancing to third. With Bay at the plate, Wheeler uncorked a wild pitch that allowed Pedroia to race home with the tying run. The score remained tied at 8-8 until the bottom of the 11th, with Hideki Okajima, Justin Masterson and Jonathan Papelbon pitching effectively for Boston and Wheeler and rookie left-hander David Price holding down the fort for Tampa Bay.
42-year-old righty Mike Timlin came on to pitch for the Sox in the bottom of the 11th and immediately got himself into trouble by walking Dioner Navarro and Ben Zobrist, who would have bunted pinch-runner Perez over if not for the fact that Timlin couldn’t find the strike zone (Boston pitching coach John Farrell thought he did and was getting squeezed, and was tossed from the game during Zobrist’s at bat for sharing his feelings with the home plate umpire). Timlin got Jason Bartlett to ground out to third for the first out, with Perez and Zobrist moving into scoring position. Sox manager Terry Francona decided to walk Iwamura to load the bases for Upton, who fell behind in the count 0-2 before lifting a high pop fly to shallow right. Red Sox right fielder J.D. Drew settled underneath it, caught it and fired home, but his throw was up the third base line and wouldn’t have beaten the speedy Perez anyway.
With the division rivals now tied at a game apiece, the series shifts to Fenway Park, where Boston’s Jon Lester will face off against Tampa Bay’s Matt Garza Monday afternoon. The Red Sox lefty pitched brilliantly to earn the win in Game 1 of the American League Division Series against the Angels and shut them down for seven innings in Game 4 as well only to have his bullpen blow the lead. Garza took the Rays’ only loss in the ALDS against the White Sox by allowing five runs in six innings of work. First pitch is scheduled for 4:37 p.m. EST.
Jay LeBlanc is an assistant news editor at The Washington Times and mayor of the National Pastime web community. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.