The Washington Times - October 15, 2008, 12:32AM

By JAY LeBLANC
October 15, 2008

Rays 13, Red Sox 4
Rays lead series 3-1

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Tampa Bay embarrassed the defending World Champion Red Sox on their home turf for the second straight night, blasting their way to a 13-4 win to take a 3-1 lead in the American League Championship Series. Willy Aybar homered and knocked in five runs for the Rays, Evan Longoria and Carlos Pena slugged two-run shots and Carl Crawford went 5-for-5 with three runs scored and a pair of RBI in the rout. Right-hander Andy Sonnanstine was the beneficiary, allowing three runs in 7 1/3 innings of work to earn the victory.

The Rays jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the top of the first. Tim Wakefield issued a one-out walk to B.J. Upton and then served up a gopher ball that Pena blasted over the Green Monster to give Tampa Bay a 2-0 lead. The next batter, Longoria, matched Pena’s feat to make it 3-0 Rays. Crawford followed with a double and stole third, but was stranded there. The Red Sox put runners on first and third with one out in the bottom of the frame, but Coco Crisp grounded into a double play to end the threat.

The score stayed at 3-0 until the third. After Crawford singled with two outs, Aybar became the third Rays hitter of the night to send a Wakefield offering over the Monster. Wakefield allowed a single to the following batter, Dioner Navarro, and was then pulled. The longest-tenured Red Sox player departed with the ugly line of five runs on six hits in 2 2/3 innings. Catcher Kevin Cash opened the bottom of the third with a solo shot off Sonnanstine to make it 5-1 Rays, but that’s all the Red Sox would get until the seventh.

Tampa Bay added a run in the fifth when Crawford doubled and came in to score on an Aybar single, and then broke the game wide open in the sixth, putting up five runs to take an 11-1 lead. With one out, Jason Bartlett tripled off Manny Delcarmen, who then walked Akinori Iwamura. Upton followed with an RBI single, and the next batter, Pena, walked to load the bases. Longoria walked to force in Iwamura with the eighth Rays run, at which point Sox manager Terry Francona summoned lefty Javier Lopez from the bullpen. Lopez allowed consecutive RBI singles to Crawford and Aybar to make it 10-1 Tampa Bay, and Longoria came home on a Navarro groundout before Lopez mercifully ended the frame by retiring Perez on a grounder to second.

The Red Sox pushed their second run across in the seventh when David Ortiz led off the innings with a triple and came home on a Kevin Youkilis single, but the Rays put two more runs on the board in the eighth against Sox reliever Mike Timlin. Pena walked, advanced to second on a Longoria groundout and scored on a Crawford triple. Aybar followed with a single that plated Crawford to make it 13-2 Rays. The Sox tallied two more runs in the eighth on an RBI single by Dustin Pedroia and a run-scoring double by Youkilis, but it was much too little, too late, and Tampa Bay went on to win 13-4.

Now facing the possibility of elimination at home, Boston will send 18-game winner Daisuke Matsuzaka to the hill tomorrow night as they try to push the series back to Tropicana Field. Matsuzaka tossed seven scoreless innings and fanned nine to pick up the win in Game 1, out-dueling Tampa Bay’s James Shields, who will attempt to avenge the loss and send the Rays to the World Series in their first-ever postseason appearance. Red Sox fans can take heart in the fact that Boston battled back from a 3-1 deficit to defeat the Yankees and advance to the World Series - which they won in a sweep over the Cardinals - in 2004. The Rays, on the other hand, have to feel good about the way they’re playing at Fenway and the fact that, even if the series does shift back to Tropicana Field, they’ve taken nine of 11 from the Red Sox there this year. First pitch is scheduled for 8:07 p.m. EST Thursday.

The Phillies will send ace Cole Hamels to the mound tonight as they try to finish off Manny Ramirez and the Dodgers to advance to the World Series for the first time since 1993, when Darren Daulton, John Kruk, Lenny Dykstra, Curt Schilling & Co. fell to the Blue Jays. Hamels earned the win in Game 1 by tossing seven innings of two-run ball while fanning eight. The Dodgers will counter with right-hander Chad Billingsley, who won 16 games during the regular season but got torched for seven earned runs in just 2 1/3 innings to take the loss in Game 2. First pitch from L.A. is scheduled for 8:22 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 jleblanc@washingtontimes.com.