By JAY LeBLANC
October 11, 2008
Red Sox 2, Rays 0
Red Sox lead series 1-0
Boston’s Daisuke Matsuzaka and Tampa Bay’s James Shields went toe-to-toe in Game 1 of the American League Championship Series and Matsuzaka emerged victorious, blanking the Rays on four hits over seven innings while fanning nine to lift the Red Sox to a 2-0 win at Tropicana Field. Shields was similarly stellar in the defeat, allowing two runs on six hits over 7 1/3 innings while fanning six.
The Rays loaded the bases in the bottom of the first courtesy of three Matsuzaka walks, but they failed to capitalize and the game remained scoreless until the top of the fifth. Shields walked Jason Bay to open the frame, and Mark Kotsay followed with a double that pushed Bay to third. Jed Lowrie then hit a sacrifice fly that scored Bay and allowed Kotsay to advance to third, but Shields retired Jason Varitek on a groundout and got Jacoby Ellsbury to pop out to limit the damage to a single run.
Matsuzaka settled down nicely after his shaky first inning, and the Rays didn’t come close to scoring again until the seventh. Carl Crawford led off the inning with a single and advaned to third on a single by the following hitter, Cliff Floyd. With no outs, runners on first and third and the Rays trailing 1-0, Dioner Navarro lifted a fly ball to left that wasn’t quite deep enough for the speedy Crawford to tag up. The next hitter, Gabe Gross, worked the count full before fanning for the second out. Matsuzaka then got Jason Bartlett to ground into a fielders’ choice to end the threat.
Boston pushed across an insurance run in the top of the eighth. Dustin Pedroia singled with one out, ending Shields’ night after 7 1/3 strong innings. Pedroia then stole second, but lefty J.P. Howell walked David Ortiz anyway, putting runners on first and second with one out. Kevin Youkilis followed with a double to left that scored Pedroia to make it 2-0 Sox. Grant Balfour relieved Howell and plunked J.D. Drew to load the bases, but the righty escaped by fanning Bay and getting Kotsay to pop out.
The Rays looked like they might rally in the bottom half of the eighth. Akinori Iwamura singled off Matsuzaka to open the frame and advaned to second on a wild pitch. B.J. Upton followed with an infield single, ending Matsuzaka’s outing after 115 pitches. Lefty Hideki Okajima came on and got Carlos Pena to fly out to right for the first out. With righty Evan Longoria coming up for the Rays, Red Sox manager Terry Francona made the call to the bullpen once again, this time opting for rookie right-hander Justin Masterson. Masterson got Longoria to ground into a double play to end the threat. Jonathan Papelbon made quick work of the Rays in the ninth to secure the victory.
In what promises to be another great pitchers’ duel - on paper, at least - Boston will send Josh Beckett to the mound tonight against Rays lefty Scott Kazmir. Beckett allowed four runs in five innings of work in a no-decision in Game 3 of the American League Division Series against the Angels but is 7-0 with a 2.09 ERA in the postseason during his career. Kazmir, who went 12-8 with a 3.49 ERA this season, picked up the victory in his postseason debut in Game 2 of the ALDS against the White Sox by allowing two runs in 5 1/3 innings. He’ll try to help the Rays avoid going down 2-0 as the series shifts to Fenway Park, where the Rays were just 2-7 during the regular season. First pitch is scheduled for 8:07 p.m. EST.
Phillies 8, Dodgers 5
Phillies lead series 2-0
The Phillies teed off on Dodgers starter Chad Billingsley for four runs in the second inning and four more in the third and held on for an 8-5 victory yesterday afternoon to take a 2-0 lead over the Dodgers as the National League Championship Series shifts to Los Angeles. Brett Myers allowed all five Dodgers runs in his five innings of work, but helped himself to the win by going 3-for-3 with three RBI and two runs scored. Shane Victorino knocked in four runs for the Phillies.
L.A. got on the board first in the top of the second. Andre Ethier singled to right to open the frame and advanced to third on a double by the following hitter, James Loney. After Myers retired Matt Kemp on strikes, Ethier came home on a Blake DeWitt groundout to put the Dodgers up 1-0. Myers issued an intentional walk to the No. 8 batter, Casey Blake, and then fanned Billingsley to end the threat.
The Dodgers’ lead was short-lived. Billingsley struck out the first two Phillies hitters in the bottom of the second and then gave up five straight hits, leading to four Philadelphia runs. Greg Dobbs started the rally with an infield single and came around to score the first Phillies run on a double by Carlos Ruiz. Myers then singled to center to score Ruiz and make it 2-1 Philadelphia. Jimmy Rollins followed with a single of his own, and he and Myers advaned to second and third on an error by center fielder Kemp. Victorino then smacked a two-run single to make it 4-1 Phillies. Billingsley walked Chase Utley to put runners on first and second before striking out Ryan Howard to end the inning.
L.A. got a run back in the top of the third on a Loney RBI single, but Billingsley gave it back - and then some - in the bottom of the frame. Pat Burrell led off with a single and advanced to third on a double by Jayson Werth, and Billinglsey issued an intentional free pass to Dobbs to load the bases with no one out. Burrell was cut down at the plate on a Ruiz grounder, leaving the bases loaded with one out for Myers. A .069 hitter during the regular season, Myers singled to right to drive in Werth and Dobbs to make it 6-2 Phillies and send Billingsley to the showers in favor of Chan Ho Park. Park struck out Rollins before allowing a two-run triple to Victorino to put the Phillies up 8-2. Lefty Joe Beimel relieved Park and walked Utley and Howard to load the bases before rookie right-hander James McDonald came on to whiff Burrell to end the rally.
Manny Ramirez blasted a three-run homer in the top of the fourth to pull the Dodgers within three at 8-5, but that’s the closest they’d get as the bullpens took over from there. McDonald pitched through the sixth and allowed just two hits and walk while fanning five, and Clayton Kershaw chipped in with 1 2/3 scoreless innings for L.A. The Dodgers threatened in the seventh, putting runners on first and third with two outs, but Victorino tracked down Blake’s deep fly to center and made a great leaping catch at the wall for the third out. Brad Lidge came on in the ninth and pitched around a pair of walks by striking out the side to notch the save.
The Dodgers, who made quick work of the favored Cubs in the Division Series, now find themselves in a 2-0 hole as they head back to Los Angeles for Sunday’s Game 3. Joe Torre will give the ball to right-hander Hiroki Kuroda, who went 9-10 with a 3.73 ERA this season and pitched 6 1/3 scoreless innings to earn the win in the decisive NLDS Game 3. Philadelphia will counter with 45-year-old left-hander Jamie Moyer, who went 16-7 this season but lasted just four innings in a no-decision against the Brewers in the Division Series. The action kicks off at 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 email@example.com.