Red Sox pummel Price, Rays
Boston Red Sox right fielder Shane Victorino is out at second base while preventing Tampa Bay Rays second baseman Ben Zobrist from completing a double play during Game 2 of their American League Division Series at Fenway Park in Boston, Oct. 5, 2013. (GREG M. COOPER/USA Today)
It’s a little too early in baseball’s October tournament to be thinking in terms of teams of destiny but if you’re feeling like putting the cart before the horse, then you have to be taking a hard look at the Boston Red Sox.
The Tampa Bay Rays threw their two best lefthanders — Matt Moore and David Price, power pitchers who had success against the Red Sox this season — in the first two games of the American League Division Series and came away with nothing.
After crushing Tampa 12-2 Friday, they took on Price, who was supposed to be kryptonite against Boston and pounded him in a 7-4 victory to take a stranglehold 2-0 lead in the best-of-five series.
Everything went right for Boston in these first two games. They outhit the Rays, they outpitched them, they caught the ball better and they did it all without strain.
As out of sync as this franchise was a year ago, the entire organization is on the same page this time around. Ben Cherington did a masterful job of filling the many holes that existed on last year’s 69-win collection of rabble, not only with good solid players, but men of accountability.
The Sox scored in five of their eight offensive innings, building a quick early 4-1 lead and adding on as they went. It was the first time in 11 starts at Fenway that Price had allowed more than three runs.
“There wasn’t as much swing and miss as we’ve seen against him,” said Red Sox manager John Farrell. “He’s dominated us in games. Whether it’s the result of the time of the year or whatever it might be, tonight wasn’t the case where he got key strikeouts. Anytime you get seven runs against David Price, you’ve had a good night.”
David Ortiz, who had never before hit a home run off Price, hit two of them Saturday. Jacoby Ellsbury had three hits and scored three runs while Dustin Pedroia drove in three runs.
“Can’t say enough about the year he’s had,” said Farrell about Ortiz. “He’s surpassed all our expectations. He’s the main cog in our lineup. We’re capable of scoring runs in many ways but when you can score with one swing of the bat, he’s a huge threat.”
The offence made a winner of John Lackey, who worked 51/3 innings and was tagged for all four runs on seven hits and three walks.
“The word we’ve continually tried to drive home is ‘relentless,’ ” said Farrell. “That’s played out, whether you’re thinking of a game, a series or of all 163 games. Our guys love the attention to detail and in some ways that gives them the edge inside a game to be opportunistic. But it’s the overall relentlessness that has become a trait for this group.
“Tonight is one example of it. There have been many nights like this. The beauty of our team is that they look at each night as an individual challenge. That all goes into the mindset that is in our clubhouse.”
Back in July, because of a quirk in the schedule, Price pitched back-to-back starts in Boston and stuck it to the Sox both times. In those two starts, he tossed 16 innings, allowed seven hits and three runs.
“They’ve got a bunch of veterans who are smelling it and kind of willing it. I think that’s what you saw, not necessarily that David was bad,” said Rays manager Joe Maddon.
The trouble for Price began with the very first hitter of the game. Ellsbury singled to lead off the first, then immediately stole second and went to third when catcher Jose Molina’s throw went into centre field.
One out later, Pedroia drove in Ellsbury with a sacrifice fly to centre. A moment later, Ortiz smacked a 1-0 Price offering into the Boston bullpen to make it 2-0.
The Rays scratched for a run in the top of the second, cashing in Ben Zobrist from third with a Delmon Young sacrifice fly but the Red Sox came calling again in the third.
David Ross’ leadoff pop fly into left caught enough of the wall to turn it into a double. Then Ellsbury bounced a 100-foot double over the head of Longoria at third to make it 3-1. After Shane Victorino failed twice to get a sacrifice bunt down, he hit a single into left field to score Ellsbury.
In the fourth, after a leadoff walk, Mike Napoli broke up a potential double play and in so doing, forced Zobrist to make an off-balance throw that allowed Gomes to go to second base. Stephen Drew then hit a ball to the wall in left that David DeJesus failed to catch. The rebound back toward the infield allowed Gomes to score and Drew to get all the way to third base, making it 5-1.
The Rays struck back in the fifth when James Loney doubled off the wall in deep left-centre with two runners on and two outs, scoring them both.
Needing a shutdown inning, Price failed miserably in the fifth. Ellsbury singled on a line into centre and one out later, Pedroia drilled a liner to the wall in left, scoring the fleet Ellsbury all the way from first to make it 6-3.
Each team added on a run and then Boston closer put an exclamation point on the victory by taking out the Rays in order in the ninth. The series now switches to Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg for a third game on Monday and, if necessary, a fourth on Tuesday and a fifth back in Boston on Thursday.
“We’ve been through a week of backs against the wall so it’s not new to us,” said Maddon. “It’s going to be difficult. No question it’s going to be difficult but I’m look forward to Game 5 back here.”