So raise your hand if you thought the Red Sox would be down 2-1 to the Rays, with Dice-K winning their only game so far? No one? That's what I figured. One of the biggest things going into this series was the question of postseason experience. In game one, it really showed. Tampa Bay Manager Joe Maddon gave rookie Evan Longoria and Carlos Pena the green light on 3-0 counts to try to make something happen. I did not agree with either call, especially in the situation of Longoria. However since losing game one, the Rays have shown an incredible amount of resilience.
Game two was a telling game in this series. The Sox were up 1-0 at Tampa Bay, and had Josh Beckett pitching game two followed by Jon Lester, at home, in game three. The Rays were dead in the water and doomed to go down 3-0 at Fenway Park right? Wrong. Beckett was absolutely awful, as was Kazmir for Tampa just like I thought he'd be, but Francona was even worse, trotting Beckett out there for the beginning of the 5th after the Sox had taken a 6-5 lead on three solo homers in the top of the 5th. Beckett gave up three runs and left with one of the worst starts I've ever seen him pitch. Yet the Red Sox still had a chance to win the game, tying it 8-8 on a wild pitch in the 8th. The Sox went on to lose in the bottom of the 11th when Mike Timlin loaded the bases on walks (one intentional) and the Rays scored on a shallow sac fly in right.
The Rays showed me they belong there with that win, battling back three times to take the lead and then eventually winning it, granted beating Mike Timlin these days isn't exactly that much of an accomplishment. Regardless the Sox lost a chance to take a commanding lead in the series, and effectively break the psyche of the Rays at the same time.
Game three was the real killer though. The Sox had Lester pitching, at home, where he hadn't lost a start since the first week of April. The Rays had Matt Garza pitching for them, who is a strong pitcher, can absolutely lose control of his emotions at times and just be downright terrible. Obviously this is a game I absolutely expected the Red Sox to win hands down. Wrong.
Lester looked great in the first inning, mowing down the Rays on four pitches. However, in the third he ran into trouble by putting the lead off man on and ended up giving up two long home runs to BJ Upton, and Evan Longoria. Those runs, couple with the way Garza was pitching pretty much ended the game in the third. The Sox were able to get men on base, but weren't able to drive them in. Jon Lester managed to get through 5.2 innings, saving the bullpen and turning the game over to Paul Byrd who pitched the rest of the game.
The one feel good story from game three was Rhode Island's Rocco Baldelli hitting a garbage time 3-run HR. Baldelli was at one time a great prospect for the rays, but his career has been derailed by a serious medical condition that makes the muscles in his extremities feel weak after too much activity.
It's nice to see Pedroia finally getting it going. He's been on fire in the ALCS. On the flip side, Jacoby Ellsbury and David Ortiz need to really start to get it going. They've been atrocious this whole series, and for Ortiz the entire playoffs. Ellsbury also really needs to start putting the ball on the ground again and not trying to drive everything like he has been. He reminds me of Willie Mays Hayes from major Leagues and how he tried to hit a home run everytime he came to bat in Major Leagues 2, when he was a fast leadoff hitter who had no power in the first movie. Ellsbury needs to start putting the ball on the ground and force the defense to get him out.
That being said, Francona needs to sit Ellsbury down tonight, and possibly for game five as well.
My lineup for game four is as follows:
1. Coco Crisp - CF
2. Dustin Pedroia - 2B
3. JD Drew - RF
4. Kevin Youkilis - 3B
5. Jason Bay - LF
6. David Ortiz - DH
7. Mark Kotsay - 1B
8. Jed Lowrie - SS
9. Kevin Cash - C
The Red Sox desperately need a win tonight to avoid falling down 3-1 for the second consecutive year. I fully expect the Sox to hammer Andy Sonnenstine tonight, as he throws a lot of offspeed stuff and doesn't really have a good fastball.
Tim Wakefield, Red Sox Nation (god I hate that term) turns our lonely eyes to you.