Fenway Fables

A Red Sox Blog With A Focus on the Team’s Past

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October 17, 2008

Stunning win gives Red Sox life

by @ 9:33 am. Filed under 2008 Red Sox

Nine outs away from going six feet under for the season, the Red Sox showed much more than a pulse late in the ALCS Game 5 last night.

The Sox roared back to the prime of life, their 8-7 victory over the Rays at Fenway Park causing heartbeats to surge up and down the Eastern seaboard and sending a shiver of dread through the Tampa Bay area. Down 7-0 after 6 innings in Game 5 of an ALCS in which they trailed 3-1, the Red Sox staged the biggest comeback ever in an League Championship Series game by a winning team, putting a fresh spin on the meaning of a near-death experience in the process.

The Sox scored four times in the seventh, three coming home on a David Ortiz home run and added three more in the eighth to tie, two on a J.D Drew homer and the tying run on Coco Crisp’s two-out RBI single before Drew hit a walkoff RBI single in the ninth that literally caused Fenway to rock and sway.

The tone in the dugout before the Ortiz blast was not as down as it could have been, Crisp said, considering how close the Sox were to elimination.

Game 6 is on the schedule for tomorrow night in St. Petersburg, Fla., with Josh Beckett starting for the Sox opposite James Shields in an attempt to even the series and send it to a Game 7 on Sunday night at Tropicana Field. The Rays are still one win away from the World Series but momentum definitely slipped out of their grasp and into the Red Sox’ lap with the loss.

The Red Sox had been utterly punchless through six scoreless innings against Scott Kazmir (two hits, three walks, seven strikeouts), while Daisuke Matsuzaka struggled (four-plus innings, two walks, five hits, three home runs, five runs). The Rays pushed their lead to 7-0 in the seventh inning on B.J. Upton’s two-run double off of Jonathan Papelbon, who then settled in to get the game to Justin Masterson (1-0) for the ninth.

October 14, 2008

Lester hit hard, Sox lose swing game at home

by @ 8:31 am. Filed under Uncategorized

Red Sox starting pitching has gone from great in one game to gruesome in the next two. No surprise, the Sox are two losses from beginning their winter vacation.

Jon Lester’s surprisingly poor and ineffective start at home in Game 3 of the ALCS led directly to a 9-1 Red Sox loss yesterday. The Rays lead the best-of-seven series, 2-1.

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Tim Wakefield will get a chance tonight to turn the tide, with the unpredictable flight of his knuckleball the perfect image for the out-of-nowhere performance of Lester, who allowed eight hits and five runs (four earned) in 5 innings. The left-hander’s Fenway Park dominance this season (11-1, 2.49 ERA) meant squat on a day when the Rays jumped all over his offerings.

Tampa Bay scored the game’s first run on a second-inning groundout and pushed the lead to 5-0 in the third on B.J. Upton’s three-run home run and an Evan Longoria solo shot.

Rays starter Matt Garza thoroughly outpitched Lester, stifling a Red Sox lineup that looked thinner than ever with Jacoby Ellsbury going 0-for-3 from the leadoff spot and slumping David Ortiz turning in an 0-for-4 out of the No. 3 hole. Ellsbury (0-for-14) and Ortiz (0-for-10) are hitless in the series.

Daisuke Matsuzaka threw a Game 1 gem (seven scoreless innings, four hits), but Game 2 starter Josh Beckett (4 innings, eight runs, nine hits) and Lester have let the team down big-time. To have Lester be the culprit counts as a shocking development to a team that was hoping to get on a roll at home.

The Rays pitched and hit a lot better than OK. As a result, they have four more chances to do that just two more times.

Relatively speaking, the Red Sox starting pitching has been really bad the last two games. There are not that many opportunities remaining to turn that around. Wakefield will try to do just that tonight when he starts Game 4.

October 11, 2008

Red Sox back up Dice-K to grab game 1 win

by @ 9:14 am. Filed under 2008 Red Sox

The pitcher every Sox fan hates to watch was up to his old tricks in the first inning last night at Tropicana Field. Daisuke Matsuzaka walked the bases loaded to open the American League Championship Series against the Tampa Bay Rays, and the groan that rippled across Red Sox Nation said it all.

Here we go again.

Then Matsuzaka recorded an out. And another. And another. And another. The frustration of what often felt like the worst 18-3 season in history was nowhere to be found. Acquired in part because of what he could do in big games, Matsuzaka was an assassin. And the BoSox needed it.

Dice-K didn’t allow a hit until the seventh, making Jed Lowrie’s fifth inning sacrifice fly stand as the Sox drew first blood and stole homefield advantage with a taut 2-0 victory over the Rays. Victory wasn’t assured until rookie Justin Masterson retired Rookie of the Year lock Evan Longoria on a double play grounder to end the eighth. Closer Jonathan Papelbon then stayed perfect in the postseason with a 1-2-3 ninth for the save.

But the story was Matsuzaka. He left after allowing consecutive hits to open the eighth, Tampa Bay’s third and fourth hits of the game. He struck out nine and escaped a two-on, none-out jam in the seventh.

The Rays finally recorded a hit in the seventh when Carl Crawford lined a clean single to right. They were still in the game at that point because Matsuzaka was matched nearly pitch for pitch by Rays starter James Shields, who limited the Sox to two runs and six hits through 7 innings, aided by some outstanding defense.

The Sox gave Matsuzaka the only run he’d need in the fifth, though Tampa Bay’s sterling glovework minimized the damage. Lowrie’s sacrifice fly scored Jason Bay, but Mark Kotsay was stranded at third when second baseman Akinori Iwamura smothered a Jason Varitek shot with the infield in, followed by shortstop Jason Bartlett’s excellent over-the-shoulder running catch of Jacoby Ellsbury’s bloop in short left.

Meanwhile, Matsuzaka was cruising. His biggest scare came in the seventh with runners at first and third and none out. In short order, Matsuzaka popped Dioner Navarro to left, struck out Gabe Gross and got Bartlett to ground to short. Inning over, 1-0 lead preserved.

The Sox tacked on a run in the eighth. Pedroia singled with one out to chase Shields. Two batters later Kevin Youkilis doubled off the glove of a sliding Crawford in left to plate the insurance run.

That made a winner of Matsuzaka, who was only frustrating to watch for those wearing Rays colors.

October 7, 2008

Sox advance, Bring on the Rays

by @ 8:25 am. Filed under 2008 Red Sox

The Red Sox wanted to drink beer and champagne last night, not make a quiet and somber flight to Southern California. Jon Lester and Jed Lowrie became the latest Red Sox heroes to make wishes come true. Lowrie, the rookie shortstop who had struggled through September, shoved all that aside with a ninth-inning walkoff RBI single off Scot Shields that propelled the Red Sox past the Angels, 3-2, and into the AL Championship Series.  The next plane the Red Sox will board will be bound for St. Petersburg, Fla., tomorrow afternoon, and it will be a flight they will make willingly for what should be a bruising and highly entertaining best-of-seven series against their fiercest regular-season foes, the Tampa Bay Rays. The victory against the Angels gave the Sox a 3-1 Division Series win and prevented them from having to fly to LA for a deciding Game 5 on enemy territory. Dustin Pedroia, who snapped his 0-for-15 slump with an RBI double off Angels starter John Lackey that scored Ellsbury in the two-run fifth, wanted no part of a cross-country flight. Lowrie’s hit salvaged what would have been a bone-crushing loss to the Angels, who had created a shocking 2-2 tie in the top of the eighth inning. It also would have wasted the second superb postseason start in a row for Jon Lester (seven scoreless innings). Lester was outstanding, stifling any slim or substantial scoring opportunity the Angels gained. Tied at 2 entering the ninth, either team could have claimed momentum, and at first, it appeared the Angels had a stranglehold on it. Juan Rivera led off with a double and then pinch-runner Reggie Willits reached third with one out. Manager Mike Scioscia decided to call for the squeeze play, but Erick Aybar could not get the bunt down on a Manny Delcarmen pitch. Willits was caught halfway home and Varitek chased him all the way back to third, tag-tackling him with the ball bouncing out of his glove after the out was called.

As momentum shifts go, that one was seismic. Delcarmen got the final out, leaving the distinct impression that it was a matter of guessing who would come to the rescue in the bottom of the ninth. It was Lowrie, but Jason Bay set him up perfectly with his one-out ground-rule double past a diving Willits in right. He slid safely home for the winning run and the celebration was on, the flight delayed.

And Tampa Bay likely will prove tougher to overcome than the Angels, who fell to the Red Sox for the third time in a row in a Division Series.

Nation Notes: The pain was too much for Mike Lowell. Having him attempt to play was too painful and too damaging for the Red Sox. So after a consultation with doctors on the torn labrum in Lowell’s right hip yesterday, the third baseman was removed from the American League Division Series roster. That move likely (though not certainly) signals the end of the season for the third baseman, who will head into the offseason bound for surgery. Because he was taken off the roster in the middle of the series, Lowell will also not be available for the AL Championship Series, but he could be added to the World Series roster if he were to recover in time. That seems unlikely at this point, though. Lowell was replaced with infielder Gil Velazquez, 28, who had spent 11 years in the minor leagues before finally making his major league debut in September.

October 6, 2008

Sox drop game 3 in 12 innings, game 4 tonight

by @ 5:36 am. Filed under 2008 Red Sox

It’s still code red for the Angels, but they lived to play another night, after inching by the Red Sox in 12 innings, 5-4, in Game 3 of the Division Series last night at Fenway Park.

Erick Aybar’s RBI single off of Javier Lopez was the fatal blow as Los Angeles snapped the Red Sox’ record 11-game postseason winning streak against the Angels and closed the series deficit to 2-1. The Sox still are one win away from advancing to the ALCS against either the Tampa Bay Rays or Chicago White Sox, but if they lose tonight, the series shifts back to Anaheim, Calif., for a decisive Game 5 on Wednesday night.

The Red Sox had, then wasted, their late chances. They had two on with one out and the bases loaded with two outs in the 10th against Angels closer Francisco Rodriguez, but the threat ended with a Jed Lowrie flyout to right. Coco Crisp reached second base in the 11th with a single and a stolen base, but Pedroia stranded him there with a groundout. And in the 12th, David Ortiz drew a leadoff walk, but Kevin Youkilis (fly ball to center), Jason Bay (strikeout) and Alex Cora (hard groundout to third) failed to get him in. Jered Weaver tossed two scoreless innings of relief to earn the win.

Prior to the 12th, the Sox bullpen pitched six scoreless innings, salvaging an off night for starter Josh Beckett, who gave up four runs on nine hits in five difficult frames. Beckett was a shell of his 2007 October self in his 2008 postseason debut. His outing was the shortest of his postseason career, and he gave up more hits than he has in any playoff game. Beckett needed 30 pitches to get through the first inning, allowing one run. The big damage came on a pair of home runs by Mike Napoli, whose two-run blast in the third tied the game at 3. His solo shot in the fifth put the Angels ahead, 4-3.

The Red Sox did tie the game in the fifth, when Youkilis doubled in Jacoby Ellsbury (double). One walk later, Angels starter Joe Saunders was out of the game. He lasted just 4 2/3 innings, allowing four runs and four walks just like his counterpart.

In the end, the Angels got a second life in their final chance. Tonight, they can put the pressure on the Sox, who do not want to go back to the West Coast. Game 1 starters Jon Lester and John Lackey will square off again tonight.

October 4, 2008

Red Sox knock-out K-Rod to take 2-0 series lead

by @ 7:59 am. Filed under 2008 Red Sox

There was nothing clean, pretty or easy about it but the Red Sox held off the Angels in a 7-5 nailbiter last night to take a commanding 2-0 lead in their best-of-five Division Series.  J. Drew’s’s ninth-inning two-run home run off closer Francisco Rodriguez salvaged the night after the Red Sox wasted early 4-0 and 5-1 leads.With the series shifting to Fenway Park for Game 3 tomorrow and Game 4, if necessary, on Monday, the Red Sox hope the only reason they would have to come back to Los Angeles this year would be to face the Dodgers in a World Series.  A win tomorrow would give the Sox their third straight sweep of the Angels in a Division Series.

Drew’s home run made it all possible after the Angels stormed back from their early four-run deficit, eventually tying it in the eighth on a Chone Figgins leadoff triple and Mark Teixeira’s sacrifice fly. David Ortiz led off the inning against Angels closer Francisco Rodriguez with a double off the wall that looked as if it could have been caught by right fielder Reggie Willits. Coco Crisp, who pinch ran for Ortiz, nearly got picked off second base on a highly debatable call by second base ump Ed Rapuano. Nonetheless, after Kevin Youkilis grounded out, Drew sent his blast soaring over the wall in center.

Jonathan Papelbon collected the final six outs for the Sox and got credit for the win. Kevin Youkilis, playing third base for the banged-up Mike Lowell, made two standout defensive plays for the first two outs of the ninth inning. Playing in on Torii Hunter, Youkilis charged the bunt he thought might be coming and, picking it up bare-handed, made the off-balance throw to first before the speedy Hunter got there.  The next batter, Juan Rivera, lofted a high pop-up into foul territory that appeared to be drifting into the stands but Youkilis made a last-second backhanded catch for out No. 2.

Jason Bay’s three-run home run off starter Ervin Santana in the first inning set the early tone and gave the Sox a 4-0 lead. It was Bay’s second home run in as many games, as he became the first Red Sox player to homer in each of his first two career postseason games. After Santana retired the first two batters, the Red Sox went to work. Back-to-back singles from Ortiz and Youkilis brought up Drew, who lined a double into right-center to drive in Ortiz for the first run. Then came Bay, Wednesday night’s Game 1 hero for his two-run home run, who did even better this time around.

In the fourth, Alex Cora connected for a two-out double and was driven in by the hot-hitting Jacoby Ellsbury’s double as the lead grew to 5-1. However, the early leads dwindled thanks mainly to a slow-motion collapse from starter Daisuke Matsuzaka. He gave up single runs in the fourth and fifth innings and required 108 pitches to last only five innings. He walked three, struck out five and allowed eight hits.

Reliever Hideki Okajima did not help matters when he put two runners on with no outs in the seventh and Justin Masterson eventually walked in a run to narrow the score to 5-4. Papelbon relieved Masterson after Figgins’ triple to start the eighth, and while Teixeira’s sac fly temporarily breathed life into the Angels, Drew settled matters in the top of the ninth inning.

Nation Notes: Josh Beckett, who is scheduled to speak to the media today for the first time since straining his right oblique Sept. 26, is still on target to pitch Game 3. Beckett was fine yesterday after his aggressive side session Thursday when he threw 67 pitches.

October 2, 2008

Lester, Bay, and Ellsbury lead Red Sox to 4-1 victory in game 1

by @ 3:53 pm. Filed under 2008 Red Sox

The Red Sox, a team believed to be too bruised and beat up to have much of a chance in this Division Series, took Game 1 from the Los Angeles Angels, 4-1, last night at Angel Stadium.  Click here to find out more!

All of a sudden, it is the Angels who look mortal and ordinary, with the Sox having a brand new lease on life. The victory was the 10th postseason win in a row by the Red Sox against the Angels, tying a major league mark.  Jason Bay’s two-run home run in the sixth inning off Angels starter John Lackey erased a 1-0 deficit, with the Sox adding the two insurance runs in the ninth.

Jon Lester had a superlative start, getting stronger and stronger in his seven innings. The only run allowed by the left-hander was unearned, with the Angels taking a 1-0 lead in the third inning shortly after shortstop Jed Lowrie made a fielding error. Channeling the big-game makeup and stuff of last year’s postseason ace Josh Beckett (oblique, pushed back to Game 3 for now), Lester looked every bit like a No. 1. Getting stronger as he completed his seventh inning, Lester retired the last seven batters he faced, four via strikeouts. Lester allowed six hits, walked just one and struck out seven.

Justin Masterson pitched the eighth, when the Red Sox received two shining examples of defense. Mark Teixeira led off with a blooper into shallow center field that Jacoby Ellsbury, who was playing the No. 3 hitter deep, managed to catch up to with a forward rolling dive. After Vladimir Guerrero hit a sharp single to left field, Torii Hunter blooped a ball behind first base. Gold Glove first baseman Kevin Youkilis was unable to make the catch but, after tumbling to the grass, alertly got up and made a strong throw to Mike Lowell to nab Guerrero, who was trying to go from first to third on the single.

The Sox tacked on the third and fouth runs in the ninth inning on RBI singles by Ellsbury and David Ortiz. Ellsbury reached base all five times he came up.  Jonathan Paplebon closed out the win with a scoreless ninth.

Before Bay’s shot, the Bosox were 0-for-10 with runners on base, including 0-for-5 with runners in scoring position. With Garret Anderson (single) on first base and two outs in the home half of the third, Guerrero hit the grounder that Lowrie was unable to handle. Ranging to his left, Lowrie bent down to field the ball, which popped in and out of his glove, allowing Guerrero to reach first and Anderson to move up. Hunter then blooped a soft single into left that scored Anderson for the 1-0 Angels lead.  The error was Lowrie’s first in 155 chances and 49 games at short.

Nation Notes:  Mike Timlin may have pitched his last game in the major leagues. The veteran relief pitcher said he is considering retirement, and that he will discuss the matter with his family during the off-season before making a decision.

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