The Boston Red Sox have returned to the playoffs in style.
For the first time since 2009, the Sox find themselves in contention for a World Series and are off to a fast start in getting there. After another win last night, they are the beneficiaries of a commanding 2-0 series lead over the Tampa Bay Rays heading in to Game 3.
In Game 1, Jon Lester pitched a brilliant 7 2/3 innings as the Red Sox capitalized big time on some miscues by the Ray’s outfielders to take the game 12-2. Will Myers misplayed a ball hit to right field off the bat of David Ortiz in the 4th inning and Sean Rodriguez was struggling to figure out the carom of the ball off the Green Monster all day, resulting in runs for Boston.
In the 4th and 5th innings, the Sox sent 19 batters to the plate and pushed across 8 runs. The offense ran Matt Moore into the ground by making him throw a lot of pitches and punishing him when he left his fastball over the plate. It was the perfect example of how Boston’s offense has played all year, just continuing to put runners on base time after time and never letting up until the last out is recorded.
Lester’s efforts (7 2/3 IP, 3 H, 2 ER, 3BB, 7 SO) were exactly what the Sox needed out of their Game 1 starter. Setting the tone for the rest of the rotation by picking up the W to start the series. He commanded his fastball and cutter very well, and was able to pitch with a lead and go right after guys for the majority of the game. He made a couple mistakes early on in the game and paid for them, surrendering two solo shots, but he settled in nicely after that and the Sox’ offense provided him with plenty of run support.
Game 1 MVP: Jon Lester
In Game 2 last night, David Ortiz decided it was time to take over. The powerful designated hitter slammed two home runs off of David Price, including an exclamation point shot in the 8th to put the Sox up 3.
In a start where John Lackey struggled to find any type of rhythm, he still managed to pick up the win in the 7-4 victory, battling through 5 1/3 innings as he allowed 7 hits, and 4 earned runs.
Something worth watching in the series is how each manager handles their starting pitchers. Joe Maddon left Matt Moore in long enough to get tagged for 7 earned runs in Game 1, and did the same with Price for Game 2. I feel like that should have never happened. In a playoff game, once your starter gets roughed up for four, maybe five runs, it’s time to pull the plug and utilize the bullpen. Unlike Maddon, Red Sox manager John Farrell did not make that mistake and pulled Lackey in the 6th in favor of Craig Breslow after Lackey got himself into some trouble again.
The bullpen was spectacular for the Sox in this one. Between Breslow, Tazawa, and Uehara, they went 3 2/3 innings allowing just 1 hit, and getting some key double plays along the way. Uehara closed the book for Game 2 in dominating fashion, striking out the side on 11 pitches that were all thrown for strikes.
Aside from Ortiz, the real catalyst behind this win was Jacoby Ellsbury. He got on base three times, stole a base, and scored three runs. He was right in the middle of everything each time the Sox were putting runs up. Anytime Ellsbury can get on base to lead off an inning, the Sox have a really good chance of scoring.
Perfect example: in the first inning last night, Ellsbury reached on a single, stole second (advanced to third on a bad throw), and scored on a sacrifice fly. Before you could even blink, Boston had already put a run up on the scoreboard, applying pressure to the Rays offense to get something going.
Game 2 MVP: David Ortiz
The Sox will throw Clay Buchholz on the mound for Game 3 Monday night against Alex Cobb in St. Petersburg. The pitching matchup appears strong on paper so I’d expect a low-scoring game.
Who am I kidding? This offense is rolling. Tampa is going to have to touch up Buchholz if they want to live for another game.
Game 3 prediction: Sox win 5-2