After a seemingly impossible situation on Monday night that saw one of the most dominant closers in baseball this year give up a walk-off home run, the Boston Red Sox did what they’ve done all season, and bounced right back.
For the first time in the series, the Rays were the ones able to capitalize on Boston’s mistakes in Game 3, rather then the other way around. As soon as Jose Lobaton’s homer splashed into the aquarium inside Tropicana Field, Koji Uehara had already moved on from the mistake.
In fact, no member of the Red Sox even hinted that Game 3 would have any effect on them as they gathered their things and prepared for the next one. While fans racked their brains around a possible Game 5 scenario back at Fenway, the guys in the clubhouse confidently awaited Game 4.
Peavy was scheduled to take the mound against Hellickson, and who better to send Boston to the ALCS then the guy they traded for back in July for this very situation. He last pitched in the postseason in 2006, and it’s safe to say his career numbers in the playoffs had not been too pretty to that point. ( 9 2/3 IP, 19 H, 13 R, 4 BB’s, 5 K’s).
The story was set. The powerful Sox needed to end things here and now, the pesky Rays were all-in to force a Game 5. It did not disappoint.
If you tuned in late, you might have thought the Rays optioned not to start Hellickson, and instead go with Jamey Wright, not the case. Hellickson managed just 1 inning before being lifted by Maddon after loading the bases in the 2nd inning with nobody out.
Early on, you thought here’s the Red Sox chance to get on top early. They generally have a much better record when they score first, so it was a good sign. But just like that, the inning was over and the Sox couldn’t push across a single run, despite only needing a ground ball. Salty struck out, and Drew nailed a sharp liner to James Loney who snagged it, and threw it to second to double up Napoli. The Rays would go on to use their entire bullpen, 9 pitchers in all, in an attempt to force a Game 5.
Peavy worked almost flawlessly throughout the game. He retired the first six batters he faced in convincing fashion and was able to go 5 2/3 innings allowing just 5 hits and 1 earned run. It was a big moment in his career, and he embraced the spotlight and pitched a really solid game.
But this game wasn’t about the starters. It was about who could lock the game down in the last three innings. The Sox fell behind by a run after David Dejesus’ RBI single in the 6th, but the trio of Breslow, Tazawa, and Uehara didn’t gave Tampa Bay any more opportunities after that.
The Red Sox would do their damage in the 7th inning. John Farrell elected not to pinch-hit for Stephen Drew against lefties in Game 3. This time around, he brought in Xander Bogaerts off the bench to face Jake McGee. The 21-year-old prospect showed a veteran-like approach and worked a tough walk. Middlebrooks followed with a gritty at-bat, but eventually struck out. Ellsbury hit a single to put men on the corners with two away, and then a wild pitch scored Bogaerts and let Ellsbury get to third. Victorino, who was hit 4 times in the series, did some hitting of his own in the form of an infield single that he just beat out at first, allowing Ellsbury to cross the plate with the second Red Sox run of the inning.
They would add another in the 9th off of a Dustin Pedroia sacrifice fly to make it 3-1, but two runs is all they would need on this night. Uehara came on for the last out in the 8th, and worked a 1-2-3, 9th inning to close out the Rays one final time.
Last night was what playoff baseball was all about. As a fan, it was a stressful roller coaster ride to the finish against, arguably, the 2nd best team in the American League. The Red Sox made pitches when they needed too, and Farrell didn’t stray from the game plan. Getting into the playoffs was one thing, but now to see where this team could possibly go is going to be a lot of fun.
For the time being, Mike Napoli can wear a bathing suit and sunglasses, Gomes can keep his army helmet on, teammates can shotgun beers, and Clay Buchholz can dump an entire Bud Light on Jenny Dells head. But when Saturday rolls around and the Tigers/Athletics come to Fenway, it’s business as usual.