Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Red Sox Take First Game 3-0, Cut Rays Lead to 1/2 Game

Very nice start to the series last night. Jon Lester pitched like a seasoned veteran, going 7 2/3 innings, allowing 6 hits and 3 walks, but preventing any runs from scoring while striking out 9 batters. Rocco Baldelli, our own Rhode Island major league player, was the victim of 3 of those strikeouts. In fact, I was a little confused in the 8th inning. Jon Lester got the first two batters out, then gave up a single and a ground rule double to put runners on second and third. The next batter up was Rocco Baldelli. I know Lester's pitch count was 119, but since he had struck out Baldelli three times already, it looked to me like Lester would be the guy I wanted facing him.

Jon LesterInstead, Terry Francona went to the bullpen and brought in Jonathan Papelbon. Papelbon threw 6 pitches to Rocco, all of them 95+ mph fastballs, and struck out Baldelli anyway. Papelbon then finished up the 9th inning to preserve the win and earn his 36th save of the season.

The Red Sox scored all of their 3 run in the first inning. If you watch baseball to see runs scored, you could have turned the game off right then. With one out, Big Papi doubled off the Monster to score Mark Kotsay all the way from first base. Then Kevin Youkilis singled to center to score Ortiz, but the relay home was cut off, fooling Youk who had headed to second base. Youk got tagged out easily for the second out, and then Jason Bay launched a solo home run to wrap up the offense for the evening.

Jonathan PapelbonYou have to tip your hat to Rays' starter, Edwin Jackson. After the first inning, it looked like the start of a big blowout. But, Jackson stayed in the game, settled down, and ended up pitching 7 complete innings allowing no further damage.

But, the Rays could not get on the score board, dropping their 6th game of September. The Rays are now clinging to a mere 1/2 game lead. A loss tonight would turn the lead over to the Red Sox. But, don't put down a Red Sox win in your score book just yet. The Rays have not scored a run in their last 18 innings, suffering back to back shutouts. If you follow baseball at all, you've probably noticed the pattern. A team scores a ton of runs on game, and the next game cannot seem to be able to score at all. Same thing goes in reverse. When you go too many innings without scoring, it all bottles up and often explodes all at once in a flurry of runs.

Tonight, the Rays will be facing Daisuke Matsuzaka. Dice-K has pitched well lately, but he has also been known to give up a big inning now and then, often around the 4th inning. If the Rays are simply destined to break out, this could be a tough game for Boston. Facing Scott Kazmir is no easy task. If the Rays break out, the Sox will find it a challenge to keep pace. But, we are also seeing how a new team to the playoff race is handling things - not too well. Tonight is a big test. Will they shake off the losses of the past two weeks and get back to business, or will they continue to play tight and not get into a groove?

I'll be at the game, sitting near the visitor's bullpen. We'll do out best to rattle the relief crew. The rest is up to the Sox.

(Photos Courtesy of ESPN)

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