BOSTON (CBS) – Perhaps the Red Sox fibbed just a little bit.
With four long days away from the flow and the grind of baseball, many wondered if the Red Sox would be rusty when they finally took the field for Game 1 of the ALDS. After all, when you play every day from February through September, it can be a disadvantage to sit idly while your competition plays two games with great emotion and intensity during the week.
Nevertheless, the Red Sox all said they’d be fine and ready to go once Game 1 began, and that included a message from Red Sox manager John Farrell to the media hours before first pitch. Yet they didn’t exactly come out of the gates, and they fell behind 2-0 to the Rays in the first three innings.
So maybe there was a little rust from the rest, but it sure disappeared rather quickly in the bottom of the fourth inning. It was then that Dustin Pedroia led off with a lined single up the middle, and it was then just about everything started working in the Red Sox’ favor. When the dust had finally settled, they led 5-2 after four innings before extending it the lead to 8-2 in the fifth.
“It was just an unfortunate inning,” Rays skipper Joe Maddon said after his team’s 12-2 defeat. “With a more normal inning, [Matt Moore] could have pitched deep into the game. Everything was good, [but] we just kind of messed it up in that inning. But mistakes will kill you. We’re normally not the team that makes those kind of mistakes. We did tonight.”
And just about every one of those mistakes worked marvelously in favor of the Red Sox. The most prominent was the first, a misplay by Wil Myers in right field that turned a deep fly out into a ground-rule double. Ortiz and Pedroia scored on a Jonny Gomes double, but the damage was not yet complete.
Stephen Drew sent a harmless tapper to the right side of the infield, but James Loney strayed too far off the bag, and his flip to Moore covering first base was just a hair too late. The hustling Drew was safe at first, and on the back end of that play, Gomes never stopped running and was able to score from second on the infield single. Moore took an extra second to run past the first base bag instead of turning and firing home, and it gave Gomes just enough time to cross the plate.
But the Rays’ mistakes – and the Red Sox’ fortunes – weren’t finished playing out in the inning. Will Midllebrooks’ line drive off the Green Monster ricocheted off the standings section of the wall, bouncing away from Sean Rodriguez and allowing Drew to score from first.
Jacoby Ellsbury then struck out swinging to end the frame, but catcher Jose Lobaton simply did not handle the pitch, which went all the way to the backstop, allowing Ellsbury to reach and Middlebrooks to trot to third. Shane Victorino made the Rays pay with an RBI single to follow that up, and the Red Sox never looked back.
“We were fortunate to catch a break on what was ruled David’s double in that fourth inning, and we were able to bunch some hits after that,” Farrell said, though he was quick to point out the individual efforts of Drew and Gomes playing a role in the inning.
It was somewhat just for the Red Sox to catch some breaks, as it was a perceived missed strike three call for Jon Lester that got the Red Sox in a whole to begin with. Lester’s 2-2 pitch to Rodriguez in the second inning was deemed low by home plate Chris Guccione, and the lefty’s next offering was sent high over the Monster in left.
But the game corrected itself, turning a stressful afternoon into a joyous laugher for the 38,000 fans in attendance.
Of course, the Red Sox may not be so fortunate in Saturday’s Game 2, which by all bets should be a much tighter affair. But on a day when playoff baseball returned to Fenway Park for the first time in four years, just about everything was perfect for the Red Sox.