Monday, 13 October 2008

ALCS game 2 - ...But they get up again

Boston Red Sox 8 - Tampa Bay Rays 9 (11 innings)

The old football (soccer!) cliche says that it's a game of two halves. Judging by game 2, baseball may need to adopt it as well.

The game was almost ridiculous in its pattern. So much so that I don't really know where to start. I guess the best thing is to start at the beginning, but you have to understand that by the time the game finished, 5 hours and 27 minutes after Scott Kazmir threw the first pitch, I was already struggling to remember back to that first inning. A (sleep-deprived) day and a half later, and I'm still not that much clearer. But start at the beginning I shall.

Top of the First. 2-0 Red Sox.
Scotty K actually got off to an encouraging start. Unfortunately for him, the Red Sox had an at-bat with 2 outs. Actually they had several. And they score when there are two out. Kaz eventually got out of the inning with just 2 on the board, but after throwing 38 pitches.

Bottom of the First. 2-2.
Before the game, all the talk was about Evan Longoria's hitting slump. Evan turned 23 last week, but he has a maturity of someone who just turned 33. Pressure, what pressure? He promptly answers the nay-sayers by depositing a Josh Beckett offering over the fence in left for a two-run shot, his third of the postseason.

Inning Two. 2-2.
A scoreless inning!

Top of the Third. 3-2 Sox.
Dustin Pedroia belts a solo homerun off of Kaz.

Bottom of the Third. 4-3 Rays.
BJ Upton continues his power renaissance, connecting for his fourth homerun of the playoffs. Three batters later Carl Crawford raps a single to score Evan Longoria and give the Rays their first lead of the night.

Bottom of the Fourth. 5-3 Rays.
Cliff Floyd leads off the inning by mashing a ball off of the front of the batters eye in straight away centre.

Top of the Fifth. 6-5 Sox.
Dustin Pedroia connects off of Kaz for his second homer of the night. After retiring Ortiz, Kaz then gives up a third homerun, to Kevin Youkilis. End of the night for Kaz - his line of 4 1/3 innings, 6 hits, 5 ER, 3 BB and 2 Ks is not impressive. But its not the worst pitching line of the night. To relieve Kaz, Grant Balfour comes in. And promptly gives up just his second longball of the entire year, a solo effort for Jason Bay. He then walks Lowrie, necessitating the introduction of JP Howell, who finally gets the last 2 outs.

Bottom of the Fifth. 8-6 Rays.
Keep on keeping on. RBI single from Carlos Pena. RBI-double for Evan Longoria (his third extra-base hit of the night). Josh Beckett is pulled. He also went 4 1/3 innings, and would be charged with 8 runs on 9 hits with 5 K's. Lopez comes on in relief, and gives up another RBI-single to CC. Manny Delcarmen finishes off the inning.

Top of the Sixth. 8-7 Rays.
Uh-oh. Not safe yet. JP Howell gets into trouble, and in comes Chad Bradford. He promptly allows a RBI-double to Youkilis, but stops the damage right there.

Bottom of the Sixth/Inning Seven. 8-7 Rays.
No runs!

Top of the Eighth. 8-8.
Eights are wild. Bradford allows the lead-off hitter, Pedroia, to get on base. Trever Miller comes in and walks Ortiz. Enter Dan Wheeler, and with the runners having moved up, he sails a pitch way over Dioner Navarro's head, allowing the tying run to score. He finishes of the inning.

Inning Nine. 8-8.
A scoreless frame from Wheeler. Masterson gets two outs for the Sox before Papelbon comes in and sends it to extras.

Inning Ten. 8-8.
Wheeler moves into heroic territory, pitching his third inning, scoreless. Papelbon holds the Rays without scoring though.

Top of the Eleventh. 8-8.
Wheels amazingly comes out for a fourth inning's work. He gets one out, before handing over to David Price. Wheels final line - 3 1/3 IP, 1 hit, 0 ER, 2 BB, 4 Ks. His longest outing for something like 4 years. Price walks the first man he faces, but comes back to get the next two and holds the Sox without adding.

Bottom of the Eleventh. 9-8 Rays.
Wheels went 3 1/3, but Papelbon could only manage 1 1/3. So in comes Mike Timlin. Dioner Navarro draws the lead-off walk, and is replaced by pinch-runner Fernando Perez. Ben Zobrist follows, looking to bunt, and he draws a walk as well. Jason Bartlett grounds out to third, but the runners, both moving with the pitch, successfully move up. Aki Iwamura is intentionally walked to load the bases. Up steps BJ. Two strikes on him. A blooper down the line in right. JD Drew has a bead on it, and its not deep. He makes the catch and comes up throwing. Perez has tagged. The throw is up the third base line. Perez flys down towards home slides around Kevin Cash and slaps home plate. The marathon is over, and the good guys have won.


One of, if not the best game I have ever watched. Just pure, unadulterated baseball entertainment. 15 runs in the first 5 1/2 innings. 2 runs in the final 5 1/2. And every single inning as enthralling as the last.

It was an absolutely massive win for the Rays. Go to Fenway at 0-2 down, and the series would have been all but over. Going there at 1-1, and everything is still to play for. We've got to win at least one game there. But we can do that. We CAN do that.

I can barely begin to mention everybody who came up big in game 2, but there is no doubt that the hero was Dan Wheeler. He could so easily have been the villain, allowing the Sox to tie the game on a wild pitch, but he didn't let it get to him. With just Price and Jackson left in the 'pen, he knuckled down and kept pitching. It was a truly amazing effort for any reliever, but for a guy who is pretty much a one-inning man normally, it was phenomenal. If we go on to win this series, there is no doubt that his effort will be looked at as one of the key turning points. Well done Wheels, I hope you enjoyed your off-day yesterday!

This evening, the Rays have their toughest opponent, in Jon Lester. He has dominated the Rays this year, so getting a result against him is going to be very unlikely. That being said, if we could it would be a huge boost to the confidence and belief of the Rays. We're sending Matt Garza to the hill. He faltered against the White Sox last time out, so will want to bounce back with a strong outing this time. Here's hoping he can.

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