BOSTON -- When Wil Myers, somewhat inexplicably, misplayed a fly ball by David Ortiz into a ground-rule double in the fourth inning of Game 1 of the ALDS Friday, he cracked open the door for the Red Sox.
The Red Sox then proceeded to kick it in and take complete control of the series opener, scoring five runs in that inning, followed by three more in the fifth.
It was, in its own way, characteristic of what the Sox have done all season. Give them an inch -- or, in this case, a double -- and they'll take a mile.
After the gift double put baserunners at second and third, Jonny Gomes took advantage one out later with a game-tying two run double.
Those would be the first of 12 unanswered runs for the Red Sox, who never looked back.
"I think things like that are very important,'' said Shane Victorino of the Red Sox' ability to take advantage. "That's a big part of post-season baseball, capitalizing on mistakes. "You want to minimize your own mistakes because you're playing 27 outs and it's a five-game series. You want to keep those to a minimum, because if a team's able to capitalize, that's when they run. We were able to do that today.
"It was nice to see Jonny coming up with a big hit there and kind of seeing the snow-ball effect and we able to open up a lead.''
The Myers' miscue wasn't the only mistake the Rays made. Later in the same inning, Sean Rodriguez misjudged a carom when Will Middlebrooks hammered a line drive off The Wall. What should have been a single that sent Stephen Drew to second was instead played into a double that allowed Drew to score all the way from first.
And still, the Rays weren't done giving: a passed ball by catcher Jose Lobaton, on what should have been the third strike to Jacoby Ellsbury for the third out, set up a run-scoring single by Shane Victorino for the fifth run of the inning.
Their errors -- mental and physical -- led to a big inning for the Sox. Heading into that fateful fourth, Tampa Bay starter Matt Moore hadn't allowed so muchg as a base hit.
By the time the inning was over, Moore had yielded five runs and used up 30 pitches to get through it all.
"Absolutely, that's important,'' said Dustin Pedroia said of his team's ability to take full advantage of the circumstances, "especially when you're facing tough pitching. If you get extra anything, you have to capitalize on that and that's what we did.
"If we have an advantage, we're trying to do all we can to keep going and use it. That's the biggest thing.''
It may take until the end of the series before the true significance of the fourth inning can be fully appreciated. But at the time, the Red Sox were already trailing, and you could almost see the Rays, having already won two elimination games earlier this week, gaining confidence.
That's how it was for four innings. Until it wasn't anymore. The Rays went from leading by two runs to trailing by three, their confidence sapped, their momentum eliminated.
What made the fourth so notable was that the Rays have a reputation for playing strong fundamentally. They cut their errors almost in half from last year and seldom beat themselves.
Yet, there they were, almost inviting the Red Sox back into the game.
"It's rare,'' agreed Will Middlebrooks of the atypically sloppy play on the part of Tampa Bay. "It doesn't happen very much with those guys. I'm just glad we could take advantage of it because when you're handed a break like that, there are plenty of times that you don't. I'm glad we could and put some runs on the board.''
Until the fourth, the Sox had appeared a little flat offensively, perhaps the result of their four-day layoff. There's only so much batting practice and a simulated game can do in preparing for the playoffs.
But when a catchable ball turns into an extra-base hit and a big inning, a game shifts quickly, and with it, the momentum.
"It sucks,'' said Victorino a bit sympathetically. "I've been on that other end where you make a mistake and next thing you know, there's a whole bunch of runs scored or things happen. It's not fun. 'Demoralizing' is a strong word, but it's definitely a little tough.
"Tonight, we were on the good side and that's what it's all about.''