BOSTON -- Unfortunately for him, Joe Maddon was prophetic before the game.
"You don't want to mess with good bullpens," the Rays manager said before his team went out to face the Red Sox in Game 2 of the ALDS, "and they have an outstanding bullpen."
Tampa Bay had clawed back from a 5-1 deficit and closed the gap to 6-4 with one out in the sixth inning when Sox manager John Farrell turned to that bullpen. Eleven outs, one hit -- and two sterling double plays -- later, Maddon's fear had come true.
That bullpen, backed by an 11-hit attack that was powered by two home runs from David Ortiz, pitched 3 2/3 shutout innings and delivered the Sox to a 7-4 victory Saturday night and a commanding 2-0 lead in the ALDS. It was Ortiz's first-ever postseason multi-homer game, and he was joined in the hit parade by Jacoby Ellsbury (3-for-4, 3 runs scored), Dustin Pedroia (1-for-3, 2 RBI), and, in fact, every member of the Sox batting order except Mike Napoli . . . who contributed in his own way by walking twice.
"Tonight," said manager John Farrell, "is one example of the relentlessness of this team. They look at each night as an individual challenge."
The challenge on this night: David Price, who has been all been unhittable at Fenway Park.
"Facing good pitching like that, we [needed] to execute," said Ortiz.
"We knew it was going to be tough," said Pedroia. "We needed A-plus stuff, and we brought it."
Right from the start, they brought it. They broke on top, 2-0, in the first on a sacrifice fly by Pedroia and Ortiz's first home run. After the Rays cut it to 2-1 on Delmon Young's sacrifice fly in the second, the Sox tacked on two more in the third on back-to-back doubles by David Ross (traditional, off the wall) and Ellsbury (unique, a soft pop that landed just past third baseman Evan Longoria and rolled into short left field), followed by a Shane Victorino single and a fielder's-choice grounder by Pedroia.
Stephen Drew had that rarest of rarities -- a triple to left field at Fenway Park -- in the fourth on a ball that hit the wall and caromed past left fielder David DeJesus, driving in Jonny Gomes and making it 5-1.
But John Lackey, efficient through the first four innings, began to unravel in the fifth. He was touched for a two-run double by James Loney that narrowed the lead to 5-3; then, after Pedroia had gotten him a run back with an RBI double in the bottom of the fifth, Tampa Bay made it 6-4 in the sixth when Desmond Jennings singled, went to second on an infield grounder, and scored on Yunel Escobar's single to right.
That was enough for Farrell, who called on Craig Breslow. The veteran lefty got the final two outs of the inning on six pitches, and held the Rays scoreless in the seventh thanks to an acrobatic Dustin Pedroia-to-Stephen Drew-to-Mike Napoli double play to end the inning. Junichi Tazawa was the beneficiary of another Pedroia-to-Drew-to-Napoli twin killing in the eighth, as he was able to complete the bridge to Koji Uehara in the ninth.
Uehara came on and retired the side in order -- striking out the first two batters on six pitches -- to complete the victory.
"I don't know if we can continue to find words to describe him," said Farrell of his closer, who hasn't allowed an earned run since July 1. "He thrives on moments like tonight."
"He's an exciting player," added Ross. "He gets me excited and puts a smile on my face when I see him. It's a pleasure to catch him."
Before Uehara arrived, he had been given a bit of a cushion by an eighth-inning homer from Ortiz, who's 3-for-8 with a double and two homers in the first two games of the series.
"When he's cooking, he's very difficult," said Maddon.
As are the Sox.