Red Sox neat Rays, 7-4, take 2-0 series lead

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Red Sox neat Rays, 7-4, take 2-0 series lead

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."

Game summary

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.

Quotes, notes and stars: Betts has first career five-hit night

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Quotes, notes and stars: Betts has first career five-hit night

BOSTON - Quotes, notes and stars from the Red Sox' 6-3 loss to the Kansas City Royals

QUOTES:

"We continually do a great job in creating opportunities and I'm confident that (the struggles with men in scoring position) will turn.'' - John Farrell

"When you start off with a five-run spot in the first, that's a tough deficit to overcome.'' - Steven Wright.

"That's how it goes sometimes. Sometimes, we score when we're not expecting to and then when we need to score, sometimes it doesn't happen.'' - Mookie Betts on the team going 4-for-15 with RISP.

 

NOTES:

* The loss was just the third in the last 13 series openers for the Red Sox.

* The game marked the first time in 20 home games in which the Sox never led.

* Boston was 4-for-15 with runners in scoring position.

* The first four hitters in the order were 13-for-19 (.684). The fifth-through-nine hitters, however, were just 2-for-21 (.095).

* Mookie Betts (five hits) leads the majors with 55 multi-hit games.

* Dustin Pedroia has reached base in each of his last eight plate appearances.

* David Ortiz's double was the 625th of his career, passing Hank Aaron to move into 10 place in MLB history.

* Ortiz leads the A.L. in doubles (41) and extra-base hits (72).

 

STARS:

1) Eric Hosmer

Hosmer cranked a three-run homer into the Monster Seats four batters into the game, and the Royals were off and running with a five-run inning.

2) Ian Kennedy

The Royals starter wasn't dominant, allowing nine hits in 5 1/3 innings, but he bailed himself out of a number of jams and limited the Sox to just two runs.

3) Mookie Betts

Betts had his first career five-hit night and knocked in two of the three Red Sox runs, though he also got himself picked off first base.

 

First impressions: Royals' five-run first inning dooms Red Sox in 6-3 loss

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First impressions: Royals' five-run first inning dooms Red Sox in 6-3 loss

First impressions from the Red Sox' 6-3 loss to the Kansas City Royals:

 

Steven Wright recovered nicely after the first inning, but the damage was done.

Wright's last five innings featured just three hits allowed -- one in the infield. But the first inning did the Red Sox in -- two walks followed by a three-run homer, then a single and a two-run homer.

Whether this was a matter of rust for Wright -- who last pitched three weeks ago Friday night -- or an early inability to command his knuckleball is uncertain.

The fact is, Wright dug an early hole for his teammates, and he had the misfortune to do so against a team with the best bullpen in baseball.

To his credit, Wright kept the game somewhat within reach thereafter, but the five-run head start proved too much of a jump.

 

It's time to worry a little about Jackie Bradley.

Bradley was just 7-for-40 in the just-completed road trip, and things didn't get any better on the first night of the homestand.

In the first, he came up with two on and two out and struck out swinging to strand both baserunners. In the third, he came to the plate with runners on the corners and, again, struck out swinging.

We're seeing the same kind of slump that Bradley fell into in previous seasons, where even contact is hard to find, with nine strikeouts in the last 16 at-bats.

Problem is, with Andrew Benitendi on the DL, there aren't a lot of options for John Farrell with the Red Sox outfield.

 

Trying to get Fernando Abad and Junichi Tazawa back on track in low- leverage mop-up didn't work.

Tazawa had a perfect seventh, but gave up a monster shot into the center field bleachers to Lorenzo Cain to start the eighth.

Abad entered, and while he did record a couple of strikeouts, also gave up a single, a walk and threw a wild pitches before he could complete the inning.

Getting some work for the two was the right idea, given that the Sox were down by three runs at the time. A good outing might help either regain some confidence and turn the corner.

But not even that could be accomplished Friday night.