BOSTON -- We expected the Red Sox-Rays series to be a taut, tight affair dominated by pitching and defense, and that's exactly what we got in Game 1 Friday.
For 3 1/2 innings.
In the bottom of the fourth, however, the Rays stopped being the pitching-and-defense Rays, and the Red Sox . . . well, the Red Sox turned back into the offensive juggernaut they'd been all season. All nine of their starters had at least one hit and one run scored -- only the third time in history that's happened in the postseason, and the first time it's happened since 1936 -- as they exploded for five runs in the fourth, three more in the fifth and four more in the eighth, and romped to a 12-2 victory for a 1-0 series lead.
"It was a good day all the way around," said one of the heroes, Jonny Gomes.
Jon Lester had started the game with a bang for Boston, striking out the first four batters he faced. After getting Delmon Young on a weak infield pop for the second out of the second, he also thought he'd struck out Sean Rodriguez to end the inning; in fact, as the 2-and-2 changeup crossed the plate, he began moving toward the Boston dugout. But plate umpire Chris Guccione called it a ball, moving the count to 3-and-2.
Given the second chance, Rodriguez delivered a 95-mph four-seam fastball into the Monster Seats in left-center for a home run and a 1-0 Tampa Bay lead. And Lester had a discussion with Guccione about that 3-and-2 pitch when the inning was over.
Rays starter Matt Moore protected that one-run advantage smartly, and when Ben Zobrist led off the fourth with a homer that dropped over the Monster just barely fair down the left-field line, Tampa Bay was in front, 2-0. Lester later had to extricate himself from a first-and-second, one-out mess -- which he did -- but the game was playing out as Boston feared: With Tampa Bay's pitching shutting down the Sox' attack, and the Rays pushing across enough runs to take command of things.
And then came the bottom of the fourth.
Dustin Pedroia led off with a single to center, the Red Sox' first hit of the afternoon. David Ortiz followed with a towering fly deep to right-center field. Wil Myers, the Rays' rookie right fielder, settled in under it a few feet in from the bullpen wall . . . and then peeled off and got out of the way, as if he'd been called off the ball. It dropped onto the track and bounced over the bullpen wall for a ground-rule double.
There was speculation that someone in the Red Sox bullpen had called off Myers, Myers said he spotted center fielder Desmond Jennings coming towards him and simply gave way.
"It was really a routine play," said Maddon. "He just saw [Jennings] out of the corner of his eye.
"Obviously, we [got] a little bit of a gift on that double by Ortiz out in right field," said Red Sox manager John Farrell.
That opened the floodgates. After Mike Napoli popped out, Gomes tied the score with a double off the wall in left. Jarrod Saltalamacchia fanned for the second out, but Stephen Drew beat out an infield hit on a grounder to first . . . and Gomes, as he'd done on Opening Day at Yankee Stadium, came around and scored from second, putting the Sox in front to stay.
Will Middlebrooks followed with another double off the wall, and Drew scored all the way from first when -- just as Gomes's double had - the ball bounded away from Rodriguez and caromed back toward the infield. Jacoby Ellsbury then reached on a third-strike passed ball by Rays catcher Jose Lobaton, and Shane Victorino delivered Middlebrooks with a single to right and as 5-2 lead.
The onslaught continued in the fifth. With one out, Napoli doubled and Gomes was intentionally walked. Saltalamacchia doubled off the left-field wall and -- when Rodriguez again couldn't contain the carom -- both runners were able to score. After a two-out intentional walk to Middlebrooks, Ellsbury singled home Saltalmacchia and rout, at 8-2, was officially on.
Lester slammed the door once he had had the lead and turned in 7 2/3 sterling innings, allowing just one other hit besides the home runs and striking out seven, with three walks.
"Starting pitching generates offense," said Gomes, "and that the case tonight."
Junichi Tazawa and Ryan Dempster finished up.
After Lester left, the Sox tacked on four more runs in the bottom of the eighth on an RBI single by Victorino, a bases-loaded walk to Napoli, a double-play grounder by Gomes with the bases oared, and a run-scoring single by Saltalamacchia.
Game 2 will be played Saturday afternoon at 5:30 p.m. at Fenway Park.