Been There, Done That, Bought the T-Shirt

Political Science major Jed Lowrie drives in Jason Bay as Sox defeat Angels 3-2 to win ALDS

(October 6, 2008) – Five years ago, the Red Sox were in a similar predicament as the Los Angeles Angels. Down in the series 1-2 to the Oakland Athletics heading into Game Four at Fenway, the Sox were looking for the win to tie up the series and send it back to California for the sudden death, winner-take-all Game Five. The A’s, on the other hand, did not want to go back to the Bay Area. They wanted to end it in Boston to advance to face the Yankees in the ALCS.

Down one run heading into the bottom of the eighth, the Sox rallied against former A’s and Sox closer, Keith Foulke, to take a 5-4 lead. Oakland had one last chance to end the series in Boston but were shut down by Scott Williamson, pitching his second inning of relief, in the top of the ninth, forcing a Game Five.

Now five years later, the roles are reversed. The Red Sox were the ones who did not want to make the trip back to California while the Angels were pulling for it. Hoping to end the series on their home turf, the Sox sent their Southpaw, Jon Lester to hill to end the Angels season. Besides a healthy Josh Beckett, who else would you want on the mound for a must win game?

Going into Game Four, Lester had not allowed an earned run so far in the 2008 playoffs. The lone run he gave up in Game One scored because of Jed Lowrie’s fielding error at shortstop in the bottom of the third.

The first few innings of Game Four were quick, Lackey matched Lester pitch for pitch. The Angels Ace improved from Game One or Los Angeles has listened to Newbury College Director of Athletics and former baseball head coach Peter Centola’s criticism.

“Why would [Lackey] throw a fastball?" Centola said discussing Jason Bay’s homerun in the Red Sox’s Game One victory in Anaheim. "[Bay] just missed two curves.”

As the game progressed, Lester grew stronger as Lackey started to deteriorate. Lackey’s downhill spiral started in the bottom of the fourth where he began having difficulty finding the strike zone. The Angels’ right hander’s control issues continued into the fifth inning and the Sox took full advantage of Lackey’s wildness.

Mark Kotsay led off the bottom of the inning with a line drive up the middle, into the center field. After a fly out to center by shortstop Jed Lowrie, Terry Francona decided to put on the hit-and-run with Jason Varitek at the dish. Putting the hit-and-run on for the Sox catcher who is know for his defensive prowess rather than his offense, was risky but Varitek came through, delivering a base hit into right field. Kotsay advanced on to third on the single.

Jacoby Ellsbury, who had not had a hit during Game Four drove in Kotsay from third with a ground out to second baseman Howie Kendrick to score the first run of the game. Next batter, the little man, Dustin Pedroia had yet to get his first hit of the post-season but when he did you know it would be big. Because that is how little guys do things. They go big and that is exactly what the former Sun Devil did, he tattooed a Lackey offering high off the wall in left to score Varitek from second as Pedroia cruised into second with a Double.

Los Angeles attempted to put something together in the top of the fifth with back-to-back, one-out base hits by Sunday night’s/Monday morning’s hero, Erick Aybar and Chone Figgins. But it was all for naught as Lester got the struggling Garret Anderson to ground into a fielder’s choice (second to shortstop) before freezing free-agent-to-be Mark Teixeira with a strike three that was reminiscent to ball two.

The Angels were no match for Lester as the left hander, for the second time in the series, shut down the team with the best record in 2008. Lester would keep his post-season at zero with seven strong innings scattering four hits while walking only two and striking out four Angels before turning the game over to bullpen to get the last six outs of the game and series.

Hideki Okajima came on in eighth and got Figgins and Anderson ground out to second for the first two outs but walked Teixeira. As soon as he walked the Angel first baseman, Francona had the quick hook and brought on the 23-year-old right hander Justin Masterson. In relief of Okajima, Masterson walked the first batter he faced, free-swinger Vladimir Guerrero, to put the tying run on first before uncorking a wild pitch to move the tying run into scoring position. The wild pitch would prove to be important as Torii Hunter lined a single to right field driving in Teixeira and Guerrero to tie the game at two.

With the game tied in the top of the ninth, flashbacks to Game Four of 2003 popped up. Could it happen against the Red Sox like it did to Athletics five years ago?

In the top of the ninth, the Angels pinch-hit Kendry Morales for right fielder Juan Rivera and with one swing of the bat, Morales drove a ball off the Monster for a double and was pinch-run for by outfielder Reggie Willits. For the first time in the game, the Angels had their lead off hitter on base. Francona popped out of the dugout and decided it was time for a change, going to right hander Manny Delcarmen with the winning run on second.

Kendrick sacrificed pinch-runner Willits to third with a bunt. Now with the winning run just ninety feet away, the Angels decided to go with a risky squeeze play, except their was only one problem. As Willitswas on his way home and Aybar did not get the bunt down, Varitek chased the Angels pinch-hitter down for the second out of the inning.

As soon as the Sox captain tagged made the gritty play, you knew the Sox were going to come out with the victory.

Jason Bay came to Boston on July 31st for Manny Ramirez and has fit in almost perfectly in the clubhouse. After J.D. Drew struck out looking at Scott Shields to lead off the top of the ninth, Bay blooped a ground rule double in front of the sliding Willits in right field. Playing the line like he was supposed to be, Teixeira made, at the time the game saving play, on a bullet, ripped down the line by Kotsay.

With two outs in the bottom of the ninth and Bay at first, the game was in the hands of 24-year-old former Stanford Cardinal, Jed Lowrie. In an imitation of Nomar Garciaparra, Lowrie jumped on the first pitch by Shields and lined a squibbler just past the dive of Kendrick at second. Running at full steam, Bay rounded third and dived, safely, head first into home with the winning run.

“[Scott] Shields struck me out on a curve ball last night,” Lowrie said after the game to Craig Sager just before going to celebrate with teammates. “I just wanted to get the barrel of the bat on [the ball] and find a hole.”

After the game, Sager caught up with Bay and asked him about scoring the game winning run.

“It’s a blast. Sometimes it’s better to be lucky than good,” the Sox left fielder told the TBS field reporter, referring to Lowrie’s base hit just barely finding the hole between second and first. Bay also added that he is so happy not to have to go back out to Anaheim. You are not alone there Jason, there are many sleep deprived Sox fans who are happy not to be going back to California – or at least till the end of the month.

I can still hear Papelbon, Youkilis and the rest of the Sox going crazy for their series win against the Angels but this is only the beginning. Their road is only going to get tougher as they are heading to the American League Championship Series for the second consecutive year to face the American League East Division Champion Tampa Bay Rays, who defeated the Chicago White Sox earlier in the night.

So Sox fans you no long have to worry about staying up late to catch the Sox because all the games will be on the East Coast. Yes! No 9:30 starting times like the NBA Finals back in June. Unless Major League Baseball gets involved and demands an 9:30 starting time.

Now it is the time for the Sox to buckle down and get to work in hopes of meeting Manny in the World Series and repeating as champions.


WIN: Manny Delcarmen

LOSS: Scott Shields


The 3 Stars of the Game:

1. Jed Lowrie, BOSTON ----2-4 Game Winning RBI

2. Jon Lester, BOSTON ---- 7IP, 4H, 0ER, 2BB, 4K

3. Jason Bay, BOSTON --- 2-3 Double, Winning run

No comments: