Onto Game Seven


Jason Varitek’s first hit of the post-season keeps Sox World Series hopes alive for another day
Jon Lester takes the hill in do-or-die Game 7

(October 18, 2008) – It is Rivalry Weekend.

With Boston College hosting their former Big East and current ACC rival the Virginia Tech Hokies, the Eagles found themselves down 10-0 early, it made Superfans question whether they should have stayed home and watched Game Six. But if there were at home they would have been just as angry at TBS as they were at quarterback Chris Crane in the first quarter.

Due to a power-outage in Atlanta, TBS sent all of Red Sox Nation into a frenzy. Living room phones were ringing off the hook as everyone was in disbelief about what was happening. But as soon as the lights came on, so did the Red Sox bats against Big Game James Shields. After B.J. Upton, gave the Rays the early 1-0 lead but Kevin Youkilis would get that run back for Josh Beckett with solo-blast to left to lead-off the top of the second.

Just as Crane was bringing the High Flyin’ Eagles of Chestnut Hill back from a 10-0 hole, Youkilis was bringing the Sox back from the brink of the elimination. In the top of the third, Dustin Pedroia drew a four pitch walk from Shields before David Ortiz drove a line drive just out of the reach of Carlos Pena at first for a double, sending Pedroia to second. Youkilis came through once again by putting the bat on the ball and grounding out to Jason Bartlett at shortstop to drive home Pedroia from third.

The Rays would eventually came back to tie up the game in the fifth inning on Bartlett’s first RBI of the post-season when he lifted a homerun solo-homerun to left center to tie the game at two a piece. The light hitting but sure handed shortstop had just one round-tripper on the season but he came through for Tampa Bay when they needed it most. But the lead would be short lived as another unexpected hero came through in the clutch – this time wearing the visiting greys.

Coming into Game Six, Jason Varitek was 0-for-12 in the ALCS against the Rays and in his previous two at-bats were nothing to write home about but it was his third plate appearance of the night that brought Sox fans to their feet. After which Rays second baseman Akinori Iwamura made tremendous play jumping up and robbing Mark Kotsay of a base hit and then Shields catching Jed Lowrie staring blindly at strike three, a collective groan from Sox fans world wide could be heard with Varitek stepping to the dish.

Good things happen when you always seem to least expect them. How many fans can honestly say they expected Varitek to take Shields deep to give the Sox the lead once again and ultimately win the game? If you said you did then you are lying. Varitek’s barely made it over the right center field fence but it does not matter if it was 502 feet or lands in the first row of the seats (a la Varitek’s), it all counts for the same thing.

Although Beckett did not have his best stuff he was much more effective than his first start, in Game Two, against Tampa Bay. After giving up eight runs on nine hits in his first start, the Sox fireball right hander cut his earned runs by three-quarters while allowing four hits, walking three and striking out three. In the other dugout, Shields was something other than Big Game James, where the Rays Ace went 5.2 innings allowing three earned runs on nine hits while walking three and striking out three.

When the bullpen was the weakest link for the Sox in the first four games and for the Rays in Game Five, it turned out to be the strongest in last night. Hideki Okajima, Justin Masterson and Jonathan Papelbon combined to keep the Rays batters off balances while allowing just one walk and three strike outs. The Rays bullepn was just as strong as they kept Sox batters guessing by allowing one hit (against J.P. Howell) while walking three and striking out one.

For the second consecutive year, the Sox force a Game Seven in the ALCS after being down 3-1 to begin the series. They will send Jon Lester, who hopes to rebound after his worst outing of, realistically, the year when he went 5.2 innings allowing five runs – four earned – on eight hits while walking two and striking out seven last Monday. The Rays will send Matt Garza to the hill in hopes that he can match his Game Three performance, where he went six innings allowing just one run while scattering six hits, walking three and striking out five.

But do not count the Rays out. When their backs are against the wall they have come through in the clutch themselves. In September, with the division on the line in Fenway Park, the Rays took two of three from the Sox.


WIN: Josh Beckett

LOSS: James Shields

SAVE: Jonathan Papelbon


Top 3 Stars of the Game:

1. Jason Varitek, BOSTON --- 1-4 HR, RBI
2. Coco Crisp, BOSTON --- 3-4 Run-scored
B.J. Upton, TAMPA BAY --- 1-4 HR, RBI

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