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B.J. Upton ties ALCS at 1-1 with sacrifice fly to right
Jon Lester goes to the Hill in Game Three opposing Rays Matt Garza

(October 11, 2008) – Earlier in the game, B.J. Upton hit towering fly ball on a Josh Beckett fastball to tie the game at three. That was at 9:00 when the kids were still awake. Four hours later when all the little kids were sound a sleep, Upton was the hero once again when he lifted a sacrifice fly to shallow right field, driving in pinch-runner Fernando Perez from third.

“I was looking for a good pitch to hit,” Upton told TBS’s Craig Sager after the game. “The main thing was not to strike out.”

Catcher Dioner Navarro and pinch-hitter for Gabe Gross, Ben Zobrist, led off the inning with back-to-back walks off the only pitcher left in the Sox bullpen, Mike Timlin. The Rays sent in the speedy, Perez to pinch run for Navarro. After shortstop Jason Bartlett grounded out to third, the Sox intentionally walked Akinori Iwamura to hopefully get the inning ending double play.

As J.D. Drew came in to make the catch on Upton’s shallow pop fly, the Sox right fielder’s momentum would propel him to make a strong throw to the plate would put the Rays chances of winning in jeopardy. But Perez defied those chances and used his speed to equal the series before heading north to Fenway Park for three games.

The game started at 8:08 on the nose with Beckett opposing Scott Kazmir. S-C-O-T-T K-A-Z-M-I-R used to spell doom for the Red Sox in previous years but in 2008 they have figured out the Tampa Bay 24-year-old Southpaw.

The Sox jumped on the board in the first with clutch two out hitting. Kazmir cruised through the first two batters, fanning Jacoby Ellsbury on six pitches and getting Dustin Pedroia to fly out to B.J. Upton in center, but walked David Ortiz to begin his downward spiral. Kevin Youkilis followed Ortiz’s walk pulling two-strike fastball and sent it into left field for the base hit.

Jason Bay stepped to the dish with two-outs. He has been clutch for the Sox all post-season and has done a good job at making fans forget about the scatter-brained left fielder that previously patrolled the Fenway Park left field. Bay did it once again turning on a 3-2 fastball from Kazmir for a rocket line drive double down the third baseline, scoring Ortiz and Youkilis.

Before Beckett even stepped on the mound he had a 2-0 lead to work with. But Beckett would quickly give those two runs right back. Beckett’s first inning nearly mirror imaged the man who broke his Texas high school strike-out record. He just needed two pitches to retire Rays second baseman Iwamura on a foul pop up to Youkilis and caught Upton staring at a strike three that just barely caught the inner portion of home plate. But the Rays were not going to go down quietly.

In game one, the Rays offense suffered because of their failure to keep an inning alive. The Haverhill-native made sure to change things when he was at the plate. Rays first baseman Carlos Pena lined a double into left-center for Tampa Bay’s first hit of the game and putting the tying run at the dish in the hands of rookie phenom Evan Longoria. Beckett fell behind Longoria 3-1 and the former Cal State 49er made him pay as he turned on a Beckett fastball that came down somewhere on I-75, to tie the game at two a piece.

Kazmir and Beckett appeared to settle down in the second inning. As the left hander retired the Sox side in order in the top of the second, Beckett struck out the side with a base hit to Navarro mixed in between. But things are not always as they appear to be.

Game Two quickly turned into a zero-sum, game of chicken where neither team really wanted the led. Beckett gave the lead back to the Rays. Kazmir kept giving it back to the Sox.

In the top of the third, B.J. Upton took a 2-0 pitch from Beckett to tie up the game at three. After Pena popped foul to Mark Kotsay, Longoria lined a double to the base of the wall in left just feet from his second homerun of the game. The Rays third baseman would come around to score the Rays fourth run on a base hit to right-center off the bat of left fielder, Carl Crawford, for Tampa Bay’s first lead of the game. But Crawford got a little too cocky and was caught off guard by possible, game-changing pick-off, throw from Beckett to end the inning.

In the bottom of the fourth, former Red Sox outfielder Cliff Floyd added an insurance run with a home run to the restaurant in the center field, giving the Rays a two run lead. But once again Kazmir could not hold the Tampa Bay lead.

Facing his arch-nemesis to lead off the top of the fifth inning, Kazmir gave up his second homerun of the game to the little man with the big swing. If you are Scott Kazmir, you have to be thinking how can I get this little guy out? Pedroia’s second homerun of the game, made him 16-for-28 (.571) with three homeruns and five RBIs against the Rays Southpaw. After getting Ortiz to fly out to right field, Youkilis tied up the game with the sixth homerun of the game and chased Kazmir from the game. He finished the game after allowing five runs on six hits while walking three and striking out three in 4.1 innings of work.

In relief of Kazmir, Grant Balfour did not fair much better against the potent Sox line up. Bay turned an inside fastball and pulled it down the third base line. When the ball landed, the Red Sox had the one-run lead and tied an ALCS record with seven homeruns in a championship series game. But the game was just in the fifth inning. There was plenty of baseball to be played and plenty of time to set a new record.

After 26-minute wait, Beckett took the mound once again with the lead but the cat-and-mouse game continued. Iwamura became Beckett’s fifth strike-out victim of the night and it looked as if the Sox fireballer was going to start to settle into a grove. But a walk to Upton gave the Rays speed on the base paths with the heart of the line up. An Upton steal of second appeared to have rattled Becket as Pena lined a base hit past the dive of Pedroia in the over-drawn shift and scored the speedy Upton from second. That is what speed can do to you. Speed kills.

The Rays were not done yet. Longoria, who was all ready 2-2 with a double and homerun, turned on a Beckett inside fastball and lined a double down the left field line scoring Pena from first. Longoria advanced to third base on Jed Lowrie’s throw to the plate. Terry Francona decided he had seen enough and went to the left handed Javier Lopez to face the left handed Crawford. Facing the left hander, Crawford drove in his second RBI of the game lining a base hit to right and scoring Longoria from third, giving the Rays the two-run advantage.

The Sox are relentless and started to chip away at the Rays lead. They got half of it back in the top of the sixth when Pedroia walked with one out to set the table for the power hitters behind him. After Ortiz was caught looking at strike three, Youkilis singled up the middle, advancing Pedroia to second and sending Bay to the plate. Bay came through once again with a base hit into center field. Just like the little engine that could, Pedroia’s little legs motored around third and slid into home with Boston’s seventh run of the game.

Two innings later, Pedroia led off the eighth with a mean, slap single into right field. Ortiz walked for the third time against the left handed Trever Miller. So with no-outs the Red Sox had two men on base and Sox fans could smell blood especially with Youkilis stepping up the plate. Although Youkilis ended up grounding into the 6-4-3 double play, he did advance Pedroia up to third base, thus putting the tying run just 90-feet from home and that was the key. In relief of Miller, Dan Wheeler uncorked a wild pitch that went to the back stop and thanks to a poor throw from Navarro, Pedroia scored with ease to tie the game.

After Dustin Pedroia tied up the score in the top of the eighth inning, the bullpen shut down the Rays offense from the six inning forward to give the Sox offense an opportunity to win the game. The combination of Javier Lopez, Manny Delcarmen, Hideki Okajima, Justin Masterson and Jonathan Papelbon retired 17 of 19, including five consecutive, Ray batters. You have to tip your cap to the middle relief of the Red Sox pitching staff because in the heat of all the excitement of the ALCS and the post-season those five guys between the starter and closer get over looked. But they are an important piece to the puzzle for a championship team.

Jon Lester will get the nod when the series heads north to Fenway for three games. Lester has dominated the Rays with a 3-0, an ERA under one (0.90) and 19 strike outs. He will be opposed by the 11-9 right hander Matt Garza. In 2008 Garza is 1-1 against the Red Sox with a 4.50 ERA and 10 strike outs in four starts.


WIN: David Price

LOSS: Mike Timlin


The 3 Stars of the Game:

  1. B.J. Upton, TAMPA BAY ----- 1-4 HR, 2 RBI, 2 Runs-scored, Game Winning RBI
  1. Evan Longoria, TAMPA BAY ---- 3-5 2 2B, HR, 3RBI, 3 Runs-scored
  1. Dustin Pedroia, BOSTON ---- 3-5 2 HR, 2RBI

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