Gut-wrenching loss evens up ALCS
Beckett roughed up, Sox-Rays tie postseason homer record
ST. PETERSBURG -- As the baseball drifted toward him down the line in shallow right field, J.D. Drew geared up to make the perfect throw. He felt that was the only thing that could send Game 2 of the American League Championship Series into the 12th inning.
With speedy Fernando Perez tagging from third base, Drew planted, fired and cringed.
The throw wound up short, and on the third-base side of home plate. Perez slid in to land the Red Sox a gut-wrenching 9-8, 11-inning loss to the Rays on Saturday.
So instead of going back to Boston with a 2-0 lead in the best-of-seven series, the Red Sox instead settled for a split after a game that took five hours and 27 minutes. The contest came to an end at 1:36 a.m. ET on Sunday.
It was a wild game, one in which the teams combined for seven home runs to set an ALCS record and tie the postseason record. It was also one in which the two starting pitchers -- Josh Beckett for the Red Sox and Scott Kazmir for the Rays -- struggled, putting both bullpens into the spotlight.
"It's just one of those games," said Red Sox closer Jonathan Papelbon. "It could have gone either way. It's one of those games where nobody really deserved to lose. It was a hard-fought battle by both clubs and we came out on the short end of the stick. What can I say?"
Did Drew think he had a shot on what proved to be a walk-off sacrifice fly off the bat of B.J. Upton?
"I did, but I knew I had to be super quick getting it out of my glove," Drew said.
Most homers in an inning in an LCS game
"It didn't help that I got drilled on the shoulder [Friday] night and I didn't have the best grip on the ball trying to get rid of it. Because in that situation with Perez running, you've got to get rid of it and unload it quick. The combination of those few things ... and the ball kind of sailed up the line. It would have had to have been a perfect one-hop play in there to have a chance at him. It didn't work out."
By the time the Red Sox got to the 11th, manager Terry Francona was down to two pitchers in his bullpen. One option was Paul Byrd, a starter by trade who last pitched on Sept. 24. The other choice was venerable veteran Mike Timlin, the 42-year-old who was inactive for the AL Division Series vs. the Angels and hadn't pitched in a game since Sept. 28.
Francona went with the latter option. Timlin walked Dioner Navarro and Ben Zobrist to open the inning, and Boston pitching coach John Farrell, displeased with the calls of home-plate umpire Sam Holbrook, was ejected.
"Thinking about that, these are pressure games," said Timlin. "It's tough to do our job. There's [also] a lot of pressure on the umpires. With all due respect, some of those pitches, I can't throw any better. I threw some really good pitches right there. We're all human, we miss. Shoot, I walked a couple of guys. I know it's tough, but in my opinion, I threw some pretty good pitches, but he saw it the other way."
Jason Bartlett then hit a slow roller to third that had the same effect as a sacrifice bunt, pushing the runners to second and third.
The Red Sox walked Akinori Iwamura intentionally to load the bases. Upton did just enough to finish it.
"We're not frustrated," said Timlin. "You come down to somebody else's place and you split, we're still looking pretty good. [The Rays], they played well, they came back, we came back. It was definitely a back-and-forth game. We both played the game well. Just in the end, looking at my own performance, I'm the one who messed it up. We should have won that game. It came down to the last hitter, the last pitcher, and that's where we stand."
As for the ALCS itself, that is now wide open as the venue switches to Fenway Park, where the Red Sox went 56-25 this season and have their hottest pitcher lined up for Monday's Game 3 in lefty Jon Lester.
"It's 1-1, you have to keep grinding it out," said Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia, who belted two homers in a game for the first time in his career. "That's why it's best-of-seven."
Before turning into a postseason classic, the game felt like a home run derby. But nobody went deep after Jason Bay's solo shot in the top of the fifth inning, Boston's third homer of the inning.
Pedroia and Kevin Youkilis took Kazmir over the wall earlier in the frame. After the shot by Youkilis, who now has a nine-game hitting streak in ALCS play, Kazmir exited. Bay's homer was a towering shot down the line in left. The three homers in an inning tied a postseason record, which has now been done nine times.
After that, however, neither team blinked for a long time. Dan Wheeler, one of seven pitchers used by the Rays, fired 3 1/3 innings of shutout relief. Papelbon was perfect for 1 1/3 innings, extending his record postseason scoreless streak to 22 innings.
GAME 3: JUST THE FACTS
|Rays starter: RHP Matt Garza|
|2008: 11-9, 3.70 ERA|
|2008 on the road: 4-6, 4.53 ERA|
|2008 vs. Red Sox: 1-1, 4.50 ERA|
|Career vs. Red Sox: 3-1, 3.86 ERA|
|2008 postseason: 0-1, 7.50 ERA|
|Career postseason: 0-1, 7.50 ERA|
|Red Sox starter: LHP Jon Lester|
|2008: 16-6, 3.21 ERA|
|2008 at home: 11-1, 2.49 ERA|
|2008 vs. Rays: 3-0, 0.90 ERA|
|Career vs. Rays: 4-0, 3.38 ERA|
|2008 postseason: 1-0, 0.00 ERA|
|Career postseason: 2-0, 0.77 ERA|
|Series tied, 1-1. It marks the 19th time in 39 American League Championship Series that it has been tied at a game apiece.|
|Game 1: Red Sox 2, Rays 0|
|Game 2: Rays 9, Red Sox 8 (11 innings)|
|Did You Know? The 37 players used by both teams in Game 2 tied an ALCS record for a game of any length, last matched by the Red Sox and Indians in Game 2 of the 2007 ALCS.|
Of utmost concern for the Red Sox in this one is that the man they still refer to as their ace didn't pitch like one. For the second time in his two starts this postseason, Beckett struggled.
Much like his ALDS start against the Angels, it was clear from the outset that Beckett, who took a no-decision, wasn't in top form. Though he did have a 1-2-3 inning this time around -- something he didn't do against the Halos -- Beckett wound up producing the worst postseason start of his career.
Over 4 1/3 innings, Beckett was drilled for nine hits and eight runs, walking one and striking out five. Most disturbing to Beckett and the Red Sox is that the righty blew the lead three separate times.
"It's very frustrating," said Beckett. "Any time you get eight runs for you and you can't win the game, that's pretty frustrating."
Fortunately for the Red Sox, Kazmir (4 1/3 innings, six hits, five runs, three walks) was every bit as shaky.
After those three homers in the fifth gave the Sox a 6-5 lead, Francona went back to Beckett, who had already been touched up for three long balls in the first four innings.
"We scored three in the fifth and wanted to give ourselves a realistic chance at having some semblance of order in our bullpen, which we did," Francona said. "We wanted Beckett to get through that fifth and set up our bullpen, and it didn't work."
Carlos Pena tied it with an RBI single to right. Evan Longoria stepped up next and ripped an RBI double to left, putting Tampa Bay back in front. That was all for Beckett. Lefty Javy Lopez came on and gave up an RBI single to right by Carl Crawford, giving the Rays an 8-6 cushion.
The Red Sox cut the deficit back to a run on Bay's RBI single up the middle in the sixth and tied it in the seventh on a wild pitch.
But the next lead change ended the game.
"I feel like we did what we needed to do here," said Papelbon. "Obviously, we would have loved to have won the first two games, but you can't be greedy. If you were to ask anyone in this clubhouse, they would have taken one out of two games here. Like I said, it's just one of those teams neither team deserved to lose and we came out on the short end of the stick."
Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.