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10/20/08 12:10 AM EST

Red Sox Short Hops: Game 7

Season ends with disappointment as Rays enjoy last laugh

Fielding the Red Sox's 3-1 loss to the Rays in Game 7 of the American League Championship Series on a short hop ...

In < 25 words ...
It looked like Boston would win the pennant for the third time in five seasons, but Tampa Bay held on to squash the Sox's hopes.

Frozen moment
A double by Willy Aybar to lead off the sixth inning sparked a string of three consecutive Rays hits, including an RBI single by Rocco Baldelli that gave Tampa Bay the lead for good.

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Big number
19 -- Runners that Red Sox first baseman Mark Kotsay left on base during the 2008 postseason, including two in the seventh inning of Sunday's Game 7.

Game balls

Dustin Pedroia

The AL Most Valuable Player Award candidate reached base three times, going 1-for-2 with a walk and a first-inning home run that gave the Red Sox a 1-0 lead.

Jon Lester

Lester was Boston's workhorse all season, and he delivered a strong performance again on Sunday, allowing three runs in seven innings and retiring the first nine batters he faced. Unfortunately for Lester and the Red Sox, three runs were more than enough for the Rays.

Hideki Okajima

Okajima pitched in his third consecutive game on Sunday, and just like in Games 5 and 6, Okajima didn't allow a run. In 7 1/3 innings during the ALCS, Okajima didn't allowed a hit or a run, striking out five.

Sense of October
Both Lester and Rays starter Matt Garza were on top of their game in this pitchers' duel. Neither showed a sign of weakness. It was everything observers hope for in Game 7 pitching performances.

Lines of the Game
Dustin Pedroia
2 AB, H, BB, HBP, HR
Comment: Pedroia paced the Red Sox's offense on this night, much like he did throughout the 2008 season. Unfortunately for the Sox, his first-inning homer was the only Boston run to cross the plate at Tropicana Field on Sunday.

Jon Lester
7 IP, 6 H, 3 ER, 0 BB, 8 K
Comment: Lester found himself in the biggest game of the Red Sox's season on Sunday, and his pitching throughout the 2008 campaign proved that no other member of the staff deserved to be on the mound in such a situation. He fanned eight and allowed just three runs, but the damage he allowed proved costly.

Next step
The Red Sox endured injuries and drastic roster changes all season, ultimately winning 95 games and coming within one win of their third AL pennant since 2004. It will be an offseason in New England spent contemplating how to reach that next step in '09.

Mark Remme is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.