BOSTON – One ball fell between two outfielders. Another took a bad hop off the Green Monster standings. One batter reached safely on a dropped third strike and another when the pitcher was slow to cover first.
By the time it was over, the Boston Red Sox had scored five runs in the fourth inning, taking advantage of Tampa Bay’s bad luck and bad defense to overcome an early deficit and beat the Rays 12-2 on Friday in Game 1 of the AL division series.
You play 162 games, a lot of innings, a lot of pitches, a lot of runs. One thing you can guarantee in the playoffs is you’re going to see something you haven’t seen all year, said Jonny Gomes, who doubled to tie the game and then scored from second on an infield single to give Boston the lead for good. And we saw that right away.
Needing a 163rd game to earn a wild-card berth, the Rays won three win-or-go-home games in three different cities to reach this series. Now they need a victory in Game 2 today to tie the best-of-five series before it shifts to St. Petersburg, Fla., for Games 3 and 4.
We’ve been playing very well. We’ve not been making any mistakes. We made a bunch tonight, Tampa Bay manager Joe Maddon said. But I’ve also learned one other thing regarding baseball: 24 hours can make a huge difference. That’s just one game, baby. That’s just one. We’ll be back tomorrow, I promise you. We’ll be ready to play. We will not be affected mentally by tonight’s game.
Jon Lester gave up three hits in 7 2/3 innings for the AL East champions, giving up solo homers to Sean Rodriguez and Ben Zobrist to spot the Rays a 2-0 lead through the top of the fourth. Tampa Bay starter Matt Moore had still not given up a hit.
But Dustin Pedroia led off the bottom half with a single up the middle, and then David Ortiz hit a high fly ball that center fielder Desmond Jennings and right fielder Wil Myers converged on. The Rays’ rookie raised his right hand to call off Jennings but let it fall behind him and bounce off the warning track and into the bullpen for a double.
I was under the ball, and I saw Des out of the corner of my eye and backed off, Myers said. I messed it up, and it won’t happen again. ... That play kind of gave them a spark, and a good team takes advantage of it.
With a derisive cheer of Myers echoing through the ballpark, Mike Napoli popped up to second base for the first out before Gomes hit a fly ball that scraped the left-field wall on the way down. Pedroia held to tag up, then scored easily with Ortiz coming in just a few steps behind him to make it 2-all.
Jarrod Saltalamacchia struck out before Stephen Drew hit a slow hopper to first that James Loney fielded and flicked to Moore. But the pitcher’s foot came down a split second after Drew’s. Gomes never slowed down as he rounded third and scored without a throw.
Will Middlebrooks followed with a line drive to left that took a bad hop off the Monster, and it got past Rodriguez on the rebound. That allowed Drew to score and make it 4-2.
Jacoby Ellsbury reached on a passed ball on strike three – which would have been the third out of the inning – and Middlebrooks moved to third and scored on Shane Victorino’s single to make it 5-2.
None of the misplays was scored an error.