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Thursday, October 16, 2008

ALCS Game 5: Red Sox 8, Rays 7

Top 1st: Two batters into a must-win game and Daisuke Matsuzaka has already given up a two-run jack to B.J. Upton to make it 2-0 Rays. The crowd is already very quiet.

Dice-K gets the next three batters in order, but the Sox' offense has to make some noise.

Bottom 1st: Scott Kazmir gives up a walk to leadoff man Coco Crisp, not what he wanted. He's having trouble throwing strikes, but he gets Dustin Pedroia to bounce out hard to third for the first out of the inning. That sends Crisp into scoring position, but then David Ortiz strikes out swinging on three pitches.

Kazmir continues his wildness, walking Kevin Youkilis on four straight pitches. That puts a pair on with Jason Bay at the plate; Bay pops out to shallow right-center to end the threat. Still 2-0 Rays.

Top 2nd: After making the first two outs of the inning, Dice-K walks Gabe Gross, the number eight hitter, and Gross steals second. A quiet park is turning into a library. Dice-K gets Jason Bartlett to routinely fly out, but it's not one of the Japanese import's better games so far.

Bottom 2nd: Kazmir is throwing a lot of pitches, but he's so far keeping Boston down — and just as I write that, he plunks Jason Varitek with two out. Mark Kotsay singles on a low pitch to put men on first and second. After a check swing call goes against him, Kazmir gets Crisp to strike out swinging to end the frame.

Top 3rd: B.J. Upton singles, and Carlos Pena sneaks a homer near the right field foul pole to extend the Rays' lead to 4-0. Dice-K apparently left it elevated and in the middle of the plate — as he does again with Evan Longoria, who hammers one into the Monster seats to make it 5-0. Terry Francona is stalling for time to get his bullpen into the game.

Francona doesn't pull Dice-K, who rewards his manager by getting Carl Crawford to bounce out to the box, and Cliff Floyd to strike out to end the inning. The Boston radio booth reminds us that Tampa Bay has not surrendered a lead of three runs or more all season.

Bottom 3rd: Kevin Youkilis hits a two-out single, but Kazmir gets Jason Bay to strike out swinging to end the frame harmlessly. It's still 5-0 Rays, but Fenway is turning dyspeptic.

Bottom 6th: Kazmir retires the side in order; after 110 pitches he's almost certainly done, and it looks increasingly like the Red Sox are, too.

Bottom 7th: The Rays pick up a couple in the top of the seventh on a B.J. Upton double off Jonathan Papelbon, making puppies and orphans happy. Unfortunately, the Rays call on Grant Balfour, who inexplicably gives up four on a single by Dustin Pedroia and a three-run blast by David Ortiz to get off the floor. However, the Rays call on Dan Wheeler to get Kevin Youkilis to fly out to end the frame. 7-4 Rays, and that lead doesn't look so commanding anymore. On the other hand, the Sox are going to ask Papelbon to throw a ton of pitches to stay in this game, as he returns to face the 6-7-8 batters, starting with designated hitter Willy Aybar.

Top 8th: Aybar whiffs after another long at-bat on a tough splitter. He gets Dioner Navarro to fly out to deep center on a well-struck ball, and finishes off the frame by getting Gabe Gross on a 0-2 check swing strikeout. The Sox have the 5-6-7 batters coming up. This inning could be the game.

Bottom 8th: Jason Bay walks on four pitches from Wheeler, a terrible mistake early for the Rays reliever. J.D. Drew then crushes a mistake pitch into the right field seats to make it 7-6 Rays, and there's still nobody out.

Wheeler uncorks an immensely high, away pitch for the first in his sequence to Jed Lowrie, but Lowrie then swings through the next one and pops out to shallow left for the first out. Wheeler then whiffs pinch-hitter Sean Casey on a low and away changeup; he's still a little wild, but he's getting it done... until Mark Kotsay slams a double just over the head of B.J. Upton in center. The tying run is in scoring position for Coco Crisp.

Wheeler gets to a 3-2 count on Crisp, who then proceeds to foul off a bunch of pitches (including a couple of ball fours). Crisp then raps one into right field, and it's a tied game on an RBI single; Crisp erases himself trying for second to end the frame. It's a new game.

Top 9th: With Papelbon spent, the Sox call in Justin Masterson to hold down the Rays. It doesn't work (so far), as Jason Bartlett singles to start off the 9th. Akinuri Iwamura flies out to deep right with Bartlett running, so Bartlett returns to first. That brings up B.J. Upton. Upton walks after a bit of a battle (and Bartlett's attempted steal turns into nothing). Carlos Pena kills his team with a 4-6-3 double play. The inning's over, and the Sox will try to finish their comeback with the 2-3-4 batters due up.

Bottom 9th: Pedroia bounces one to the right side off J.P. Howell, and Longoria chases it down. It deflects off his glove to the third base foul line, but Bartlett gets to it and nips Pedroia for the first out. That brings up Big Papi, who tries for a bunt down the third base line with the shift on. It fails, and Papi strikes out on a beautiful 1-2 hook from Howell. Youkilis then smacks one down the third base line to Longoria, who makes a great stop — and then throws one into the right field seats when he bounces it in front of Carlos Pena.

The Rays elect to give an intentional pass to Jason Bay so Howell can face J.D. Drew. Howell on his first pitch nearly hits Drew. Howell goes to 3-0 on Drew on a breaking pitch that barely misses the plate, and after a get-me-over changeup, Drew welts one over the head of Gross to force a game six in Tampa. Longoria's error costs the Rays a win, and they go home to think about it.

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The Rays collapsed long before Longoria's error so I'd place the fault primarily with their 'pen.
True. But Longoria's error was the proximate cause.

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