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American League Championship Series, Game One

10

October

"They ended up being better. We pushed them, we pushed them, they pushed back. We could never overtake them. Now is our chance to overtake them."

Red Sox manager Terry Francona on Thursday.

The Red Sox follow through with an impressive push-back on Friday night in Game One.

Some notes:

+ The Red Sox extended their postseason win streak to a club-record six games.

+ Sox closer Jonathan Papelbon pitched a scoreless ninth to set the postseason record for most career scoreless innings (20.2) over 13 outings, passing Joe Niekro (20).

AND THE NUGGET THE OF THE NIGHT:

+ In 38 previous ALCS matchups, the Game One winner has gone on to win the series 23 times (62 percent).

See you tomorrow for Game 2: Josh Beckett vs. Scott Kazmir.

Double ouch

Red Sox win Game One 2-0 as Papelbon continues to ridiculous postseason perfection.

Ouch

Second straight inning the Rays are one swing from changing the complexion of the game and cannot produce the big hit.

Do you know what the Rays need right now? Do you?

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Red Sox bullpen activity

Manny Delcarmen suddenly up.

No-hitter jinx material

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Random thoughts ...

... That shift against Carlos Pena just preserved the no-hitter. Dustin Pedroia was right where he needed to be ... And what was Gabe Gross doing swinging at a 3-0 pitch (that he popped up for the third out in the sixth)?

I'm no baseball coach or anything ...

... but it's going to be pretty hard to win this thing without a hit. Dice-K no-hitter through five. Akinori Iwamura might have just come closest to one but J.D. Drew flagged down his gapper to right-center.

Bad sign if you're pulling for the Rays:

After batting .222 against the Angels in the AL Division Series, Kevin Youkilis is 2-for-2 with a double.

Good sign if you're pulling for the Rays:

The rest of the Sox lineup continues to do nothing. Youkilis has the only hits of the game and his fourth-inning single was negated by an inning-ending 4-6-3 double play by J.D. Drew.

Locked in

James Shields and Dice-K pitched 1-2-3 second innings after extremely eventful first ones. Early jitters now aside, it appears they have locked in.

Three innings down ...

... and seven in a row down for James Shields. Dice-K is just as hot despite a walk to Carlos Pena in the third. Interesting, by the way, to see the Red Sox employed the exaggerated shift on Pena with 2B Dustin Pedroia roving in shallow right field.

Now it's a pitchers' duel

James Shields and Dice-K pitched 1-2-3 second innings after extremely eventful first ones. Early jitters now aside, it appears they have locked in.

Can you take seven games of this?

The entire place was standing from the first batter on. Runners on base, drama!, near-calamity! Playoff baseball is not good for your health. Huge job of James Shields getting out of that inning scoreless.

8:37 Game time (hoo!)

Who's gut's in knots. Who's feeling good. Talk to me, people.

The anthem, with soul

The Kid killed it again Friday night. B.J. Jackson, a 17-year-old senior and sax standout from Tampa’s Blake High School, performed such a stirring rendition of the National Anthem to start the Divisional Series at the Trop last week that the Rays asked him back to kick off the ALCS. And once again, the crowd went crazy for B.K. The players love his playing, too – last week leftfielder Carl Crawford talked about how the teen “killed it” and got the team fired up. “That was an unforgettable experience last week,” Jackson said prior to the start of the Rays-Red Sox game. “I’ve played the National Anthem here a couple of times before, but it was nothing like that. I’ve never played in so many people.” Jackson admits he was a little nervous, but once he started playing the jitters disappeared. His soulful, smooth jazz version cascaded through the Trop, followed by thunderous applause. Jackson never got a chance to meet any players, but heard they liked it. “It was definitely something to know that I could, somehow, motivate them in any way,” he said. “We’re just so proud of him,” said his mom, Regina Jackson Underwood, accompanied by beaming dad Ralph Jackson. B.K. hopes to attend FAMU, USF or UCF next year. And who knows, if the Rays make it to the World Series, the Kid might just have to come back for another rousing encore.
- DAVE SCHEIBER

Game time

B.K

About an hour to game time and the place is filling in. The Rays seem relaxed and confident despite the absolute crush of media and dignitaries on the field, but the Red Sox, the defending World Champions, are hardly in awe either.

Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia, an MVP candidate who had a woeful ALDS against Anaheim, was out early, sitting alone in the dugout and enjoying a chew.

"This is a baseball game, bro."

- Red Sox DH David Ortiz on supposed lingering animosity in the storied Rays-Boston rivalry.

3B Kevin Youkilis said the expectation of bad blood is "getting old."

So the Red Sox are feeling - or at least talking - kind of like this. The Rays seem to just want to get on with getting on to the World Series and the Red Sox happen to be in the way.

"It had to be them, right?" starting pitcher James Shields quipped.

It all begins in about eight hours, and the intensity level in the seats at Tropicana Field should go far in determining the intensity level on the field.

What are your feelings? (And I ask with a certain expectation of the answer.)

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Observations from afield

There was a time not long ago when the gas station at the corner of Park Boulevard and 71st Street was the place to find quality panther-print rugs at affordable prices. Not anymore. Stopped at the light en route to the Trop from my palatial Largonole estate, I noticed that the rugs were gone, replaced by all sorts of pro-Ray, anti-Red Sox shirts. Times are changing ... but I'm kinda bummed about the rugs.

They're heeeeeere

You knew Red Sox fans were going to get in, and judging by the red fringe adorning the Boston lineup, they've gotten in en masse. Rays fans are likely to hear way more "Yoooouk!" cheers than they care for.

--- BRANT JAMES

[Last modified: Monday, December 21, 2009 12:41am]

    

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