American League Championship Series, Game Two
Time to ship off to Boston
9-8, Rays, on the speedy little feet of Fernando Perez. See. Wasn't that easy?
Dan Wheeler ...
... is putting forth a pretty gritty effort. He just surpassed three innings, his longest outing in years. ... And as I write that he walks Jed Lowrie.
In comes David Price. Time to earn that signing bonus, rook.
Edwin Jackson is sitting alone on the bench in the bullpen. It's like he has pink eye or something. Actually everyone else has entered the game.
Bottom of the ninth ...
What can you say? Big strikeout by Wheeler, especially after allowing a ground rule double to Crisp on an 0-2 pitch with two outs. If that ball hadn't hit the perfect spot and bounded over the wall, Crisp might have scored.
And for you probabilities fans: The Red Sox have stranded 10 runners; the Rays three.
Anyone surprised ...
...they didn't intentionally walk Bay and let David Price pitch to Lowrie and try to get the last four outs?
Hope no one has a 7 a.m. flight tomorrow ...
Oh, wait, I do. This one is going deep into the night. Any chance 8-7 stands up? I am suspicious.
This one's getting a little out of control.
B.J. is a bear ... again
B.J. Upton's postseason homer binge is a major development for the Rays. He now has four and they've been timely. Remember, two of them came in one game, the Game 4 clinch of the ALDS against Chicago on the road, giving the Rays 1-0 and then a 2-0 lead in a game they won 6-2. The shot tonight tied it 3-3.
Well now, that changes everything ...
Evan Longoria was 2-for-19 with runners in scoring position in the postseason until that homer to left, a typical tee shot. Three of his five postseason hits are home runs.
In an unrelated note ...
Carl Crawford came within about four inches of killing Times beat writer Marc Topkin with a foul ball into the press box his last at-bat. Marc would have been missed. Joe Smith is limbering up just in case. Safety first, CC.
Need a scapegoat?
Not a great start ... after a pretty good start
Scott Kazmir blitzed through Jacoby Ellsbury (strikeout) and Dustin Pedroia (F8) on 15 pitches but then hit the skids. He then walked David Ortiz on a couple close pitches that were definitely balls. You might as just put Kevin Youkilis on (he has a .540 BA in the ALCS lifetime). Youkilis singled. Kazmir had a 3-2 count on Jason Bay before the two-run double.
He needed 38 pitches to get through it.
Scott Kazmir is completing his warmups. The lefty needs a quick first inning. He needs to keep the pitch count down and he needs to establish himself early.
The Rays just came off the field from batting practice and they seemed like a pretty loose group. The crowd, however, is apprehensive. There's no party vibe like last night. Everyone seems to be waiting for the first bad thing to happen.
Sox OF Coco Crisp might provide the ice-breaker. He's starting in CF tonight because manager Terry Francona didn't like J.D. Drew against lefty Scott Kazmir. Ellsbury will play RF.
Crisp, as you recall, has been an antagonist in the Rays-Red Sox hooliganism. It was his face that James Shields missed with a haymaker in the Beantown Brawl.
Points to ponder:
+ Since the best-of-seven format was adopted in 1985, the ALCS Game 2-winner has advanced to the World Series 16 times in 22 series, including seven of the last nine.
+ In their 27 home series this season, the Rays have lost two straight home games just three times, and only once in the last 24 home series.
+ Scott Kazmir has won four of his last five starts that followed a Rays loss.
--- BRANT JAMES