Rays make mess of ALDS opener in 12-2 loss
By MARC TOPKIN
The Rays made a mess of Friday's American League Division Series opener with an ugly 12-2 loss to the Red Sox.
The first 3 1/2 innings couldn't have gone much better, as the Rays held a 2-0 lead, on homers by Sean Rodriguez and Ben Zobrist, and Matt Moore hadn't allowed a hit.
And then the next half inning couldn't have gone much worse, as the Rays made a series of sloppy misplays - though not one an actual error - that led to five Boston runs.
The oddest play, and the one that will lead to the most interesting post-game questioning, came after Dustin Pedroia's leadoff single.
Rookie RF Wil Myers tracked David Ortiz's fly ball just about to the rightfield wall, then stopped, as if called off, allowing the ball to bounce between him and centerfielder Desmond Jennings, then over the short fence for a ground rule double.
It wasn't clear whether Myers thought he heard Jennings call for the ball, or someone from the stands or Red Sox bullpen did so to confuse him, or he just misjudged it. The Fenway Park crowd treated him harshly after that, chanting his name and giving him a mock ovation when he came up to bat.
The Myers misplay put runners on second and third. Moore got one out, but then ex-Rays OF Jonny Gomes drilled a ball high off the Green Monster that caromed past leftfielder Sean Rodriguez, making just his third career start in left at Fenway, allowing both runs to score and tying the game.
Moore got a second out, but there was more trouble coming. Stephen Drew hit a slow grounder that first baseman James Loney grabbed and flipped - like a quarterback on a pitch-out - to Moore, but Drew was hustling and beat Moore, who may have gotten a late break, to the base. Worse. Gomes made the heads-up play of rounding third and excitedly scoring the go-ahead run.
Could it get worse? It did.
First Will Middlebrooks laced another ball off the wall that again eluded Rodriguez, allowing Drew to score from first, making it 4-2.
Moore should have been out of the inning at that point when he struck out Jacoby Ellsbury, but the ball got past catcher Jose Lobaton, allowing Ellsbury to reach base, and Middlebrooks to move up to third.
And the Sox took advantage of that as Shane Victorino singled in Middlebrooks to make it 5-2.
The Sox addded three more in the fifth, with a double off the wall again causing problems for Rodriguez, who said before the game he was very comfortable playing leftfield here.
Moore threw 33 pitches in the frightful fourth, and pitched himslet out of the game in the fifth, throwing 106 on the day (and only 67 strikes).
After the first two runs, the Rays didn't do much else offensively. In fact, after Delmon Young singled with one out in the fourth, they didn't get another hit until there was one out in the ninth, going down 11 in a row in one stretch. Jon Lester was impressive over his 7 2/3 innings. striking out seven.
Though manager Joe Maddon insisted the team was fine going into the game, the Rays certainly couuld have been feeling the wear of a rugged week, as Friday was their fourth game in a different city in a six-game span, including a need-to-win regular season finale Sunday in Toronto, then win-or-go home games on Monday in Texas to break a tie for the second wild-card, and then the AL wild-card game on Wednesday in Cleveland.
Game 2 of the ALCS is at 5:37 this afternoon, and the Rays have David Price, coming off his complete-game tienbreaker win, on the mound against John Lackey.