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Baldelli's comeback continues with homer in front of family

BOSTON — Dante Baldelli, being all of 10, didn't like any of the Rays T-shirts his mom, Michelle, picked out for him to wear to Monday's game. So he pulled another out of the drawer at their Cumberland, R.I., house before making the 45-minute drive to Boston: a gray one with the words POWER HITTER.

Little did he know how smart he'd look.

With Dante, Michelle, his other brother Nick, his father Dan and a half-dozen other relatives and close friends in the Fenway Park stands, Rocco Baldelli added another chapter to his amazing comeback story by hitting a three-run homer in the eighth.

"It was nice to be able to do it in front of my friends and my family; it was very special for me," Baldelli said. "I would check out the postseason games every year, and it was a situation where I was sitting there and I was like, 'I want to play in those games.' I think every player wants to play in October when everyone is watching, and that makes the situation even more special."

Baldelli, who didn't know if he would play again after being diagnosed in the spring with a mitochondrial disorder that causes muscle fatigue, admitted Monday: "I never could have imagined that I'd be back here playing in the postseason and playing here at Fenway and having a chance to play to go to the World Series."

But as he rounded the bases, he had a very specific thought.

"What I was thinking was that I still hadn't found the section where my family was sitting so I could wave at them or point at them. I kept looking, and as I was going around third base I still couldn't find them."

They were behind the plate, up at the top of Section 22, hidden under the overhang. Dan said they could see enough to know how much it meant to Rocco.

But Dante wasn't that impressed: "He was pretty slow."

AMAZING UPTON: CF B.J. Upton hit five homers in his first 28 postseason at-bats. Only 11 players have hit more than five in any postseason, with Barry Bonds and Carlos Beltran hitting eight each. Upton, at 24 years, 2 months, is the youngest player to hit five or more.

SEEING RED: How have the Rays won two of the first three games? Two big reasons: Sox leadoff man Jacoby Ellsbury is 0-for-14 and slugger David Ortiz 0-for-10.

KNUCKLING UNDER: Manager Joe Maddon is thinking about getting creative tonight against knuckleballer Tim Wakefield.

Specifically, using as many right-handed hitters as possible, including having switch-hitters such as C Dioner Navarro and potential DH Willy Aybar bat from the right side. Another possibility is putting Fernando Perez, another switch-hitter, in rightfield, figuring his speed can also be a disruptive weapon.

SONNY'S TIME: RHP Andy Sonnanstine has reasons — 13, actually — to be confident going into tonight's start. In two games against the Sox this season, Sonnanstine worked 13 innings without allowing an earned run, holding them to a .152 average. "It should help me a lot," Sonnanstine said. "You know, build up my confidence a little bit knowing that I can come in here and do well against the Sox here and at Tropicana Field."

MISCELLANY: The Rays have postseason wins from five pitchers —starters James Shields, Scott Kazmir, Sonnanstine and Matt Garza, and reliever David Price. … 2B Akinori Iwamura has hits in each of his first seven postseason games. .… Maddon continues to play coy about his rotation, saying "we're supposed to" pitch Shields in Game 5. … Temperatures were in the 60s during warmups, but California native Evan Longoria wore a ski cap.

Baldelli's comeback continues with homer in front of family 10/13/08 [Last modified: Wednesday, October 15, 2008 7:27am]
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