Saturday, December 16, 2017
Tampa Bay Rays

Double trouble early for Red Sox

The Red Sox saw two good scoring chances thwarted in the second and third innings Tuesday. The biggest chance came in the second, when Rays starter Jeremy Hellickson walked David Ortiz and Mike Napoli and gave up a single to Daniel Nava to load the bases.

Jamey Wright came on in relief and struck out Jarrod Salta­lamacchia. Then James Loney, who has played solid defense all season at first base, snagged a hard line drive by Stephen Drew. Loney tried to tag out Nava at first but, realizing he couldn't beat him back to the bag, threw to second base. Shortstop Yunel Escobar scooped the throw to force out of Napoli, who was well off second base.

In the third, Will Middlebrooks led off with a walk. Wright was replaced by Matt Moore, who got Jacoby Ellsbury to ground to Ben Zobrist at second. Zobrist threw to first for the out while Middlebrooks was caught between first and second. Another throw by Loney allowed Escobar to tag out Middlebrooks for the double play.

Where's Wil?

Rays rookie RF Wil Myers had a forgettable postseason. It started with his momentum-changing defensive gaffe in Game 1 (leading to a chorus of "MYYYY-ERRRS!" chants at Fenway Park), and it didn't get much better. Myers was 2-for-20 in his first postseason — after a groundout in the first inning Tuesday, a single in the fourth, a flyout in the sixth and a flyout in the ninth — including seven strikeouts. He left Monday night's Game 3 due to cramps in both legs, needing IV fluids to recover, but he started Tuesday, batting second. "It was definitely a good learning experience,'' he said. "I'll know a lot more the next postseason I'm in."

Twitter talk

This is playing out like Ali-Foreman: The Rays employing the Rope-A-Dope.

Buster Olney (@Buster_ESPN)

395,000 households in Tampa Bay area watched #Rays game 3 at its peak (avg 89,000 during reg. season)

Rays Index (@RaysIndex)

New baseball term: A Hellickson Hook. A healthy pitcher "knocked out" in 2nd IP of 0-0 game. (And Rays escape bases full, no-out at 0-0)

Thomas Boswell (@ThomasBoswellWP)

Perfect pitch

Former Ray and Red Sox OF Rocco Baldelli enjoyed some special moments at Tropicana Field as a player, including hitting the go-ahead RBI single in Game 7 of the 2008 ALCS to help beat Boston. But Baldelli, 32, now a Rays special assistant of baseball operations, appreciated the significance of getting to throw out the ceremonial first pitch before Tuesday's game. Baldelli received a huge ovation from the Trop crowd before throwing to LHP David Price, with senior advisor Don Zimmer, the surprise umpire, calling it a strike. "Anyone who knows me since I've been around here, knows how appreciative I am of the people and how much I care for the organization," said Baldelli, selected sixth overall in 2000 by Tampa Bay. "Everyone here, they've done a lot for me, the team, all the people. So to be able to go out there in front of all the fans and in front of everyone and get acknowledged one day on a big day like this, it's nice. This is one of the rare types of occasions where you can go out and enjoy it and wave to all the people that watched you play." Baldelli did a first pitch at the Trop after he retired in 2010, but thought he'd be rusty, having not played catch in three years. He joked he was "more worried about throwing this first pitch than I was about anything I ever did on the field, I promise."

Wright gets the early call

Rays RHP Jamey Wright had to wait 18 years for his first taste of the postseason. But the 38-year-old likely never envisioned he'd be in a situation like Tuesday, entering in the second inning of Game 4 of the ALDS with the bases loaded and nobody out. But Wright came up big, wiggling out of the jam without allowing any runs. Wright struck out C Jarrod Saltalamacchia swinging, then got SS Stephen Drew to line into an inning-ending double play, thanks to a great leaping grab by 1B James Loney, who doubled off the runner at second. Wright had said his postseason debut Friday, allowing four runs, was not his finest moment. But Tuesday's escape was one of his better ones.

Hellickson's quick hook

The Game 4 stragglers had barely found their chairs when Rays starter Jeremy Hellickson was taking a seat of his own. Despite Maddon's repeated votes of confidence entering Game 4, Hellickson's 22-pitch, 10-strike outing was the shortest by a starter in Rays postseason history, not to mention a microcosm of his season.

After a perfect first inning, he walked David Ortiz and Mike Napoli to open the second, then Daniel Nava singled. Jamey Wright took over from there.

TBS interviewed Maddon between innings.

"I thought that the first inning Hellickson looked fantastic," Maddon said. "Good fastball, good change-up. Second inning, he couldn't find the plate so we had to do something about it."

In two postseason appearances, Hellickson has allowed three runs (off as many solo homers), five hits and three walks in five-plus innings. In his last 11 starts of 2013, he has reached the sixth inning in only three.

"Very frustrating these last few months," Hellickson said Monday. "I pride myself on going out there every five days and giving us a chance to win and being consistent."

Thanks to Wright getting out of the second inning without giving up a run, Hellickson finished the night with a 0.00 ERA.

Since 1903, only seven starting pitchers (including Hellickson) in the postseason have worked three outs or less without surrendering a run.

Red Sox party time

DH David Ortiz stood in the middle of the visitors' clubhouse at Tropicana Field, goggles on, and poured champagne all over his head. Then teammate Jonny Gomes, dressed in an Army helmet and goggles, added some more.

"Gotta be ready for anything in here tonight,'' Ortiz said.

It was party time for the Red Sox after defeating the Rays 3-1 Tuesday night to advance to the American League Championship Series. Their East Division nemesis has been a thorn in their side in recent years, but not this season.

"That's a difficult team to play against,'' Boston Game 4 starter Jake Peavy said. "Now we've got ourselves one step closer. We're just that much closer to accomplishing our goals.''

Lockers were covered with plastic tarps. Players were handed oversized goggles as champagne and beer flowed.

"It's going to get weird in here tonight,'' Gomes, a former Ray, shouted.

The Red Sox will have several days before hosting either Detroit or Oakland in the ALCS. For one night, at least, the Red Sox are going to enjoy beating their rival.

"Awesome feeling,'' C David Ross said. "Beating a team like that isn't easy.

What they're saying

"It was another magical moment in a season filled with them for these Rays. They've again done themselves proud, no matter how things play out. They're anything but stale."

MLB.com columnist Richard Justice, on the Rays' Game 3 win over the Red Sox

Trop bashing

The first question asked to Red Sox manager John Farrell before Game 4 was about Tropicana Field. Specifically, the pros and cons of playing in a venue that is not ideal for baseball.

"Well, the pros are you know you're going to play at the designated time every night,'' Farrell said. "Every ballpark is going to have its quirks, its intricacies, whether it's a speaker hanging above home plate or whether it's a wall in leftfield. I think everyone who comes in here and plays a number of games is well aware there are other things to contend with, like rings in the ceiling or different dirt-turf combination on the infield.

"Both teams play on it, so there's nothing in our minds that is a detriment to playing a game here.''



Graybeard

Red Sox C David Ross, whose facial follicles sport equal parts salt and pepper these days, is one of four members of the University of Florida's 1998 College World Series team to reach the majors. Ross and the Dodgers' Mark Ellis, both 36, are the only two still active. The others from that Gators team were Josh Fogg and Brad Wilkerson.

They love it loud

Monday night's victory was the Rays' 80th home game played before a crowd of 30,000 or more since the start of the 2008 season. Tampa Bay was 55-24 in such contests entering Game 4.

Manger Joe Maddon said the raucousness attributed to win No. 55.

"It definitely had that pro-Rays vibe to it (Monday) night," Maddon said. "We felt it in the dugout through the entire game. It was spectacular. We'd like to see it look like that more consistently, obviously, because it does matter. It makes a difference."

Sneaky Shane

Red Sox RF Shane Victorino is a gritty player prone to some gamesmanship, having taken out 2B Ben Zobrist twice with hard slides this series. But Victorino is also known for crowding the plate, hit by a pitch 19 times this season (four in this series), and it appeared he might have leaned into one in the fifth. With one on and two outs, Rays LHP Alex Torres threw an inside pitch, and Victorino dropped his elbow, which got plunked. Torres argued Victorino played a role, to no avail. Victorino was also hit by Fernando Rodney in the ninth.

     
   
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