The Red Sox's grip on reality came a little loose Monday night.
Their new postseason savior allowed runs and lost for the first time in four career playoff starts. Their key offensive players lapsed back into a funk. Fenway Park wasn't nearly as intimidating to the Rays as expected.
And Kevin Youkilis, the all-time League Championship Series batting leader at .526 (20-for-38) coming in, went 0-for-4 and had a nine-game ALCS hit streak end.
But pushing back against the potential for panic was their underlying belief that being down 2-1 in a best-of-seven is not that bad, not for a team that came back from 3-1 down to Cleveland last season on its way to winning the World Series.
"We've been here before," said 2B Dustin Pedroia, who went 2-for-4. "We've got to come out and play better baseball. There's no, 'Oh, we should have done this.' None of that."
COLD BATS:Pedroia was the only player in the top four slots to get a hit. Youkilis had an inning-ending double play. David Ortiz, long a clutch performer, went 0-for-4 and seemed more frustrated than at any time in the series. He's hitless in the ALCS (0-for-10) and batting .174 in the postseason this year.
TWO PITCHES: Perhaps more jarring for Boston was the four runs and two homers allowed by Jon Lester, who hadn't allowed a run in his previous 14 playoff innings. He pitched well enough to get by, he said, except on a fastball he left over the plate to B.J. Upton and a bad cutter to Evan Longoria. Upton hit a three-run homer and Longoria a solo shot in a four-run third. "At times I was effective with everything," he said. "With (the Rays), you can't have big innings like that. ... It's tough to come back."
Quotable: Leadoff hitterJacoby Ellsbury, hitless in the ALCS(0-for-14), summed up his and Boston's struggles with two words. "Three games," he said. "We're not worried about it. We've lost two games in a row this season and came on and got hot. No sense in getting down now."