BOSTON — The Red Sox’ home-field advantage has been just that — an advantage.
The Red Sox downed the Rays 7-4 at Fenway Park on Saturday, and they’ll now leave Boston and head for Tampa Bay with a 2-0 series lead in their back pocket. It’s a favorable position for the American League’s top seed.
David Ortiz led the charge with two homers in Saturday’s Game 2. He drilled one into the Red Sox’ bullpen in the first inning, and then capped Boston’s scoring with another solo blast over Pesky’s Pole in the eighth inning. Jacoby Ellsbury recorded three hits and Dustin Pedroia drove in three runs in the win.
Clay Buchholz will take the ball in Game 3 on Monday as the Red Sox look to punch their ticket to the ALCS. He’ll go up against Alex Cobb, who hasn’t lost at Tropicana Field all season.
Before our focus completely shifts to Game 3, let’s unload the Game 2 notebook.
The Red Sox’ bullpen — more specifically, the bridge to Koji Uehara — was a question mark going into the postseason. Craig Breslow and Junichi Tazawa both stepped up Saturday, and they have double-play balls to thank.
Breslow induced an inning-ending double play in the seventh inning, and Tazawa benefited from a twin killing to end the eighth. Both double plays were of the 4-6-3 variety.
“Yeah, I mean, obviously at this ballpark if you get a chance to turn two, you better turn it,” Dustin Pedroia said after the game. “And both times, I was just trying to get the ball to Stephen [Drew] and let him turn it. He turns a great double play. Our pitchers made pitches. Taz executed his pitches down and away. Brez made a good pitch. We have to turn those. So we take pride in our defense and tonight it worked out for us.”
The Red Sox turned three double plays overall in Saturday’s Game 2. That’s the most they’ve turned in a playoff game since Game 4 of the 1918 World Series.
John Lackey wasn’t his best Saturday, but he still earned the win while giving up four runs. The 34-year-old has now allowed four runs or fewer in 12 of his 13 career playoff starts. Only Andy Pettitte (16) and CC Sabathia (13) have more such starts among American Leaguers since 2002.
David Ortiz powered the offense with two homers. In the process, he extended his franchise record for postseason home runs. He now has 14 and counting.
Saturday did, however, mark the first multi-homer playoff game of Ortiz’s career. The last Red Sox player to go deep twice in a playoff game was Pedroia in Game 2 of the 2008 ALCS.
Ortiz entered the game homerless in 37 career at-bats against David Price. Both of Ortiz’s homers in Game 2 came against Price, and the Rays ace wasn’t too thrilled about how the second blast unfolded.
Ortiz lifted a moon shot down the right field line in the eighth inning that traveled over Pesky’s Pole. Ortiz didn’t leave the batter’s box right away — according to Ortiz, he wasn’t sure if it was fair or foul — and that left a bad taste in Price’s mouth. The lefty felt that Ortiz admired the home run a bit too long.
“He steps in the bucket and he hits a homer, and he stares at it to see if it’s fair or foul — I’m sure that’s what he’d say. But as soon as he hit it and I saw it, I knew it was fair. Run,” a frustrated Price told reporters after the game.
Price also vented on Twitter after the game.
It’s quite possible that Ortiz is the second coming of Nostradamus. The slugger apparently called his two-homer game.
“He was telling some guys before the game that he was going to hit two homers and he did,” Will Middlebrooks said. “That’s pretty impressive. A couple of us heard him say it, and [David Ross] and I looked at each other after he hit the second one, and I was like, ‘He said he was going to do that, didn’t he?’ And [Ross] was like, ‘He did.’”
Ortiz also dressed for the occasion.
“[Ortiz] came in and told me, ‘I wore my ‘A’ game today because I’m going to be doing interviews after the game,” Ross said. “He wore his best clothes. Only Papi can do that.”
Ortiz did look pretty slick after the game. He rocked a suit with a red-checkered shirt and a red tie.
Jacoby Ellsbury was a catalyst atop the Red Sox’ order. He had three hits, including an RBI double, a stolen base and three runs scored. He now has five hits through the first two games of the series.
Stephen Drew became the first Red Sox shortstop since Nomar Garciaparra (Game 6 of 2003 ALCS) to triple in a postseason game. Drew joined Spike Owen as the only shortstops in franchise history to triple in a playoff game at Fenway Park
All Koji Uehara does is throw strikes. No, seriously.
Uehara threw 11 pitches while earning his first career postseason save. All 11 were strikes.
Uehara struck out Matt Joyce and Jose Lobaton on three pitches each. The right-hander then jumped ahead of Wil Myers, 0-2, but the rookie fouled off two pitches before grounding out to first base to end the game.
The Red Sox have won the first two games of a playoff series eight times. Boston’s only series loss in those instances was the 1986 World Series. (I’m sure I don’t need to remind anyone what happened that year.)
This marks the second time in Rays history that the club has fallen into an 0-2 hole in the ALDS. The Rays went down 0-2 against the Rangers in the 2010 ALDS, and ended up losing the series in five games.
Joe Maddon is confident that this series will also go five games.
“We’ve been in this boat in the past and we’ve forced Game 5s in those situations, also,” Maddon said after Saturday’s loss. “So Boston this time of the year is kind of lovely, and I’m looking forward to coming back in a few days.”
The Red Sox weren’t bothered at all by Maddon’s Game 5 comment.
“That’s what Joe should say. He’s a great manager. He has those guys believing,” Pedroia said. “They’ve already played a couple of elimination games and they’ve won. I’m not going to say anything bad about Joe. I respect the heck out of him and so does our whole team. It’s going to be tough to put them away. They’ve been through that before this year. We know that. So we’re looking forward to playing Game 3.”
Ortiz viewed Maddon’s comment the same way as Pedroia. And he, too, expressed respect for the Rays skipper.
“He’s got the right to say it. He’s a good manager. He motivated his team real well,” Ortiz said. “I’ve got a lot of respect for Joe. What else can you say?”
-Game 5 would be Thursday, in case you were wondering.
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Photo via Twitter/@BostonGlobe
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