Originally posted on Ted's Army  |  Last updated 10/9/13
The Red Sox are moving on to the AL Championship Series after beating the Tampa Bay Rays 3-1 in game 4 tonight. And while that sentence sounds quite normal, the game was far from it. In fact, for a nine-inning game that produced four runs, it's one of the oddest box scores you're ever going to see. The Rays trotted out nine pitchers on the night, mostly to success. It was widely assumed that Jeremy Hellickson, the weak link in the Rays' rotation but nonetheless game 4's starter, would be on a short leash, and Joe Maddon confirmed those assumptions. After a smooth 1st inning, Hellickson loaded the bases without recording an out in the 2nd, and Maddon removed him. The Rays got out of the inning thanks to a double play on a lineout to James Loney. Maddon brought in Matt Moore, the team's co-ace with David Price, in the 3rd, and those of us who were nervous about the game were having Pedro-in-Cleveland flashbacks. Moore only lasted two innings, however, as Maddon chose to continue using his relievers more systematically. Again, it was mostly successful, so it wouldn't be fair to rip him for it (though I'm sure you'll hear some of that on sports radio), but it was curious.  Jake Peavy was very solid on the mound for the Sox, but was the first pitcher to allow a run. The Rays struck in the 6th after Yunel Escobar doubled and David DeJesus drove him in. Inspired by Maddon, John Farrell didn't mess around and immediately removed Peavy, who looked homicidal about the decision. Cushioning the blow was Farrell's choice in relievers: Craig Breslow (hey, did you know he went to Yale?). Breslow did a pretty solid Koji Uehara impression, striking out four of five batters faced, expanding the strike zone, and showing some fierce movement on his pitches. And he owes a shoutout to David Ross, who came on as a defensive replacement and did a fabulous job framing some of Breslow's more questionable strikes (read: they were balls). Breslow got three or four close pitches, and the umpire barked back at Rays' players who were complaining (including Ben Zobrist, who is as mild-mannered as they come). The Red Sox wasted no time to return the favor. In the top of the 7th, Farrell pinch-hit Xander Bogaerts for Stephen Drew with Jake McGee on the mound. Yes, it was the same situation as last night, and yes, he did the exact opposite thing. And it worked, as Bogaerts coaxed a walk out of his first career postseason plate appearance. After a Will Middlebrooks strikeout, Jacoby Ellsbury singled and Bogaerts took 3rd. With Shane Victorino at the plate and men on 1st and 3rd, Ellsbury turned it loose for 2nd. Victorino faked like he was going to bunt and pulled his bat back, and the pitch skipped past catcher Jose Lobaton, allowing Bogaerts to score. Meanwhile, Ellsbury scampered to 3rd. Victorino wasted no time, legging out an infield single (he's been watching Jose Iglesias tape) to score Ellsbury and take the lead. That's all the Sox would need, as Breslow, Junichi Tazawa, and Koji Uehara shut the door. Boston did add an insurance run after Rays closer Fernando Rodney simply couldn't find the plate in the 9th, walking two batters (including Bogaerts again) and hitting Victorino, before Dustin Pedroia hit a sacrifice fly off Chris Archer. So much happened in this game and I could probably keep typing all night as I watch the players douse each other with champagne in the clubhouse, but it's all running together at this point. The game was a four-hour jumble of mound visits and hit batsmen and relief pitchers and pinch hitters and foul balls. Ultimately, everybody did their job and the team got the win. And it has to be said: Hats off to the Rays, who were in my opinion the best team we faced all year. They had their ups and downs throughout the season, and they had some weaknesses on the roster, but no team scared me like Tampa. I'm happy to be past them. Looking ahead...the Tigers forced a game 5 from Oakland tonight, so we have no definitive opponent yet. Tune in Thursday night to see if Iglesias and company advance, or if we will face the thousands of Red Sox castoffs littering the A's roster. Box score
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