The Red Sox kicked off their postseason run in dominating fashion Friday night, beating up on the Rays to the tune of 12 runs to pick up their first postseason win in nearly five years.
It's hard to imagine a better start for a pitcher than the one Lester got off to in the top of the first. Throwing 97 MPH gas, Lester blew away the first three batters he faced in Desmond Jennings, Ben Zobrist, and Wil Myers, striking out all three of them swinging. The second inning started in similar fashion, with Evan Longoria fanning to make it four straight. While Delmon Young at least managed to put the ball in play, it was only a weak flare to second, where Dustin Pedroia easily gloved the second out of the inning.
Then Jon Lester got a bad call. A fifth-pitch changeup that easily caught the bottom of the zone and should have been strike three to Sean Rodriguez. But Chris Guccione saw things differently behind the plate, and Lester got a little unsettled. His next pitch, right down Broadway, was smashed into the Monster seats, and from four straight strikeouts, Lester had suddenly found himself in a 1-0 hole.
What's worse, a diving play by Will Middlebrooks to end the inning didn't do much to resettle Boston's top southpaw. While Lester would get a 1-2-3 third, he was suddenly allowing hard contact, and kicked off the fourth by allowing Ben Zobrist to clear not just the Monster, but Landsdowne street in its entirety, making it 2-0. While the Rays would threaten more, a couple of one-pitch outs managed to keep the lead at just two runs heading to the bottom of the inning.
Meanwhile, despite working some good at bats, the Red Sox had been held hitless in the first three innings, with a line out to a diving Rodriguez by Jonny Gomes and a long fly ball from Will Middlebrooks their best contact to go with a Jarrod Saltalamacchia walk and Shane Victorino hit by pitch. All that would change in the fourth, though, with a little help from Tampa Bay's defense.
Dustin Pedroia got the rally started with the first Boston hit of the night: a single right back up the middle. Then David Ortiz took a big swing at a 2-0 offering from Moore, and Red Sox fans went from hopes for a homer, to disappointment as Wil Myers settled underneath it, to...well, something else when this happened:
The gift of a double gave the Red Sox two men on for Jonny Gomes, who took advantage with a double off the Monster to tie the game at 2-2. Gomes then added to his résumé by hustling home to score from second when Stephen Drew's managed to beat Moore to the bag at first, putting the Sox ahead 3-2.
The inning didn't end there, though. Will Middlebrooks hit a rocket to the wall which got past Rodriguez on the bounce, bringing Drew in to score from first, and a missed strike three from catcher Jose Lobaton allowed Jacoby Ellsbury to reach base behind him, giving Shane Victorino a chance to bring home a fifth Boston run with a single to right.
Now with the lead, Lester found his rhythm again, striking out Desmond Jennings to cap off a 1-2-3 fifth. The Red Sox rewarded his shutdown inning by batting around again in the fifth, with the Red Sox making Maddon pay for a pair of intentional walks with RBI hits from Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Jacoby Ellsbury bringing three more runs around to score.
The second big inning put Boston in a commanding 8-2 lead that Lester was not about to surrender. After working very quickly through the sixth and seventh, Lester finally stumbled in the eighth, but gave way with two on and two out to Junichi Tazawa, who got Wil Myers to fly out to keep the Rays stuck on two runs. The Sox went ahead and tacked on four more in the bottom of the eighth for good measure, and Ryan Dempster closed out the ninth to end it.
Game One--win one--is out of the way now, and the Red Sox got the job done in style. Not only did they blow the Rays out, but they did so with every member of the lineup having a hit halfway through the game, and all nine having scored a run by the end. A perfect expression of what this team has been for 163 games now.