Coming into the final Sox-Rays series in Petrograd, all the pressure was on the Rays. Boston was five games ahead of Tampa in the Wild-Card race with a month left to play. If Evan Longoria, Jason Bartlett and co. wanted to see the playoffs, their best shot was a series sweep.
Luckily, the once-listless Sox have suddenly found their list - with last night's game they took the series, 2-1. Considering that they were facing Sox killers Andy Sonnanstine, Matt Garza, and David Price, this was no little task.
Boston struck quickly tonight, with two runs in the 1st, which the Rays answered in the bottom of the inning. Boston took the lead again in the second, on a home run by recovering Ray Rocco Baldelli (I think go-ahead homer against your former team is step #11). Tampa tied it again in the 4th, but a Lowell sac fly put Boston ahead again in the 6th. Two insurance runs came in the 7th off of Chad Bradford.
Buchholz was solid, registering a quality start, allowing six hits and only one walk over six innings. Just three K's is a little distressing, but given his 2008 walk woes, pitching to contact isn't all bad. By contrast, David Price was unimpressive, ceding 4 runs in 5.1 innings; hardly what we'd expect from the phenom who shut down the Sox in Game 7 of the '08 ALCS. Best of all, the bullpen did nothing to embarrass Tito, as Wagner, Bard and Paps combined for three shut-out, no hit-innings.
Player of the game is Buchholz. Youk and Bay combined for 5-9, 8 total bases, but a strong starting pitching performance was the key tonight.
The Sun is setting on the Rays' playoff hopes. You ask me, it couldn't have happened to a nicer team.