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Basking in October, Red Sox win Game 1

Boston's clutch pitching from Matsuzaka and timely hitting beat inexperienced Rays, 2-0, in ALCS opener.

October 11, 2008|Mike DiGiovanna | Times Staff Writer

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- The Boston Red Sox came to the land of cowbells and catwalks, of Ray-hawk hairdos and dancing bananas -- yes, there was a prancing piece of fruit on Tropicana Field's warning track at one point -- and showed the playoff neophytes from Tampa Bay a thing or two about October baseball.

Grizzled postseason veterans that they are, the Red Sox came up with the biggest pitches and hits and at-bats Friday night and dispatched the Rays, 2-0, in Game 1 of the American League Championship Series, muffling a cowbell-clanging crowd of 35,001.

Boston right-hander Daisuke Matsuzaka carried a no-hitter into the seventh inning, and the Rays, much like the Angels in their division series loss to the Red Sox, seemed to grip the bats a little too tight in pressure situations.

Tampa Bay, in its fifth playoff game and first-ever ALCS game, failed to score after putting runners on first and third with no outs in the seventh, as well as first and second with no outs in the eighth.

Jonathan Papelbon struck out two of three in the ninth for the save, setting a major league record with 20 2/3 career scoreless playoff innings, and the Red Sox, who went 1-8 at Tropicana Field this season, took the first game in the best-of-seven series.

"The playoffs are totally different than the regular season," Boston designated hitter David Ortiz said. "I saw some faces tonight that were different than I saw in the regular season. There's a lot of pressure because you know if you don't win, you go home.

"That relaxed feeling you have during the regular season is not there. . . . I'm not saying anyone was scared, but when it's your first time in the playoffs, you put a little pressure on yourself. I still feel the pressure."

Papelbon doesn't. The 27-year-old right-hander, who said he "loves" playoff pressure, has not given up a run in the postseason and was dominant again Friday night.

"This is what we do in the postseason," he said. "Our goal is to come here and win some games and take it back to Boston."

Matsuzaka seems unfazed. He walked the bases loaded with two outs in the first but got out of the jam, and he snuffed out the Rays after they put runners on first and third with no outs in the seventh.

"He pitches away from contact, and he has a knack for getting the double play when he needs it," left fielder Jason Bay said of Matsuzaka. "He has, like, 12 different pitches. You never know what's coming."

The momentum seemed to shift toward the Rays in the top of the seventh when Tampa Bay starter James Shields escaped a two-on, no-outs jam by getting Mark Kotsay to pop to second, striking out Jed Lowrie, who drove in Boston's first run with a fifth-inning sacrifice fly, and retiring Jason Varitek on a pop to short.

Trailing, 1-0, Carl Crawford opened the bottom of the seventh with a single to right, breaking up Matsuzaka's no-hitter, and Cliff Floyd's single to left-center advanced Crawford to third.

Matsuzaka, who does his best work on the tightrope -- he held opponents to a .164 average with runners in scoring position this season, best in the major leagues -- wiggled out of trouble.

Dioner Navarro flied out to left but too shallow for Crawford to tag. Gabe Gross struck out, and Jason Bartlett grounded out.

The Red Sox tacked on another run in the eighth when Dustin Pedroia singled and stole second. Reliever J.P. Howell walked Ortiz, and Kevin Youkilis hit a sinking liner that glanced off the glove of the sliding Crawford in left for a run-scoring double.

The Rays threatened in the eighth when Akinori Iwamura and Upton led off with singles. Boston Manager Terry Francona summoned left-hander Hideki Okajima, who fell behind No. 3 hitter Carlos Pena, 3 and 0.

Manager Joe Maddon gave his slugger the green light, and Pena flied to right. Right-hander Justin Masterson replaced Okajima and got cleanup batter Evan Longoria to ground into an inning-ending double play.

"You're sick to your stomach," Floyd said. "Tough night. We don't like losing at home."



Boston vs. Tampa Bay

Red Sox lead series, 1-0; all times Pacific; all games on TBS

Game 1: Boston 2, at Tampa Bay 0

Game 2: Today , 5 p.m.

Boston (Josh Beckett, 12-10, 4.03) at Tampa Bay (Scott Kazmir, 12-8, 3.49)

Game 3: Monday, 1:30 p.m.

Tampa Bay (Matt Garza, 11-9, 3.70) at Boston (Jon Lester, 16-6, 3.21)

Game 4: Tuesday, 5 p.m.

Tampa Bay (Andy Sonnanstine, 13-9, 4.38) at Boston (Tim Wakefield, 10-11, 4.13)

Game 5: Thursday, 5 p.m.*

Tampa Bay (James Shields, 14-8, 3.56) at Boston (Daisuke Matsuzaka, 18-3, 2.90)

Game 6: Oct. 18, 1:30 or 5 p.m.*

Boston (Beckett, 12-10, 4.03) at Tampa Bay (Kazmir, 12-8, 3.49)

Game 7: Oct. 19 at Tampa Bay, 5 p.m.*

Boston (Lester, 16-6, 3.21) at Tampa Bay (Garza, 11-9, 3.70)

*If necessary

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