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Friday, October 4, 2013
Rapid Reaction: Red Sox 12, Rays 2

By Gordon Edes



BOSTON -- As one of the favorites to be elected American League Rookie of the Year, Tampa Bay outfielder Wil Myers is accustomed to hearing his name bandied about in public.

But not like this.

Myers was hounded by a Fenway Park crowd that took fiendish delight in the rookie’s misplay in the fourth inning, when a routine fly ball to deep right field by David Ortiz was transformed into a ground-rule double, the fuse that lit a five-run rally and sent the Red Sox on their way to a 12-2 win over the Rays in Game 1 of their American League Division Series.

The definitive answer to what happened on the play awaited postmortems after the game. Theories abounded on what happened as Myers glided over to make a catch in front of the Sox bullpen, only to let the ball drop unhindered. Did he lose it in the sun? (Possible.) Did center fielder Desmond Jennings call him off? (Maybe, but it didn’t look like it.) Did someone in the Sox bullpen call for the catch, confusing the kid? (That was Pedro Martinez’s guess, according to TBS co-host Keith Olbermann.) Or was it a fan with a magnificent set of vocal cords who was the culprit? (Doubtful.)

Whatever the reason, it touched off a cascading series of fielding goofs in the inning by the Rays, normally the most sure-handed of defenders (second in the league in defensive efficiency). Jonny Gomes, left off the 2008 postseason roster by the Rays, hit a wall-ball double for two runs to tie the score, then scored from second when the Rays couldn’t make a play on Stephen Drew’s infield hit to first. Will Middlebrooks then lined a double off the wall, left-fielder Sean Rodriguez misplaying the carom as Drew scored the fourth run of the inning.

Trouble continued to mount for Matt Moore, the Rays left-hander who had not allowed a hit in the first three innings. Moore struck out Jacoby Ellsbury, but the pitch got past catcher Jose Lobaton for a passed ball, Ellsbury reaching and Middlebrooks advancing to third. Shane Victorino followed with a base hit to make it 5-2 before Dustin Pedroia, who had started it all with a single up the middle, grounded out to end the inning.

All the while, fans gave Myers the same treatment accorded Johnny Cueto in Pittsburgh, serenading him the rest of the afternoon with a singsong "My-ers, My-ers," according him a standing ovation when he came to the plate, and at one point switching to a “We love Myers” chant.

The Sox tacked on three more runs in the fifth, when the Green Monster victimized Rodriguez a second time, Jarrod Saltalamacchia’s double flying over his head on the rebound as two runs scored. Ellsbury singled home Saltalamacchia to make it 8-2, becoming the last player in the Sox's starting lineup to collect a hit.

Profiting from all the Rays’ largesse was Sox left-hander Jon Lester, who gave up two early bases-empty home runs, then did not allow a hit over his last 4 1/3 innings, before being lifted with two on and two out in the eighth.

The Sox added four more runs in the eighth for their most one-sided postseason win since thrashing the Colorado Rockies in Game 1 of the 2007 World Series, a four-game Red Sox sweep.

So much for all the angst about Boston’s four-day layoff since the end of the regular season. The Rays, meanwhile, will be looking to regain their bearings behind ace David Price, who faces John Lackey in Game 2.

• Double your pleasure: The Sox, who led the majors in doubles with 363, hit four off Moore in the 4 1/3 innings he was in the game.

• Round, round, I hit around: The Sox, who batted around 24 times during the regular season, the last time a week ago in Baltimore, batted around in consecutive innings Friday, sending 10 men to the plate in the fourth, nine in the fifth.

• Running free: Victorino stole second in first inning, extending the Sox streak to 40 in a row without being caught. Ellsbury made it 41 straight in the eighth.

• Off his moorings: Moore threw 109 pitches in throwing a two-hit, complete-game shutout against the Sox here on July 22, his first career shutout. The All-Star left-hander threw 106 pitches in 4 1/3 innings Friday, while being charged with eight runs (seven earned) on eight hits and two walks.

• Ray power: Home runs by Rodriguez with two out in the second and Ben Zobrist to lead off the fourth had given the Rays a 2-0 lead. Lester had given up four home runs in 365 plate appearances in the season’s second half. He gave up two in the first 11 plate appearances Friday.

• This day in Red Sox history: Bobby Valentine was fired as Red Sox manager after losing 93 games. Valentine, now the athletic director at Sacred Heart University in Connecticut, responded to a text message from ESPN Boston’s Joe McDonald, asking him if he was watching the game. No, Valentine, texted back, he wasn’t.

• Jonny October: Despite playing for three previous teams that went to the playoffs -- the 2008 Rays, the 2010 Reds and the 2012 Athletics -- Jonny Gomes had only six postseason at-bats, all with the Reds, and had gone hitless, striking out three times. Friday, after lining out to left in his first at-bat, Gomes hit a game-tying, wall-ball double that knocked in two runs in the fourth, and walked and scored in the fifth.

• Fast start: Lester struck out the first four Rays batters in succession, all on swinging third strikes. He topped out at 97 mph.