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Saturday, October 5, 2013
Rapid Reaction: Red Sox 7, Rays 4

By Gordon Edes



BOSTON -- David Ortiz is a forgiving type, but when the conversation turns to Bobby Valentine, he never mentions the team's former manager by name, still seething at the radio interview Valentine gave after the 2012 season in which he claimed that Ortiz decided to pack it in after last August's megatrade.

Ortiz couldn't play because of a strained Achilles tendon that also placed this season in some jeopardy, with Ortiz missing spring training and much of April. All the familiar whispers returned, whether Ortiz at 37 could still be the immovable force that has anchored the Sox offense for the better part of a decade.

Six weeks from his 38th birthday, Ortiz added another exclamation point to a story that increasingly has only one possible ending: a statue on Ipswich Street to stand alongside Ted Williams and Carl Yastrzemski.

The greatest slugger in Red Sox postseason history solved a longtime nemesis, left-hander David Price, with two home runs, his first multihomer game in postseason play, to lead the Sox to a 7-4 win over the Tampa Bay Rays, giving the Sox a 2-0 lead in their American League Division Series.

Ortiz's home runs were bookend solo blasts, a first-inning shot into the Sox bullpen and a majestic eighth-inning drive deep into the right-field grandstand for Boston's final run.

Price reduction: The Rays believed having ace Price on the mound for Game 2 would be the great equalizer, and why not? The left-hander has arguably been the AL's most dominant pitcher since coming off a 45-day stint on the disabled list in July (strained triceps muscle) and had pitched a complete game in Monday night's tiebreaker game against the Texas Rangers in Arlington.

In three starts against the Red Sox since coming back from his injury, Price had allowed just four earned runs in 24 1/3 innings, a 1.48 ERA, striking out 21 and walking none. In 20 career starts against the Sox, Price had never allowed more than four earned runs, and in 13 of his starts he had allowed two runs or fewer.

But the Sox, with the same relentlessness they demonstrated in exploiting Rays mistakes Friday, were unrelenting against Price, Ortiz giving them a 2-0 lead with his first home run into the Sox pen, a lead that expanded with two runs in the third after back-to-back doubles by David Ross (Wall Ball) and Jacoby Ellsbury, another in the fourth on Stephen Drew's RBI triple, another in the fifth on Dustin Pedroia's RBI double and Ortiz taking Price deep in the eighth with a towering drive just inside the foul pole.

Price was charged with seven runs on nine hits.

What weak link? The bridge between the Sox starter and closer Koji Uehara was the source of greatest concern coming into the series, but Craig Breslow rescued John Lackey with one out and the tying run on in the sixth, giving the Sox 1 2/3 scoreless innings, and Junichi Tazawa gave the Sox a scoreless eighth. Both Breslow and Tazawa induced inning-ending double plays.

Lachrymose Lackey: Lackey could not have been handed a better scenario, the Sox staking him to a 5-1 lead through four innings. But whether it was the long layoff -- Lackey had not started since Sept. 24 -- or because he is showing signs of hitting the wall in his first season back from Tommy John surgery (5.22 ERA in six starts in September/October), the right-hander had just one clean inning and was dismissed with one out in the sixth, the Sox clinging to a 6-4 lead.

Lackey put the leadoff man on base in five of the six innings he pitched, battled his strike-zone command and overall control all game (3 walks and a hit batsman) and left after an RBI single by Yunel Escobar with one out in the sixth. His best pitch of the night had come with two on, two runs in and two out in the fifth, when he busted an inside fastball to Ben Zobrist to end the fifth. This was Lackey's shortest outing since he lasted 4 1/3 innings in the Trop on May 14, the game in which first baseman Mike Napoli lost a popup in the roof.

Ell's bells: Jacoby Ellsbury, whose availability for the playoffs had been in question when he fractured a bone in his right foot last month, singled in the first, doubled in the third and singled in the fifth, scoring all three times. That gave him five straight hits, the Sox center fielder having singled in each of his last two at-bats in Game 1.

Ellsbury, who stole his second base of the series in the first inning, was the beneficiary of some good ball placement. He flared his first hit, a single to right, and his double in the third didn't clear the infield in the air, as he fisted a ball over third baseman Evan Longoria that landed just inside the line.