The first round of the playoffs is now over in the American League, and it’s going to be the Tampa Bay Rays versus the Boston Red Sox, with the Rays having home field advantage. And home field is going to be important because the two teams played each other 18 times this season with the Rays winning eight of those games in Tampa and Boston winning seven in Boston.
This series comes about because the Rays defeated the Chicago White Sox yesterday 6-2 to win the series three games to one. The Rays took the lead in the first inning when B.J. Upton, the game’s second batter, hit a homer to deep left field to make the score 1-0. Rays starter Andy Sonnanstine kept the Chicago bats quiet, and Upton further helped things when, in the third inning, he homered again to put the Rays up 2-0. Then the Rays scored two runs in the fourth inning to go up 4-0. And after Paul Konerko had the nerve to homer for the White Sox in the bottom of the fourth to make the score 4-1, the Rays just came back and scored again in the fifth and seventh innings.
The Red Sox appeared to be cruising to the win last night with a 2-0 eighth inning lead. Then the Angels scored two runs to tie the game, and then, in the top of the ninth, the Angels got a man on third base with one out. That’s when they tried for the squeeze bunt, and that’s when the action backfired. Erick Aybar failed to get his bat on the ball and Reggie Willits got nailed in the rundown when he tried to score.
In the bottom of the ninth, Jason Bay doubled with one out, but found himself still at second base with two outs. Until rookie Jed Lowrie singled to right field and Bay was able to slide into home plate just before the tag, giving the Red Sox the 3-2 game victory and the series victory by three games to one.
The two teams will meet in Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg on Friday night to start the series.
SOME MISCELLANEOUS PLAYOFF NOTES:
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With the series wins by the Rays and Red Sox, the number is now 29-5 for teams advancing to the next round of playoffs who have won the first two games of the first round since 1995.
******************* B.J. Upton homered in his first two at-bats yesterday, giving him three homers in his last four at-bats. He had also homered in the seventh inning of Sunday’s afternoon loss.
******************* Fourteen of the 18 runs that Boston scored in their series were scored after two outs.
******************* And let’s hear it for Gerry Hunsicker, who helped to build this Rays team and turn them from a laughingstock into a stellar franchise. And let’s hope that Drayton McLane is noting this as his team becomes the laughingstock instead. – John Royal