Monday, October 13, 2008

No sure thing in the playoffs

After Boston and Tampa Bay split two games at Tropicana Field, we all knew -- we knew -- the Red Sox would win Game 3 behind ace Jon Lester. We also knew the Rays had a great chance to win Game 4 when Tim Wakefield took the ball.

Shows what we know.

All we can know now, in fact, is that the Red Sox will be in big trouble if Wakefield can't outduel Andy Sonnanstine at Fenway Park on Tuesday. Three games to one is certainly not an insurmountable deficit, as Boston has proven twice in four years, but it's not ideal, either.

"We've been here before," said second baseman Dustin Pedroia, who was 2-for-3 to raise his average to .545 in the ALCS. "We've got to come out and play better baseball."

Things can't go much worse than they did for the Red Sox on Monday at Fenway. Jon Lester left a couple of fastballs up in the zone to B.J. Upton and Evan Longoria in the third inning, and Matt Garza twirled a gem against a suddenly silent Boston lineup.

Pedroia was 2-for-3 to raise his batting average to .545 in the ALCS, but Jacoby Ellsbury and David Ortiz went a combined 0-for-7 remained hitless in the series.

On the other side, four Rays went deep -- Upton and Longoria in the third, Rhode Island's Rocco Baldelli in the eighth and Haverhill's Carlos Pena in the ninth. Akinori Iwamura chipped in a pair of doubles and scored a run.

"There's no excuses, obviously," Pedroia said. "They came out and kicked our butts tonight -- 9-1, or whatever it ended up. They played great, and we didn't. That was the bottom line of the game. There's no 'Oh, we should have done this.' It was a straight-up ass-kicking."

That puts a big onus on Wakefield, who has a 6.36 ERA in the postseason (including 5.91 since 2003) and who was 0-2 with a 5.87 ERA against the Rays this season.

"We've got Wake tomorrow, and he's going to go out and battle his butt off," Lester said. "That's all you can ask for."

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