Credit the Rays for getting this far.
As hot-and-cold as a team could be during baseball’s regular season, Tampa Bay threatened for the division crown into September and won three win-or-go-home games in the span of a week to reach the American League’s Division Series.
But, now, two games into their best-of-five set with the Red Sox, it’s over.
It’s over because the Rays’ most imposing pitchers, southpaws Matt Moore and David Price – two men who entered the series with a combined 2.81 ERA in 22 starts against the Sox, and a 1.66 ERA and 0.87 WHIP in 11 Fenway outings – were rocked for 15 runs (14 earned ) and 17 hits in just 11 1/3 innings of work, amounting to an 11.12 ERA.
It’s over because the Rays’ hopes to extend the series long enough to get Price back on the mound in a Game 5 rest on the right arms of Alex Cobb and Jeremy Hellickson, who have gone 1-1 with a 4.39 ERA in seven starts versus the Sox this year.
It’s over because those men will be trying to win in a ballpark that'll feel more like a home-game to the visiting team.
It’s over because Clay Buchholz takes the hill for Boston tonight, and he hasn’t allowed a run to Tampa in 13 innings this season. The once Cy Young favorite is also better the more rest he gets, and he hasn’t pitched in 10 days.
It’s over because, in the remote chance Buchholz can’t get the job done in Game 3, Jake Peavy gets the ball next, and he’s never lost in three starts at the Trop.
It’s over because one of Boston’s chief concerns entering the playoffs – the bullpen bridge to Koji Uehara – has been relieving to watch. Ryan Dempster, Craig Breslow, and Junichi Tazawa have surrendered a combined two hits and one walk in four scoreless innings.
It’s over because Uehara has forgotten how to throw balls. Three batters have faced 11 total pitches, all strikes. Two sat down swinging, as high-fives were shared across the country.
It’s over because David Ortiz, almost 38 and nearly a decade removed from his 2004 heroics, recorded his first career playoff multiple-homer game. Against Price. A lefty.
It’s over because Wil Myers, a young phenom many people wanted traded to Boston for Jon Lester less than a year ago, made the defensive blunder that opened the offensive floodgates for the Red Sox in Game 1, while Lester was busy mowing down the Rays.
It’s over because Jacoby Ellsbury has never looked healthier, laughing in the face of any doubter who stomped a foot suggesting he wouldn’t return.
It’s over because the beards, even Mike Napoli’s, aren’t long enough yet.
It’s over because the Indians looked like the easier matchup, and the Red Sox don’t care.
It’s over because, of the last 24 teams to fall behind 0-2 in a best-of-five series, just one has come all the way back – the 2003 Red Sox, who Cowboy’d Up against the A’s. Moreover, the Sox have only lost three straight games on four occasions this season, and they haven’t done so since mid-August.
It’s over because the Bruins’ run to the Stanley Cup Final stole the attention of the Sox’ hot start to the regular season, and now it’s time to return the favor.
It’s over because it’s beginning to truly feel like destiny, like there’s no team in the majors – skilled and deep as the other seven squads are – that can beat the Red Sox. And, scary to consider, they may still be getting better.
It’s admirable that Tampa manager Joe Maddon told the media following Saturday’s 7-4 loss in Game 2 that he’s “really looking forward to Game 5” at Fenway and that “Boston this time of year is kind of lovely.” He’d never be mistaken for lacking confidence in his club.
Good news, Skip, there are hotels available. The bad news, should you opt to return in a few days, is that you’ll be vacationing; your uniform and talented team left home. There are no comebacks or surprises a la 2008 in store for this year's Rays.
The Red Sox are too good and playing too well to let this opportunity slip away and, rest assured, they won’t.
They may never lose again.
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About this blog
Adam Kaufman is a writer and broadcaster who can also be heard regularly on 98.5 The Sports Hub, WBZ NewsRadio 1030, the national CBS Sports Radio Network, and broadcasting Boston College hockey games. The Massachusetts native is a Syracuse grad and a pop culture fanatic who offers a unique and entertaining look at your favorite Boston sports teams. Please don't hold his love for Jean-Claude Van Damme movies against him.
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