Do we really have to go to Tampa/St. Pete? Can’t we just forgo the formalities and let the Red Sox advance to the American League Championship Series on sheer style, dominance, karma, and duende?
The Duck Dynasty/ZZ Top/Fidel Castro Red Sox look unbeatable at this hour. They bested the fatigued Rays, 7-4, at Fenway Park again on Saturday night and will send 12-1 Clay Buchholz to the mound to finish the series Monday.
The Sox look like the best team in baseball. No team won more regular-season games (97), and the Sox have played even better in the first two games of the playoffs. They won the opener, 12-2, with every man in the lineup registering at least one hit and one run. It was more of the same Saturday night (eight of nine starters got hits) as the John Farrell All-Stars bolted to a 5-1 lead, then cruised. David Ortiz hit two monstrous home runs. In games started by Matt Moore and David Price, the Sox have 19 runs and 25 hits.
It’s a little scary. Baseball is not supposed to be this easy. It’s a hard game. It’ll humble you in an instant.
But the Sox are making it look easy. They hit. They don’t make errors. They run the bases well (great takeout slide by Shane Victorino on Saturday night). They have great beards. They have a closer, Koji Uehara, who throws only strikes and can work a 1-2-3 inning while you make a three-minute egg.
“It’s awesome,’’ said second baseman Dustin Pedroia. “He has swing-and-miss stuff on every pitch he throws and we’re going to win the game.’’
Poor Tampa. After staggering into the playoffs on a clutch odyssey though New York, Toronto, Texas, and Cleveland, the Rays folded at Fenway. They played butcherball in Game 1 and Saturday night their best pitcher (Price), was no match for the relentless Red Sox.
The Rays may go down as the first team in baseball history to be mathematically eliminated from a playoff series in the first inning of a second game.
“I think we got out-Fenwayed tonight,’’ said Tampa Bay manager Joe Maddon. “They took advantage of a lot of quirks; we did not . . . It was kind of a weird night, the way everything set up for them and against us . . . I’m really looking forward to Game 5 here.’’
“That’s what Joe should say,’’ said Pedroia. “He’s a great manager. He has those guys believing. It’s going to be tough to put them away. We’re looking forward to playing Game 3.’’
Why not? Everything is going Boston’s way. It’s like watching the Patriots in the good old days of Super Bowl supremacy.
The Sox summoned some of their glorious past to set the tone for Game 2. Jim Lonborg threw out the ceremonial first pitch. Lonborg is the 1967 Cy Young Award winner who almost threw a perfect game in his first postseason start (Game 2 of the 1967 World Series) and has been a class act while practicing dentistry and raising a family on the South Shore for the last 35 years. The Fenway organ played “The Impossible Dream” after Lonborg’s perfect throw.
Fitting. The Cardiac Adults are worthy progeny of the Cardiac Kids.
The Sox jumped out early. Jacoby Ellsbury (five hits in two games, his price goes up every day) led off the bottom of the first with a bloop single to right. When Ellsbury stole second, Jose Molina threw the ball into center field, allowing Ellsbury to take third. It was the first official error of the series, but we all know the Rays could have a half dozen. Ellsbury scored on a sac fly by Pedroia (who always gets the guy home with a runner at third and fewer than two out), then Ortiz effectively put the game away with a towering homer to right.
The Sox made it 4-1 in the third and 5-1 in the fourth. Key hits included a 120-foot double to left by Ellsbury and a wall-scraping triple by Stephen Drew (revenge for Price fanning J.D. in Game 7 five years ago?).
The Rays fought back with a pair in the fifth, but John Lackey (Mr. Redemption on Team Redemption) snuffed out the threat, fanning Ben Zobrist with two aboard to end the inning.
Craig Breslow relieved Lackey and got into a jam in the seventh, but he got out of the jam with a nifty 4-6-3 double play. Another 4-6-3 DP ended the eighth, leading to “So good, so good, so good.’’ After Neil Diamond, Ortiz hit his second homer, a towering shot just inside the foul pole in right. Papi pimped it big time, then came out for the curtain call.
“He’s a guy that likes bright lights, for sure,’’ said Lackey.
As always, Uehara finished the job in the ninth.
Tampa rookie Wil Myers is no doubt happy to be done with Boston. After his Game 1 misplay Friday, Fenway fans mocked the Rays right fielder with derisive chants of “Myyy-errrs!’’ Before Game 2, Maddon warned, “If he can possibly channel that in a positive direction, you might see a couple of balls go over the Wall today.’’
No. Ortiz was the guy who hit two homers. Myers went hitless and endured more mockery.
It makes you want to fast-forward to the Fall Classic. Do you want the Dodgers (Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford), the Braves (who played here in Boston until the early 1950s), the Pirates (lost to the Red Sox in the first World Series in 1903) or the Cardinals (Series opponents in ’46, ’67 and ’04)?
That’s getting too far ahead. For sure.
But putting the Sox in the ALCS is not too far ahead.
Bring on the Tigers. Bring on the A’s.
This one is over.