WALK-OFF FOR LOWRIE (11:31, END 9, 3-2 SOX)
Jed Lowrie rolled the first pitch he saw through the right side for a game-winning single, bringing the Red Sox out of the dugout and the series to a close. Lowrie, who strugglied mightily down the stretch in the regular season, is the hero. He thrust his fist over his head as he rounded first and kept jogging into shallow right field, where the Red Sox are mobbing him. Flashbulbs are going off like crazy. What a game. Masterson is off the hook.
See you in Tampa.
SQUEEZED (11:23, MID 9, 2-2)
Well, the Angels tried the squeeze, and it backfired. Aybar (sorry for originally typing Figgins; he was on-deck) missed the bunt with Willits halfway to home. Jason Varitek chased him down and tagged him on the rear end. Aybar then bounced to first. What a blown opportunity for the Angels.
Willits is in right. Shields is still in. Drew, Bay, and Kotsay will try to end it now.
LEAD-OFF DOUBLE, TYING RUN ON THIRD (11:17, TOP 9, 2-2)
Pinch-hitter Kendry Morales drilled a double of the Monster. Reggie Willits came in to pinch-run. Masterson remained in to pitch to Kendrick, who sacrifice bunted him to third. Francona opted for Delcarmen to pitch to Aybar, and he’s warming up on the mound now. Could the Angels try a suicide squeeze for the lead? Fast runner, excellent bunter.
SHIELDS IMPRESSES (11:12, END 8, 2-2)
Shields is proving why he’s known as one of the best relievers — and, really, pitchers — in the league. The Red Sox went down 1-2-3, not one of their three best hitters so much as sniffing a hit. Pedroia hit a soft liner to Kendrick at second. Ortiz fell behind 0-2, worked back to 2-2, fouled a couple pitches, then struck out awkwardly half-swinging over a curveball in the dirt. Youkilis flailed at a nasty, 2-2, 80-mph curve.
Francona is sticking with Masterson with Kendrick, Aybar, and Figgins due up. Delcarmen is throwing in the ‘pen.
MASTERSON OUT OF IT, SHIELDS COMES ON (11:05, MID 8, 2-2)
Masterson got Napoli to fly to right, but the damage had been done. It will be interesting to hear Francona talk about his decision to take out Lester. Will you second-guess Francona for making the move to his bullpen?
Scot Shields, who might have been the player of Game 3, is on to pitch to Pedroia, Ortiz, and Youkilis. No more Lackey. Jose Arredondo and Darren Oliver are warming in the LA ‘pen.
ANGELS TIE IT UP (11:01, TOP 8, 2-2)
A strange play and heroics by Hunter leave the Red Sox staring, perhaps, at extra innings or a trip back to Californina.
Masterson started Hunter with a pair of strikes, then came back with a ball. On Masterson’s next pitch, Varitek moved his glove right as if expected a slider. The ball buzzed at 97 mph over his mitt and nearly killed Rapuano. But it missed him and went all the way to the backstop, putting Guerrero on second, the tying run in scoring position, and Texeira on third.
Hunter, on a 2-2 pitch, flared a low pitch to right field, a great piece of two-strike hitting. Drew came up throwing, but his one-hop throw to Varitek missed the sliding Guerrero by several steps. Hunter remains on first with one out.
WALK FOR GUERRERO (10:56, TOP 8, 2-0 SOX)
Guerrero walked on a full count, bringing up Hunter with the go-ahead run. Manny Delcarmen is up in the bullpen.
MASTERSON FOR OKAJIMA (10:52, TOP 8, 2-0)
Okajima rolled through the first two batters he faced, getting both Figgins and Anderson to roll to Pedroia. He walked Teixeira on four pitches, bringing the tying run to the plate in the frightening form of Guerrero.
Francona summoned Masterson for one of the game’s biggest at-bats. Earlier in the series, Masterson faced Guerrero in a simliarly clutch situation and blew a nasty, 96-mph fastball by him for a strikeout.
LESTER OUT (10:44, END 7, 2-0 SOX)
Jon Lester threw 109 pitches through seven innings, and Francona decided that’s enough. Hideki Okajima is in the game to face Figgins, Anderson, and Teixeira. Justin Masterson is warming up.
No matter what happens now, what a tremendous night for Lester. Seven innings, no runs, four hits, two walks, four strike outs. He again was an ace when the Sox needed it.
The Red Sox ended their half of the seventh when Ellsbury grounded up the middle with Lowrie on first. Aybar stepped on second and fired to first for a double play.
LESTER THROUGH SEVEN (10:38, MID 7, 2-0)
Lester, though only 24, is on his way to further cementing his place in Red Sox history. Like Game 1, he is only getting stronger. Lester got pop-ups from Rivera and Kendrick and got a lazy fly to right from Aybar. Eight outs away from the ALCS.
LACKEY SHARP AGAIN (10:29, END 6, 2-0 SOX)
Lackey really got outs that inning, even though Bay’s roller under Aybar’s glove was ruled a single. He’s thrown only 89 pitches and has had a great outing — one that’s being overshadowed by Lester. If he can go eight, that would be huge. Jonathan Papelbon will not pitch two innings tonight, because he’s thrown four in three days.
SOX’ D CRANKS UP (10:24, MID 6, 2-0 SOX)
Three up for the Angels, three solid plays by the Sox. Guerrero cued a pop off the end of his bat in between the dirt on-deck circle and the dirt first base coach’s box. Kotsay scampered over, slid, and made a teriffic backhanded catch. Hunter nubbed a slow-roller to third, and Youkilis charged and made a strong running throw to nail him. Napoli flied deep to left, and Bay calmly ran back, put his hand on the Monster, and caught the ball right up against the Wall.
Lester, having thrown 97 pitches, is nine outs away from sending the Sox to the ALCS. What a performance — he has not allowed an earned run in his last 18 2/3 playoff innings. Lester is 16-1 this season when given a 2-0 lead, a stat just shown by TBS.
RED SOX STRIKE, PEDROIA BREAKS THROUGH (10:14, END 5, 2-0 SOX)
Kotsay led off the fifth with a sharp, line drive single to center. After Lowrie flied to center, Varitek had a tremendous at-bat. He fell behind 0-2, worked his way back to 3-2, then ripped a 78-mph curve to right field, putting men on first and second with one out for Ellsbury.
It was a particularly tough spot for Lackey, because Ellsbury’s speed makes him so hard to double up. Lackey got his groundball, but we’ll never know if Ellsbury would have been doubled up — Kendrick booted the ball and had only one play, Ellbsury at first. Kotsay scampered home.
Up came Pedroia, 0 for 15 in this series. The crowd still gave him “M-V-P” chants, and Pedroia gave them a double off the Green Monster. Varitek scored, and the Red Sox lead, 2-0, after Ortiz bounced back to Lackey.
The Sox, with Lester going strong, are 12 outs away from the ALCS.
LESTER STRANDS TWO MORE (10:02, MID 5, 0-0)
For the third time in four innings, Lester plowed through a jam and left two men on base. This was arguably the toughest test and most impressive result — with men on first on third, Teixeira came up. Lester started him 0-2, then tried to get him to chase a high fastball. On 1-2, Lester fired an outside, 96-mph fastball and started walking off the mound, only for Ed Rapuano to call ball two. He came back with a similar pitch, a 91-mph cutter in nearly the same spot. Teixeira looked again, and Rapuano rang him up.
Aybar got the rally started with a one-out single to right. Figgins, who the Red Sox have no answer for right now, followed by slapping another hit, through the right side. Aybar moved to third on Anderson’s fielder’s choice.
LACKEY KEEPS ROLLING (9:49, END 4, 0-0)
He needed to overcome some sloppy defense, but Lackey kept Boston off the board again. Ortiz lined a single to center field with out. Figgins stabbed Youkilis’s sharp grounder to third, then rushed a throw to second trying to start a double play. It sailed wide to the right, and Kendrick couldn’t corrall it. Ortiz was safe at second, creating the potential for a big inning — two on, one out, Drew coming to bat.
Drew worked the count full, the spoiled a curveball. Drew blasted the next pitch to right center, but it hung up long enough for Hunter to track it down. Ortiz rumbled to third. The onus was on Jason Bay. He lofted a 1-2 curve to left, high and easy for Anderson to squeeze. Still zeros, and Lackey has thrown just 57 pitches. The Red Sox have only two hits.
EASY ONE FOR LESTER (9:36, MID 4, 0-0)
Lester needed an inning to settle himself down and get control of his pitch count, and he got it. He struck out Torii Hunter swinging, then got weak grounders from Game 3 hero Napoli and Rivera. Napoli’s bat splintered, and the barrel nearly struck Lester in the head. Lester threw 13 pitches in the inning.
ON VELAZQUEZ (9:33, TOP 4, 0-0)
We haven’t had a chance to talk to Terry Francona yet, so I can only guess at the Red Sox’ rationale for activating Gil Velazquez. Here goes: Francona feels comfortable with Kotsay and Casey at first, and he wanted another pinch-running option. Velazquez isn’t exactly a track star, but he provides a better choice than either Chris Carter or Jeff Baily, who are with the team and more accomplished hitters. Francona is saying he feels good about Alex Cora, Sean Casey, and Coco Crisp as pinch-hitting options.
LACKEY SAILS (9:30, END 3, 0-0)
After Lester labored in the top of the inning, Lackey sailed through the bottom half. He looks even stronger than he did game one, mixing up his pitches better. He needed only nine pitches to retire Lowrie (fly to center), Varitek (grounder to second), and Ellsbury (another bouncer back to Lackey). Lackey has thrown only 39 pitches.
LESTER WORKS FOR IT (9:26, MID 3, 0-0)
The Angels remain scoreless, but not without testing Lester again. With one out, Figgins slapped a single to left, through the shortstop-third hole. He moved to second when Anderson grounded to Kotsay at first. Teixeira came up, facing the opportunity the Angels signed him to suceed in: two outs, man on second, run needed. Teixeira worked a 2-2 count and took a high, outside 96-mph fastball that missed by inches. On the 3-2 pitch, Lester threw a curve in the dirt, and Teixeira laid off, bringing up Vladimir Guerrero, who decided he wasn’t going to look at any pitches. He hacked at the first five pitches Guerrero threw, fouling off four. He looked at a high fastball, then a low curve. 2-2. Lester threw a curveball, and Guerrero squibbed it past the mound toward second base. Pedroia screamed in, diving and flipping to Kotsay in one, smooth motion to retire the slow-footed Guerrero.
The base runners the Angels are putting on are at least making Lester work. He’s thrown roughly 55 pitches through three.
LACKEY GETS TWO (9:10, END 2, 0-0)
The Red Sox got two baserunners on against Lackey with one out, J.D. Drew singling to left and Jason Bay drawing a walk. Mark Kotsay came up with the game’s first scoring opportunity. He grounded to second. Kendrick made an errant throw to Aybar, on the wrong side of second, and Aybar made a stellar turn at second, stepping gracefully around Bay, hopping, and firing a one-hopper to Teixeira.
LESTER STILL STRONG (8:59, MID 2, 0-0)
The Angels provided the night’s first resistance to either pitcher, but Lester proved more than up to the challenge. With two outs, Napoli saw nine pitches — the amount Lester used in the entire first inning — and walked on a curve down and in. He moved to second when Juan Rivera shot a single throuhg the left side, just out of Jed Lowrie’s diving reach. Howie Kendrick followed. Lester struck him out on three pitches, concluding with a devious back-to-back of a 95-mph inside fastball and a 78-mph curve in the dirt.
LACKEY RESPONDS (8:49, END 1, 0-0)
It’s early still, but this has the feel, look, and pace of a clasic playoff pitcher’s duel. John Lackey used only 10 pitches to reitre the Sox in order.
Jacoby Ellsbury, who ripped a double off Lackey to lead off Game 1, bounced back to Lackey. Dustin Pedroia has submitted some decent at-bats in his postseason slump, but not in the first — he popped to second, making him a stunning 0 for 14 this series. David Ortiz grounded sharply up the middle, but shortstop Erick Aybar, shifted over to the second base-side of second, had him played perfectly.
LESTER BRINGS IT (8:42, MID 1, 0-0)
The Red Sox need another stellar performance from Jon Lester, and he started out in exactly the form you would hope for. Chone Figgins grounded to second, Garrett Anderson checked his swing on a thrid strike, and Mark Teixeira chopped to second weakly. Lester shut down the Angels in only nine pitches and three minutes.
Troy O’Leary threw out the first pitch. No offense intended to O’Leary, but has there ever been a more drastic change in first-pitch tossers than Jim Rice to Troy O’Leary?