The Red Sox have completed the largest comeback ever by a team facing playoff elimination, defeating the Rays, 8-7, on Drew’s walk-off ground-rule double/single over the head of Rays right fielder Gabe Gross to score Youkilis. The Red Sox were down 7-0 following the sixth inning, but scored four in the seventh, three in the eighth, and the winner in the ninth. Drew had previously hit a two-run homer to make it 7-6 in the eighth. It’s pandemonium at Fenway Park. The Sox trail in the series, three games to two, and will board a plane bound for St. Petersburg, Fla. tonight.
Youkilis started the two-out ninth inning rally. He chopped the ninth pitch of his at-bat to third. Longoria made a fantastic backhanded, charging stop. He threw on the run and bounced a thrown Pena could not glove. The ball bounded into the stands behind first, and Youkilis jetted to second. He was given a single, and Longoria was charged with an error on the throw. Howell intentionally walked Bay, bringing up Drew, a lefty facing a lefty.
Pedroia narrowly missed a leadoff hit, grounding to third-short hole. The ball trickled off Longoria’s glove, but Bartlett scooped it and fired to first for the out. With a 1-1 count, Ortiz tried to bunt down the third base line for the first in this series, but he pushed it foul. Maybe that wasn’t the best time to try that. On the next pitch, he swung over an 81-mph slider for strike three.
SOX CAN WIN NOW (12:00, MID 9, 7-7)
Masterson extricated himself from a jam with one pitch, getting Pena to bounce into a 4-6-3 double play with two men on. Jason Bartlett singled sharply throught the left side to begin the inning. Iwamura flied to left, unable to move Bartlett for Upton. Masterson walked Upton, bringing up Pena with one out.
If the Red Sox win, it would be the second biggest comeback victory in playoff history. Eight runs is the record, set when the A’s beat the Cubs in the 1929 World Series.
J.P. Howell is now pitching for the Rays.
ALL TIED UP (11:49, END 8, 7-7)
The Red Sox have completed one of the greatest single-game playoff comebacks of all-time, scoring seven runs in two innings to come back from the dead. Crisp submitted an amazing at-bat, fouling off four straight 3-2 pitches. On the 10th pitch of the at-bat, Crisp lined the ball into right field. He was thrown out at second after Gross’s throw in was cut off.
Justin Masterson is coming in to pitch the ninth. Kevin Cash is the new catcher. After Masterson, the only pitchers remaining are Lopez, Mike Timlin, and Paul Byrd.
KOTSAY DOUBLES (11:41, MID 8, 7-6 RAYS)
Sean Casey pinch hit for Varitek and struck out, but Kotsay followed with what seems like his 54th line drive of the series. This time, finally, it fell, glancing off the glove of B.J. Upton in center. Man on second, two outs for Crisp.
No matter what, Ortiz will come to the plate with a chance to at least send the game to extra innings.
SOX KNOCKING ON THE DOOR (11:34, BOT 8, 7-6 RAYS)
Bay led off with a four-pitch walk, the absolute last thing Wheeler wanted. Well, actually, that came two pitches later. Drew crushed an 0-1 pitch into the right field stands, to the right of the Rays’ bullpen. Wheeler remains in the game with no outs in the eighth. Didn’t see this coming.
PAPELBON CRUISES (11:30, MID 8, 7-4 RAYS)
Papelbon helped keep what would be a remarkable comeback possible, rolling through the eighth with a pair of strike outs, blowing away Willy Aybar and Gabe Gross. Jason Bay, Drew, and Lowrie are due up for the Sox.
WHEELER GETS YOUKILIS (11:20, END 7, 7-4 RAYS)
After battling to a full count and fouling off a pitch, Youkilis smashed a liner to right, but directly at Gross, who caught the third out. Earlier in the at-bat, Wheeler buzzed a pitch at Youkilis’s head. If and when these teams are fighting again next year, remember that pitch.
The Red Sox suddenly have some life. This is all of a sudden a potentially meaningful inning for Papelbon.
BIG PAPI WAKES UP (11:13, BOT 7, 7-4 RAYS)
Well, hold on just a minute. After Pedroia drove in Lowrie with an opposite field single, David Ortiz launched a 1-0 fastball from Balfour into the right field seats for a three-run dinger, his first home run in 15 postseason games and 61 at-bats. It was his 12th playoff homer as a Red Sox player, surpassing Manny Ramirez for the club record. With two outs, Maddon went with Dan Wheeler to replace Balfour, who has been the weak link for the Rays’ staff all series.
KAZMIR EXITS (10:57, MID 7, 7-0 RAYS)
Joe Maddon looks like a genius after taking much flak for “overthinking” and starting Kazmir, who, lest everyone forget, was an All-Star this season. He pitched like one tonight, blowing the doors off the Red Sox in the final three innings. He allowed two hits and no runs and retired the final nine hitters he faced.
Grant Balfour is on. He gave up a lead-off double Lowrie.
THAT’S IT, THAT’S ALL (10:44, TOP 7, 7-0 RAYS)
After a double steal, Upton launched a 3-2 fastball off of Papelbon high to left, a blast that nearly scraped the Monster and bounded off the top of the scoreboard. Earlier in the at-bat, Papelbon tried to reclaim the inside part of the plate that Red Sox pitchers so readily yielded all series. Ultimately, nothing works against these Rays. That two-run double ought to be your ballgame.
During the ALCS games at Fenway Park, the Rays have outscored the Red Sox 29-5. Whoa.
PAPELBON COMES ON (10:34, TOP 7, 5-0 RAYS)
Surely this isn’t how Francona envisioned using his closer for the final time of the season, but Jonathan Papelbopn is jogging in from the bullpen to replace Delcarmen, who for the second straight game was wholly ineffective. The Rays have men on first and second with no outs.
A few minutes, a burly, shirtless man was attempting to get the wave going along the right field line. Much like this game in general, not a pretty sight.
KAZMIR ROLLING, SOX DONE? (10:21, END 6, 5-0 RAYS)
Kazmir may be done because he’s thrown 110 pitches, but if so, he has done his job. The Red Sox managed only two hits, both singles, and no runs off him in six innings. He’s retired the last nine batters he faced, concluding by breaking Drew’s bat on a weak fly to center.
The Red Sox have nine outs left to stage a nearly impossible comeback.
Manny Delcarmen is in for Okajima.
SLIPPING AWAY (10:07, END 5, 5-0 RAYS)
Kazmir is only getting stronger, and the Red Sox, it seems, are going down without a fight. Ortiz ended the inning with another weak groundball, dropping him to 1 for 17 in the series. The Red Sox went in order.
Joe Maddon’s decision to start Kazmir, clearly, is looking like a good choice.
OKAJIMA STARTS STRONG (9:57, MID 5, 5-0 RAYS)
Pena reached when he bunted away from the shift, but Okajima didn’t allow anything else. He struck out Longoria, only the hottest hitter on the planet right now, and got Crawford to bounce to second to get out of the inning and strand two.
MATSUZAKA DONE (9:45, TOP 5, 5-0 RAYS)
In the most important start of his season, Dice-K couldn’t make it past the fifth. He walked Iwamura to lead off the inning, and Terry Francona decided that would be all. Hideki Okajima is in the game. Matsuzaka threw 82 pitches and never found any command. It seems likely that Matsuzaka’s season — very much a success — is over.
SOX WASTE ANOTHER CHANCE (9:40, END 4, 5-0 RAYS)
Drew led off with a walk, but the Red Sox couldn’t even advance him past second. The Red Sox are 1 for 8 with five strikeouts with men on base tonight. Lowrie followed Drew with a groundout to third. Varitek struck out on a 3-2 count, and Kotsay struck out, looking bad flailing at a slider.
PARIS FALLS (9:28, MID 4, 5-0 RAYS)
Or, Matsuzaka got through an inning in just seven pitches. Dioner Navarro, Gabe Gross, and Jason Bartlett went down in order. To state the Red Sox desperately need to get something going on offense. Their season is down to 18 outs.
BOOS FOR ORTIZ (9:20, END 3, 5-0 RAYS)
The Red Sox went with only a single from Youkilis, which, given their offensive issues, is not all that surprising. What was stunning was the sound after Ortiz grounded to second: loud boos from the Fenway crowd. Did you ever think you’d hear boos for Jason Varitek and David Ortiz in the same ALCS played against the Rays? Strange days. Ortiz is 1 for 16 in the series.
INNING OVER (9:12. MID 3, 5-0 RAYS)
Matsuzaka struck out Cliff Floyd to end the inning, but the Rays had already done their damage. They set a new playoff series record with 13 home runs, and all of them have come in the past four games. Stunning. There’s some surprise in the press box that the Rays are being allowed to swing from the heels batter after batter with no one getting knocked down, or at the very least pitched inside.
HOME RUN DERBY CONTINUES (9:09, TOP 3, 5-0 RAYS)
The Red Sox’ season might be down to seven innings. Carlos Pena wrapped the first pitch he saw around Pesky’s Pole, a two-run home run that also scored Upton, who had lashed a single to center. Pena has homered in three straight games. Longoria topped that with the next swing, jacking his fourth homer in four games on a 2-2 pitch over the Green Monster. I feel like I’ve seen this before.
John Farrell visited Matsuzaka, and Javier Lopez is warming in the Sox bullpen. This makes three straight games at Fenway that the Red Sox have been down 5-0 before the fourth inning.
KAZMIR MAKES LIKE DICE-K (9:00, END 2, 2-0 RAYS)
Kazmir has allowed one hit, four base runners, and thrown 46 pitches. But he has allowed no runs, in part because the Red Sox cannot drive in runs right now. Coco Crisp had the chance this inning, coming to the plate after Jason Varitek (hit by a pitch in the rear end) and Mark Kotsay (sharp single to center) had cobbled a two-out rally. Crisp struck out on a 2-2, 81-mph slider. Kazmir seems sharper than Matsuzaka, but not by much. Those were two long innings.
NO DAMAGE, BUT … (8:47, MID 2, 2-0 RAYS)
Matsuzaka’s aggression from Game 1 has totally abandoned him. He faced only four batters in the second, but he needed 24 more pitches. He went to 3-2 counts on four of the first eight batters. Cliff Floyd grounded the seventh pitch he saw to third. Dioner Navarro ripped one back at Matsuzaka’s head. Gabe Gross fell behind 0-2, and then Matsuzaka walked him on seven total pitches; that hurt. Jason Bartlett flew to left. Not a pretty inning, given how uneventful it was on the surface.
KAZMIR SHAKY, SOX CAN’T CAPITALIZE (8:31, END 1, 2-0 RAYS)
The Red Sox drew two walks as Scott Kazmir couldn’t really find his command, but Kazmir beared down when he had to. Coco Crisp led off with a walk, doing a good job being patient (something he typically does not excel at) and making Kazmir throw strikes. Kazmir has been awful lately in the first inning; the last two balls to Crisp weren’t close. Dustin Pedroia worked a 2-2 count then chopped to third base.
Kazmir blew away David Ortiz on three pitches; Ortiz’s swings are getting worse and worse. He looked particularly awful on strike three, swinging through an inside, 94-mph fastball. Kevin Youkilis walked on four pitches, putting a runner in scoring position with two outs. Bay popped a 2-1 changeup to shallow center, and Kazmir escaped despite two walks.
MATSUZAKA SETTLES (8:20, MID 1, 2-0 RAYS)
Dice-K came back to record three straight outs after Upton blasted a ball into the first row of the Monster seats. He struck out Carlos Pena on a nasty, 92-mph cutter, induced a fly to right from Evan Longoria, and got Carl Crawford to line to center. He threw 23 pitches, not a good sign for his longevity in this game.
IT’S HAPPENING AGAIN (8:13, TOP 1, 2-0 RAYS)
B.J. Upton will live in nightmares of Red Sox fans all season long. Nine pitches and no outs in to the game, Daisuke Matsuzaka has already surrendered a home run, a 1-1 pitch that Upton crushed over the Green Monster. Upton now has six home runs in the playoffs, three in this series.
Matsuzaka began the game with a full count, so no surprise there. On the 3-2 pitch, his countryman, Akinori Iwamura, slapped a single through the right side to put a man on first. One batter later, he trotted home.