Friday, October 17, 2008

Rays Blow 7 Run Lead, Lose Game 5, 8-7

Players of the Day from Thursday, October 16, 2008 ALCS: Boston 8 Tampa Bay 7 J.D. Drew (R) hit a two-run homer in the 8th inning to draw the Red Sox to within a run, and then singled home Jason Bay with the game-winner in the bottom of the 9th, as the Boston Red Sox stared down elimination and turned a 7-0, 7th inning deficit into a dramatic, 8-7 win over the Tampa Bay Rays. Scott Kazmir (L) tossed 6 innings of shutout ball and the Tampa Bay Rays continued their long-ball assault against the Red Sox, pounding out 3 more homers. The Rays wasted no time at all getting to Game 1 winner Daisuke Matsuzaka. B.J. Upton (R) launched a two-run homer over the Green Monster in the first inning, and, in the third, Carlos Pena blasted another two-run homer to right, followed immediately by Evan Longoria's solo shot - his 4th home run in consecutive games, a rookie and major league record - and the Rays seemed to be on their way. Hideki Okajima settled the Rays down for a couple of innings, blanking them in the 5th and 6th, but in the 7th inning, the wheels nearly came completely off Boston's beleaguered bandwagon. Manny Delcarmen started his mound stint by walking the first two batters in the inning, Jason Bartlett and Akinori Iwamura. Closer Jonathan Papelbon was summoned from the Boston bullpen. While Papelbon was focused on pitching to Upton, the baserunners pulled off a double steal, putting the runners on second and third base. They scored easily when Upton doubled to the left-center gap. 7-0, Rays, and the Boston faithful began heading for the exits of fabled Fenway Park. Once Kazmir was off the mound, however, the wheels did come off for the Rays, as the Red Sox responded with 4 runs of their own in the bottom of the inning off reliever Grant Balfour, three of them on David Ortiz's home run, just his second hit of the series. Fans scrambled back into their seats. In the 8th, Dan Wheeler gave up the 2-run homer to Drew, making the score 7-6. And when Coco Crisp singled home Mark Kotsay from second, the game was tied at 7-all. J.P. Howell went to the mound in the ninth, but, after getting two quick outs, surrendered a single to Kevin Youkilis, who moved to second on Longoria's throwing error. After issuing an intentional pass to Jason Bay, Drew came through once more, lashing a single to right which easily plated Youkilis with the game-winner. Notes: It was a collapse of magnificent proportions for the youthful Rays, who were on the verge of heading to the World Series. The decision to pull Kazmir, who was pitching brilliantly, has to be questioned, as does the insertion of Wheeler to start the 8th. The Rays and Red Sox will have a day off to think things over prior to game 6 at Tropicana Field on Saturday. Starting time is 8:07 pm ET. Josh Beckett gets the call for Boston, against the Rays' James Shields.

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