|Third inning: Napoli-onic complex||10.05.08 at 5:59 pm ET|
Josh Beckett gave up a double to Vladimir Guerrero to lead off the inning. After producing just one extra-base hit in the first 18 innings of the series, the Angels have two in the first three innings tonight. Guerrero, who runs as if Jeff Gillooly were taking a lead pipe to his knees, also stole third, giving the Angels two steals in the first three innings tonight following a failure to swipe a bag in the first two games.
It looked like Beckett might be able to escape harm. He punched out Torii Hunter and got Juan Rivera on a foul-pop to first. But Mike Napoli told the Sox to take their two-out dominance and shove it: Beckett hung a curveball that will now have an opportunity to enjoy a few drinks at the Cask ‘n’ Flagon after the two-run homer tied the game, 3-3. The Angels ended a streak of 68 innings without a postseason homer. The Red Sox had not allowed a Division Series longball in 50 innings, since Paul Konerko of the White Sox went deep off of Tim Wakefield in Game 3 of the 2005 Division Series. Josh Beckett hadn’t given up a postseason longball in 22 innings.
Napoli might seem like an unlikely candidate to deliver a key blow, but the Sox were well aware of what he had done down the stretch this year. He hit .388 with a .481 OBP, 1.257 OPS and eight homers (in just 85 at-bats) in the second half this year, marks that put him in the same category as Manny Ramirez among players with at least 100 plate appearances in the second half this season.
Through three innings, Beckett has thrown a whopping 66 pitches. Beckett has never lasted fewer than six innings in a postseason start (Game 1 of last year’s World Series). He’ll need to become far more pitch efficient to reach that total tonight. I doubt that
The Sox went quickly and quietly in the bottom of the third. David Ortiz flied out to center, and seemed frustrated at having failed to do more damage on a pitch that seemed to be in the middle of the strike zone. After Kevin Youkilis walked, both Jason Bay and Mike Lowell flied to right, with Joe Saunders effectively living on the outer half of the plate. Saunders has actually been quite good, and but for the three-run single on a pop-up by Ellsbury, he would be unscored upon through three innings.
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