|Post-game wrap: On to Tampa||10.07.08 at 2:10 am ET|
GAME RECAP HERE.
A NEW OCTOBER SHERIFF
Though he did not receive credit for the win, Jon Lester was, quite simply, overpowering against the Angels. On a night when his team needed innings, the 24-year-old delivered seven sterling frames, allowing just four hits (all singles) and two walks. In the series, Lester gave up 10 hits (all singles) and allowed the Halos a .189 average and .421 OPS.
Red Sox manager Terry Francona was prepared to send Jon Lester back to the hill for the eighth after the young left-hander had stewarded a 2-0 lead through the seventh. But in a decision that underscored the differences between Francona and his predecessor, Grady Little, the current Sox manager noticed that Lester’s body language after the seventh suggested a pitcher who was ready to leave a game.
“He was going back out at least for two or three hitters till we could get to the right-handers,” said Francona. “But if you watch his reaction after the last out (of the seventh), in his mind, that was his last hitter…I think you can make a mistake on a pitcher (who) kind of emotionally shuts it down or turns a switch off, to try to rev it back up. Didn’t seem like it made a lot of sense.”
That left Lester with a no-decision, but did little to diminish what he accomplished. Lester allowed one unearned run in his Game 1 win, then fired seven shutout innings on Monday. He set a Division Series record for the most innings pitched (14) with a 0.00 ERA. He has not allowed an earned run in his last four postseason appearances, spanning 22.2 innings.
“I thought Jon Lester was tremendous,” said Francona. “He was poised. He attacked the strike zone…We needed to have a strong starting performance, and he gave us all of that.”
“He’s an ace,” pronounced David Ortiz.
Half-way through Game 4 of the Division Series, Dustin Pedroia’s oh-fer matched his uniform number (15). But the Red Sox second baseman ended his skid at a crucial moment. After Jacoby Ellsbury’s run-scoring groundout gave the Sox a 1-0 advantage with a runner on second, Pedroia slammed a two-out double off the Wall to put the Red Sox ahead, 2-0.
“It was huge to get that hit, get that out of the way,” said Pedroia. “It’s my job to score runs and get on base. I take that personal. If we’re not scoring a lot of runs and I’m not doing anything, then it’s my fault—it’s nobody’s fault but mine. I want to do great. I want this team to do great.”
Yet some of his teammates were unwilling to let the second baseman resume his usual cocky pronouncements without a challenge.
“He’s still in a slump,” Mike Lowell said with a grin. “He’s 1-for-(17). He stinks.”
ALMOST A HERO
Mark Kotsay made a couple of brilliant defensive plays at first base, one a sliding catch by the first-base coach’s box, the other a running, over-the-shoulder catch in right field, and he singled and scored the game’s first run off of John Lackey. But he was poised to achieve even greater heights in the bottom of the ninth against Angels reliever Scot Shields.
Kotsay stepped to the plate with Jason Bay (leadoff double) on second and one out. Kotsay was hitting .375 (6-for-16) against the Angels reliever, the best mark on the club. Shields threw him a first-pitch curve, and Kotsay jumped on it for a liner down the right-field line. But Angels first baseman Mark Teixeira–who was Kotsay’s teammate in Atlanta through the first four months of this season–made a beautiful diving play on the ball.
“What was I thinking?” Kotsay mused. “I was thinking, ‘My former teammate just took away my game-winning hit.’ That’s what I was thinking.”
Yet one batter later, when Lowrie delivered the game-winning, two-out hit to right, all was forgotten.
“I’ll take the one that was caught as long as the one got through and we won the game,” said Kotsay. “That’s all this game is about. Individuality gets lost in the team concept. We won tonight. We’re advancing.”
The Angels, who led the majors with 100 wins in the regular season, were knocked out of the first round of the playoffs by the Red Sox for the third time in five years. Though they did not suffer a third straight sweep, instead losing three games to one, it did little to dampen their disappointment, particularly since they lost the three games by three, two and one run.
“I thought we played much better this series than going back to ’04 and ’07 against them. It’s naturally disappointing. but we’re going to have to keep trying to get better. That’s all we can do,” said Angels manager Mike Scioscia. “Every game could have gone either way. We just, you know, at times those guys stepped up and did the job, and we didn’t do it quite as often. I’m very proud of the way our guys played.”
Lackey endured a particularly difficult fate in the series. He pitched brilliantly against Lester in both Game 1 and 4, allowing two runs in both contests while pitching 13.2 innings.
TAMPA BAY AWAITS
There will be plenty of time to dissect the Rays-Red Sox American League Championship Series in the coming days. That being the case, David Ortiz decided to reduce the matter to the barest minimum.
“We’re going to go out and play and try to whoop their (tail),” he said.
LOWELL OUT FOR ALCS, POSSIBLY SEASON
Mike Lowell‘s physical limitations had become obvious over the course of the series. The slight tear of his right labrum rendered it difficult for him to walk, let alone engage in baseball actions either as a hitter or in the field.
As a result, it came as little surprise that the Sox removed him from the Division Series roster prior to last night’s Game 4 against the Angels. As a consequence of the move, Lowell will not be eligible for the roster in the Championship Series against the Tampa Bay Rays.
“As an everyday player, you want to be in there. But when you reach the point where you feel like you’re not bringing much to the table, you’ve got to be smart about it,” said Lowell. “It wasn’t tough. It would have been one thing if I was getting a lot of hits or felt comfortable at the plate. But when you don’t feel like you have a good lower half—your base is everything when you hit.
“I felt like I was jumping at curveballs. I was fouling off my pitch. When you’re that click off, that’s the difference. I think when you’re thinking about your leg and how you can swing in a way so it doesn’t hurt, you’re almost, not guaranteeing an out, but not putting yourself in a position to do something productive.”
While Lowell is out for the next round of the playoffs, he withheld judgment about whether he might be able to play should the Sox advance past Tampa to the World Series.
“If the World Series started tomorrow, it would probably be impossible,” said Lowell. “But we’ve got a little bit of time. We’ll see.”
Lowell was replaced on Boston’s ALDS roster by Gil Velazquez, a utility infielder who was called up from the minors in the season’s final week.
The game marked the 104th postseason walk-off victory of all time, and the ninth by the Red Sox. The only team with more walk-offs is the Yankees, who have 17. Monday marked the 23rd time in postseason history that a series ended on a walk-off…
The Sox had not won a postseason series in which led two games to one since the 1918 World Series, when they beat the Cubs. The four-game series win also marked the first time since 1999 that the team was in a series that did not end in either a sweep or a winner-take-all game…
The Sox had been involved in five sweeps (Division Series wins over the Angels in 2004 and 2007, World Series wins over the Cardinals in 2004 and Rockies in 2007, Division Series loss to the White Sox in 2005) and four winner-take-all series (2003 Division Series win over Oakland, ALCS wins over the Yankees in 2004 and Indians in 2007, ALCS loss to the Yankees in 2003)…
Jason Bay scored a run in each of the three Red Sox wins in the series. He hit .412 (7-for-17) with four extra-base hits (2 doubles, 2 homers), including homers in each of the first two games of the series, and a ninth-inning double that allowed him to score the series clinching run in Game 4. It appeared that Angels catcher Mike Napoli accidentally stepped on Bay’s hand while trying to block the plate…
The Angels left 43 runners on base in the series: 9 in Game 1, 11 in Game 2, 16 in Game 3 and 7 in Game 4. That came up just short of Seattle’s Division Series record of 49 runners left on base, achieved in a five-game series in 1995…
Though Angels slugger Vlad Guerrero hit .463 (7-for-15) in the series, he did not drive in a single run in the four games. He has driven in just one run in his last 17 playoff games.
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