The Boston Red Sox took advantage of some defensive miscues by the Tampa Bay Rays to grab an early ALDS lead with a dominant 12-2 win at Fenway Park on Friday afternoon.
Rays youngster Matt Moore was cruising to start Game 1, giving up zero hits the first time through Boston's formidable lineup. After getting solo home runs from Sean Rodriguez and Ben Zobrist, Moore carried a 2-0 lead into the bottom of the fourth inning.
That's when things fell apart.
After Dustin Pedroia led off the inning with a single, David Ortiz appeared to hit a routine (but towering) fly ball. There was miscommunication in the Rays outfield, and rookie right fielder Wil Myers let the ball harmlessly drop for an odd ground-rule double in what turned to out to be the major turning point of the game:
Two batters later, Jonny Gomes crushed a double off the top of the Green Monster, driving home Pedroia and Ortiz to tie the score.
ESPN's Buster Olney had this explanation from Myers regarding the play:
Wil Myers said unequivocally: no one called for that ball; he saw Desmond Jennings out of the corner of his eye and backed off.— Buster Olney (@Buster_ESPN) October 4, 2013
After Jarrod Saltalamacchia struck out in what should have been the third out of the inning, Stephen Drew drove home Gomes (yes, from second base) on an infield single, and Will Middlebrooks hit an RBI double. Moore got another strikeout—this one of Jacoby Ellsbury—to seemingly end the inning, but a passed ball from Jose Lobaton extended the nightmare and Shane Victorino hit a single to drive in another run.
When the damage was finally done, the Red Sox had put up a five spot in the truly bizarre inning.
Moore couldn't recover, as Boston tacked on three more in fifth, and he had to be taken out after giving up eight hits, two walks and eight runs (seven earned) over 4.1 innings. He struck out four.
An eight-spot was more than enough insurance for Jon Lester, who settled into an impressive groove after giving up those two early solo homers. Lester retired 11 in a row at one point and finished with an efficient line: 7.2 innings, three hits, two walks, two earned runs and seven strikeouts.
Red Sox reporter Brian MacPherson had this note on Lester's stellar performance:
Jon Lester threw 71 strikes. The last two Red Sox pitchers to throw 70+ strikes in a playoff game also were Jon Lester.— Brian MacPherson (@brianmacp) October 4, 2013
The Red Sox would add four more runs in the bottom of the eighth inning to put an exclamation mark on the emphatic, message-sending victory over their AL East rivals.
Matt Moore, Rays: C
Usually when you see a guy give up eight hits, two walks and seven earned runs through 4.1 innings, you're going to see a big fat "F" next to his name.
But Moore had some bad luck.
If Myers would have caught Ortiz's fly ball instead of letting it drop for a double, Moore (assuming everything else stayed the same) would have escaped the fourth inning with one earned run (zero if Pedroia doesn't score from first on Gomes' double).
While Moore wasn't razor-sharp by any means, the defense behind needs to be much crisper.
Jon Lester, Red Sox: A-
A bit of a slow start (two home runs) and finish (two walks in the eighth), but Lester was on his game on Friday.
The Rays mustered just one hit outside of those two long balls and were 0-6 with a runner in scoring position.
This was an "ace" start from Lester, and if he continues to anchor this pitching staff like that, the Red Sox are going to be incredibly difficult to beat in a five or seven-game series.
Jonny Gomes, Red Sox: A
The Red Sox compiled 12 runs and 14 hits, so you can give credit to a lot of players here. Victorino had three hits and two RBI, while Ellsbury, Pedroia and Saltalamacchia also added two hits.
Who was Boston's Offensive MVP?
But let's focus on Gomes.
While his game-tying two-run double off the top of the Monster will probably be the hit everyone remembers, his hustle two batters later might have been more impressive.
When Stephen Drew legged out an infield single, Gomes never stopped running, as he showed alert base-running skills and scored all the way from second base.
He also added a walk and another run scored in the solid all-around performance.
Game 2 will be on Saturday at 5:37 p.m. ET. John Lackey is scheduled to face David Price.