One Down: Red Sox Start Critical Series at Tampa With Huge Victory

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One Down: Red Sox Start Critical Series at Tampa With Huge Victory
J. Meric/Getty Images
Jon Lester did his part on Friday night.

Tony Massarotti said on 98.5 The Sports Hub this afternoon that the odds were stacked mightily against the Red Sox heading into Friday night's critical series opener at Tampa Bay.

The Sox were sending Jon Lester to the hill against a team that has pounded left-handed pitching, and the Sox were rolling out a lineup against David Price—who has been death on lefties himself—without their two best right-handed hitters in Dustin Pedroia and Kevin Youkilis.

He also said a win under such circumstances would go a long way toward changing his mind about the playoff chase. Massarotti had all but left the Red Sox for dead, but said a victory Friday night would convince him a postseason appearance may be possible.

I laughed the statement off myself. And then I watched the game.

And couldn't help but feel the same way.

Friday's victory is the kind of win that inspires confidence. It's the kind of win the Red Sox were built for, at the time of year where such a win carries exponentially more value.

The formula was followed to perfection, Jon Lester handed the ball to Daniel Bard, who handed it to Jonathan Papelbon, and all three looked as dominant as expected. The offense didn't go bananas, but it did enough, most notably getting a pair of homers from Victor Martinez. It was just the way Red Sox management drew it up in April.

Of course, it's the kind of win that means nothing if the Sox go out the next two nights and get their lunch handed to them. But, at least for the time being, there's reason to be optimistic. The pitchers who prove vital this time of year appear to be firing on all cylinders. Perhaps most importantly Papelbon, who has been shaky at best at times this season.

And the win closed the gap in the Wild Card to 4.5 games. It's dangerous to get so far ahead of oneself to imagine wins in both of the remaining games of the series, but should such fortune strike the Red Sox the deficit would be down to 2.5 games with plenty of season left.

The simple fact of the matter is even a split of the next two leaves the Sox in solid position, especially given that they have three more with Tampa at Fenway in another 10 days or so. The bottom line is if there is a comeback, it has to start somewhere. And Friday is as good a place as any.

It's too early to put any champagne on ice just yet. But there's plenty of reason to be optimistic following a critical win on Friday night. Reason that may not have been there as recently as five hours ago.

Tony Mazz wasn't lying.

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