For all the things I miss about the East Coast – and for all my plans to move back there just as soon as employment allows – I don't mind saying that tonight I was glad to be on Pacific Time. The game was glorious, right up to Papelbon’s last strike.
The early innings were as nerve-wracking as it gets, and through five I had that old sinking feeling. We were down by just one run, but it felt like more. We couldn’t seem to get anything started, with every fledgling rally dying young. Lester appeared d to be having control issues, and with our bats almost silent it seemed inevitable that things would get worse. The Angels beat Boston in eight of nine regular season games. Why should they stop in October?
Excuse my fatalism. It’s a bad habit.
As it turned out, the Sox stepped it up in a big way, and by the bottom of the ninth my nausea was instead a disbelieving joy. After the early struggles, Jon Lester turned in a shining performance. He allowed only six hits and one unearned run over seven innings, with seven K's and one walk. He worked out of jams early on, and stayed out of them late. After that unearned run, Lester never gave the Angels another chance. In the sixth inning, he struck out the side! He may have been pitching tonight as Beckett’s understudy, but he played his role like a born ace.
When the bats came alive too, the game really turned around. Five whole innings the Sox couldn't get a man home, and then Bay changed all that with a two run bomb, grabbing a lead for Boston that they never gave back. And while Bay’s first two at bats each ended with an ugly strike three, it now looks like postseason play suits him nicely. He finished the night with two hits, two RBIs, and a run scored. His homer was the biggest hit of the night.
Bay’s was the only ball to leave the park, but the Red Sox took two insurance run with a flawless round of small ball. In the 9th, Lowrie led off with a single. Tek advanced him to second with a sacrifice bunt, and Ellsbury singled to bring him home. Then Ellsbury stole his second base of the night, and Ortiz singled to bring in Ellsbury. Their execution could not have been more perfect.
Masterson got through the 8th with a pair of hits but no real incident, and Papelbon was his usual dominating self. In the 9th, He struck out three for the save.
Really, this was Lester’s night. He took command, getting over early bumps, and not only staying strong but getting stronger.
And it was Bay’s night too. A two run homer was the highlight of his stand-out first postseason game.
And from the first inning to the ninth, it was Ellsbury’s night. The rookie went 3 for 5, and might have had a triple as his fourth hit, had it not been ruled that he reached third base on an error! He stole twice. He drove in one, and scored one. And in the eighth inning, he defied physics (or at the very least defied some local speed limits) for one of the most remarkable catches I have ever seen. I only thought I understood how fast this kid is!
Why did the Sox win tonight? They did all the little things (hit, steal, sacrifice), and with Bay's shot, the big things too. They played a strong defensive that looked superhuman at time. They kept their nerve.
For a full five innings I thought we were for it. After that, the Sox owned the game. This win was huge for Boston, as they needed to win at least one in Anaheim. They wasted no time, and now that they have it, another out west would be icing.
But you know what?
I’ve always loved icing.
Bring on Game Two!