The Boston Red Sox, living a renaissance in their first year under manager John Farrell, have placed the Tampa Bay Rays’ season on the brink.
For the second consecutive night, the Red Sox’s dangerous offense did enough to beat the Rays at Fenway Park in this American League Division Series. For the second consecutive night, the Red Sox did enough against one of Tampa Bay’s best arms, this time reaching left-hander David Price for seven runs and nine hits in seven innings during a 7-4 victory Saturday.
On Monday, the series shifts to Tropicana Field, where the Rays will try to extend their season after losing consecutive games for the first time since dropping two to the Toronto Blue Jays from Sept. 27-28 at Rogers Centre.
Here are a few thoughts on a night when Boston took a 2-0 lead in this best-of-five series …
1. Price never had his best stuff.
He entered 2-2 with a 2.48 ERA in five starts against the Red Sox this season, and he was 6-1 at Fenway Park for his career. However, he lacked the command he showed when he pitched a complete game to lift the Rays past the Texas Rangers in the AL wild-card tiebreaker game last Monday, when he allowed two runs on seven hits.
Price hadn’t allowed more than two runs in his past five starts. The Red Sox reached him for two in the opening inning, which meant an opponent scored first for the first time in the Rays’ past 14 games.
Boston’s left-handed hitters enjoyed rare success against him, after he entered having allowed only seven extra-base hits against left-handers all season. He was decent — he had five strikeouts — but the reigning AL Cy Young Award winner wasn’t good enough to earn the victory.
2. Kudos to Wil Myers for how he handled the Boston crowd.
It was a safe bet that Fenway Park would give the 22-year-old rookie a hard time after his gaffe Friday in right field, and the partisans didn’t disappoint.
There were mock cheers in Myers’ first at-bat. The “MY-ERS” chant lifted throughout the night. The young player handled the attention about as well as manager Joe Maddon could ask, even cracking a smile in the outfield at one point after the “MY-ERS” chant was yelled in full force.
For Myers, this was a clear learning point, and he’ll likely become a more aware defensive player because of it. At the plate, he finished 0 for 5 with one strikeout. But credit him for not losing his head in a situation where it would have been easy to do so.
3. The Rays have had little answer for David Ortiz.
He went 2 for 4 with a double in Game 1, and he broke through for two homers Saturday, the highlights of a night when he went 2 for 4 with two RBI.
Ortiz entered this series as the heart of Boston’s potent lineup, so it’s little surprise he would spark his team again. But the Rays must find an answer to quiet his bat moving forward, starting with right-hander Alex Cobb on Monday.
Ortiz’s line against Cobb this season: 1 for 6 with one RBI and five walks. The Rays can’t allow Ortiz to hurt them this way again.
4. The Red Sox look good right now.
Boston began this ALDS after claiming the season series 12-7, and Tampa Bay has had trouble matching the Red Sox’s deep lineup blow-for-blow these first two games, much like what happened in most of the earlier meetings between these teams.
Is a turnaround possible? Yes, despite the chances being slim. But it’s going to take some heavy work on the Rays’ end. You watch Boston, and there’s aggressive swing after aggressive swing.
Their success against Matt Moore on Friday and Price on Saturday was no accident. Cobb needs to produce an outing that stems Boston’s momentum.
5. The Rays’ season comes down to Cobb.
No one on Tampa Bay’s staff has pitched better lately, and the right-hander fared well with similar stakes Wednesday, when he shut out the Cleveland Indians and allowed eight hits in 6 2/3 innings in the AL wild-card game at Progressive Field.
The Red Sox counter with right-hander Clay Buchholz, who has won three of his past four starts since returning to the rotation Sept. 10 against the Rays after missing more than three months.
Needless to say, the Rays needs Cobb’s best start of the year to quiet a lineup that has outscored them 19-6 this series. He’s 0-1 with a 5.16 ERA in four starts against Boston this season.