ALCS Game 4: One Step CloserOctober 15, 2008 at 6:27 pm | Posted in Baseball, Rays | 1 Comment
The minute I heard that Tim Wakefield was going to be starting in Game 4 of the ALCS for the Red Sox, I knew that the Rays would be able to win that game. It feels good to say that because Wakefield used to dominate the Rays. For years, he would be almost completely unhittable against them. Their young lineup couldn’t figure out how to hit that slow knuckleball. He was especially good at Tropicana Field where the indoor air seemed to make the knuckleball even more effective. Any time I’d see that the (Devil) Rays were going to face Wakefield, I’d chalk it up as a loss.
That changed on September 23, 2007. My wife and I went to the Rays vs. Red Sox game at the Trop that day after a week-long Caribbean cruise that finished in Tampa. Wakefield was starting for Boston that today and I predicted certain doom for the Rays. To my amazement, the Rays had no problem against Wakefield, scored 4 runs in 5 innings against him. They won the game 5-4. That success carried into the 2008 season. Wakefield was horrible against the Rays all year, culminating in the September 17 game in which they scored 6 runs in 2 1/3 innings against him with 3 home runs. That was the game where Joe Maddon decided to have the switch hitters bat right-handed against Wakefield. Going into Game 4 of the ALCS, it was clear that the Rays were confident that they knew how to beat him.
Everything went right for the Rays and the outcome was never in doubt after the first inning when Carlos Pena and Evan Longoria teed off against Wakefield for back-to-back home runs to make it 3-0. Willy Aybar added a two-run homer in the 3rd and an RBI single in the 5th to make it 6-1. In the 6th inning, it really got fun. A triple by Jason Bartlett and a bunch of singles and walks given up by the Red Sox bullpen resulted in an 11-1 lead. Both teams added some inconsequential runs after that, and the final score was 13-4. A total blowout!
Andy Sonnanstine turned in another great playoff start. He’s going to be the best 5th starter in baseball for the next few years (behind Shields, Kazmir, Garza, and Price). The biggest star on offense was Carl Crawford, who went 5-for-5 with a triple, two doubles, and two stolen bases. It’s great to see him back 100% healthy. No player had to endure more losing in Tampa Bay than Crawford (he’s been on the team since 2002) so I’m very glad that he’s able to play a key role for the team this postseason.
These last two games have been very good for my stress level. As much as I enjoyed the 11-inning game on Saturday night, it’s nice to be able to just sit back on the couch and enjoy the show while your team demolishes the opposition.
So here we are with the Rays up 3-1 in the ALCS, only one win away from the World Series! I really can’t believe that I’m typing that. I’m certainly not going to say that the series is over, because I’ve seen Boston come back from 3-1 deficits (and a 3-0 deficit) the last two times they were in the ALCS. But I just can’t envision a comeback for the Red Sox this time. Their entire lineup, except for Dustin Pedroia, is struggling, their starting pitching has been bad, and their bullpen (except for Papelbon) has been awful too.
I’m hoping that the Rays can wrap this up on Thursday night in Boston. Daisuke Matsuzaka will be pitching for Boston, and I know that the Rays hitters will be ready to get the job done to make up for their poor performance against him in last Friday’s game. Joe Maddon has rearranged the Rays starting rotation. Scott Kazmir will pitch in Game 5 because he’s had a lot of success in Fenway Park and because he’s had problems with the strike zone of the guy who is scheduled to be the home plate umpire in Game 6. James Shields will pitch in Game 6 “if necessary” at Tropicana Field. Shields has been much better at home (2.59 ERA) than on the road (4.82 ERA) this year. This is a gutsy move by Maddon. If Kazmir pitches badly (as he did in Game 2) and the Rays lose Game 5, there will be a lot of second guessing. But I’m trusting Maddon here. It seems like every decision that he’s made this year has been the right one, and he knows what he’s doing much more than I would.
Go Rays! Let’s win Game 5 and then bring the American League pennant home to St. Pete! And some good Rays card to me from Cardboard Addiction!