New plate approach pays off in Red Sox win over Price and the Rays

BOSTON — Entering Saturday’s game in his last five starts at Fenway Park Rays ace David Price had allowed six runs. For obvious reasons the Red Sox needed a new approach against him so instead of their patented patient approach at the plate, the Sox jumped on Price early in the count, which paid off as the Red Sox scored seven times off the Rays left-hander in their 7-4 win at Fenway Park in Game 2 of the ALDS.

“We definitely have a plan going into a game,” left fielder Jonny Gomes said. “That doesn’t mean it can’t change. Price came out throwing strikes. All three pitches he was throwing strikes. This is a team that can be patient, but this is a team that can let it go first two, first three pitches of the at-bat and we did that tonight.”

The Sox got to Price right out of the gates scoring twice in the first inning. Jacoby Ellsbury led off the game with a single and then stole second, advancing to third on a bad throw from catcher Jose Molina. One batter later Dustin Pedroia knocked him home with a sacrifice fly to center and then David Ortiz followed with a towering home run into the Red Sox bullpen giving the Sox a quick 2-0 lead before the Fenway crowd could even settle into their seats.

“I mean, basically his stuff is so good and he attacks the zone so much, we kind of went away from our normal approach to try and work  the count, get the starting pitcher out of the game,” Pedroia said. “We had to hit. That as basically had.”

After the Rays scored a run of their own in the second, the Red Sox responded with two more in the third. Back-to-back doubles from David Ross and Jacoby Ellsbury scored the third run and then they added another on a RBI fielder’s choice from Pedroia, scoring Ellsbury. Tampa responded with two runs in the fifth making it a 5-3 game, but the Sox responded yet again in the sixth on an RBI double from Pedroia scoring Ellsbury. Ortiz added an insurance run with a monster home run to right to lead off the eighth, ending Price’s night.

Price went seven-plus innings, allowing seven runs on nine hits while striking out five and walking two throwing 102 pitches.

“The one thing that I noticed about him was his fastball wasn’t like it usually is,” Ortiz said. “Four or five days ago, complete game to end the season and that catches up with you a little bit. He wasn’t 96-98 MPH like he usually is, but it wasn’t a bad fastball, it just wasn’t his usual stuff.”

Red Sox starter John Lackey certainly didn’t have his best outing by any stretch of the imagination. The right-hander went 5 1/3 innings allowing four runs on seven hits, while walking three and striking out six. His pitch of the night came in the fifth inning when the Rays had first and second and already scored two runs in the inning, but he struck out Ben Zobrist to get out of the jam.

“It definitely wasn’t the best stuff or the best I felt this year,” Lackey said. “It was probably pretty far down there actually, but we got through it. And guys scoring runs, doing what they did against Price was the story of the day, for sure.”

Craig Breslow went 1 2/3 scoreless innings in relief of Lackey, including educing a huge double play ball to escape the seventh inning unharmed. Junichi Tazawa pitched the eighth and also got a huge double play getting out of the inning with no damage. Koji Uehara pitched a 1-2-3 ninth with two strikeouts for the save.

“Each guy that came to the mound did a great job,” manager John Farrell said. “Two key double plays, one by (Breslow) in the seventh, another one with (Tazawa) against (Yunel) Escobar, who has swing well against Junichi over time. We were fresh. We were ready to go, obviously on the heels of (Jon Lester’s) strong performance last night. Even if Escobar doesn’t roll into that double play, Koji is ready to go for a four-out save. But they came in and made some big pitches at key moments.”

The teams will be off Sunday before Game 3 in Tampa Monday night (6:07, TBS) where Clay Buchholz will go up against Alex Cobb as the Red Sox go for the sweep.

What they’ll be saying: The story of the game was once again the Red Sox offense, who scored seven runs off Price, which was a bit unexpected considering his dominance coming in. Each of the three Red Sox left-handers (Ellsbury, Ortiz and Stephen Drew) had a RBI against Price, going a combined 6-for-12 with a double, triple and two home runs. Prior to Saturday, Price hadn’t allowed more than four runs in any game against the Red Sox, regular season or postseason … Ortiz’s homers were his 13th and 14th of his postseason career, and it was the first multi-homer postseason game for the slugger. The last Sox player with a multi-homer postseason game was Pedroia in the 2008 ALCS … Coming into the postseason the big question for the team was their bullpen before Uehara. It wasn’t an issue in Game 2 as the group tossed 3 2/3 scoreless innings and allowed a total of two base runners … Although the series isn’t over, the Sox head to Tampa in a very good position as they haven’t lost three games in a row since Aug. 14-16 and only lost three straight games to the same team once, the Rangers on May 3-5.


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