"Yeah, you know once the playoffs start, everything is a clean slate," left fielder Jonny Gomes said. "No longer is it the best team, it's the hottest team and we obviously know Tampa is coming in hot, coming in on a roll. So it took a couple of innings to break the ice, but once [Dustin Pedroia] got that hit up the middle, I think it took a lot of the questions out."
After holding the Red Sox hitless through the first three innings and leading 2-0, the Rays and starter Matt Moore had a rough time in the fourth. After Pedroia singled up the middle to lead off the inning, David Ortiz hit a deep fly ball to right field where Rays rookie right fielder Wil Myers misplayed it and it bounced into the Red Sox bullpen setting up second and third with no outs, completely changing the game. Following a Mike Napoli pop out, Gomes ripped a two-RBI double off the Monster scoring Pedroia and Ortiz, tying the game at two and the Sox really never looked back.
“That play was kind of confusing," Ortiz said of his ground rule double. "All I saw was the ball bouncing behind [Myers] and wasn’t sure if it fell in front of the fence or after the fence. I don’t know what happened after that.”
Two batters later, Stephen Drew legged out an infield single, barely beating Moore to the bag, and with all his momentum going towards right field Gomes was able to round third and score all the way from second. Drew then scored on a wall-ball double from Will Middlebrooks, which Rays left fielder Sean Rodriguez badly misplayed, and then the Sox got their fifth and final run of the inning on a slap single to right from Shane Victorino scoring Middlebrooks.
The Red Sox kept the momentum going in the fifth, adding two more runs and batting around for a second straight inning. Napoli doubled off the Monster and then Gomes was intentionally walked, setting the stage for Jarrod Saltalamacchia who also doubled off the Monster, scoring Napoli and Gomes and giving the Sox a 7-2 lead ending Moore's afternoon. After an intentional walk to Middlebrooks, Jacoby Ellsbury made the Rays pay with a single up the middle scoring Saltalamacchia for the eighth Red Sox run. It was the first time in postseason history where the Sox batted around in consecutive innings.
Up 8-2 in the eighth the Sox didn't let up, plating four more runs. The first came on an RBI single from Victorino scoring Ellsbury and then Napoli drew a bases loaded walk. Gomes then hit into a double play, but Victorino was able to score putting the Sox up 11-2 and Saltalamacchia closed the scoring out with an RBI single plating Pedroia.
Every member of the Sox lineup recorded a hit with Victorino leading the way with three, while Ellsbury, Pedroia and Saltalamacchia each contributed two in the 14-hit attack. Their 14 hits in a postseason game were the most since they also had 14 in Game 2 of the 2008 ALDS.
"I think that just says how -- you see nine hitters, and we all work together," Gomes said. "The inning, we scored, right before me, Napoli didn't get it done, but I think he saw seven or eight pitches. With that being said, I don't know if he tired out [Moore] or what, but from the on-deck circle I was able to see eight pitches and it allowed me to jump on the first two. Guys that don't drive in runs or don't get the big hits, but we definitely work one through nine. We don't sit back and wait for the three-run home homer.
"You know, with that being said, we continue to apply pressure, like you saw with the base running today. We saw the bags, but even going first to third, scoring from first, just you know, true all-around athletes throughout our lineup as well."
Aside from two pitches, Jon Lester was outstanding going 7 2/3 innings, allowing two runs on three hits. Two of the three hits were home runs, which were his only mistakes on the day. Rodriguez belted a 3-2 pitch into the Monster seats with two outs in the second and Ben Zobrist led off the fourth with a homer, but that was all the Rays could get against Lester who had control of all of his pitches and even hit 97 MPH on the radar gun a few times. Lester retired 11 in a row between the fourth and seventh innings.
“This is his game," Saltalamacchia said. "He is such a big game pitcher and I wouldn’t want anyone else on the mound in that situation.”
Lester was focused from the outset, striking out the first four hitters of the game, setting the tone for the remainder of the afternoon.
"Yeah, obviously getting to start Game 1 at Fenway Park is pretty exciting," he said. "The adrenaline was going. Our game plan early was to set the tone, come right after the guys. It felt pretty good. And obviously the velocity up there showed, so I just tried to carry that over."
Junichi Tazawa came on for the final out in the eighth and Ryan Dempster pitched the ninth to close out the win.
The teams will be right back at it tomorrow afternoon (5:37, TBS) for Game 2 which will see John Lackey go up against David Price.
What they'll be saying: The biggest takeaway from the game was the offensive output between the fourth and fifth innings. Going into those innings the Red Sox were hitless, but came out of them up 8-2 and with 10 hits. This could possibly be because of their four day layoff before the series and they needed an at-bat to get back in game mode. The Sox got it done without a home run as their 12 runs were the most runs in a game without hitting a homer in club postseason history ... Lester gave the Sox exactly what is expected from a Game 1 starter as he pitched into the eighth inning for the first time in his postseason career. He has struck out seven or more batters in four of his seven postseason starts, with those of those seven-plus strikeout games coming against the Rays ... There is no question it was very important to take Game 1, but they cannot afford to take the pedal off the gas with Price going for the Rays tomorrow as Friday's win doesn't mean much if the teams go back to Tampa tied at one, as the Rays have the ability to bring Price back on full rest for a potential Game 5 at Fenway next Thursday.