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Sunday, October 19, 2008

Red Sox force Game 7 in ALCS

I thought the Tampa Bay Rays were different. After being the better team for games 1-5 (until the final seven outs of game 5), the Rays appear to have unraveled as the Red Sox took game 6 at the Trop, 4-2.

Yet another Boston Red Sox playoff comeback that seemed so unlikely, now seems almost inevitable. How much can one crazy rally change?

Josh Beckett was the Sox' biggest question mark heading into game 6 and he submitted a fine performance given the circumstances (and his probable injury). He went five innings, giving up two runs on four hits with a walk and three strikeouts.

For Tampa, Big Game James Shields failed to live up to his name as he gave up four (three earned) runs on nine hits in 5.2 innings, with three walks and three strikeouts.

TBS had a power outage so the first 21 minutes of the game were blacked out (really). That means the national audience missed Babe Ruth, I mean B.J. Upton's solo homer off Beckett in the first.

Boston responded as Kevin Youkilis hit a matching solo blast in the second off Shields. Youkilis put the Sox up 2-1 in the third with an RBI groundout that scored Dustin Pedroia.

The Rays tied it up with another long ball, from the most unlikely of sources: Jason Bartlett (his second of the season) hooked one down the left field line.

Maybe even more improbable than that was when Sox catcher Jason Varitek recorded his first hit in the sixth: a solo homer to right center off Shields. David Ortiz made it 4-2 with an RBI single to right which beat the shift.

Coco Crisp once again was great in the leadoff spot with three hits, a walk and a run.

From there, Boston got outstanding work from its bullpen. Hideki Okajima (who hasn't given up a run in the playoffs) went two scoreless innings, Justin Masterson (how good is he?) pitched a scorless eighth before handing it over to Mr. Automatic, Jonathan Papelbon. The 1-2-3 ninth from Pap gave him the save and more importantly forced a winner-takes-all game 7 tonight at the Trop.

It'll be Jon Lester against Matt Garza. You have to feel like the Sox have all the momentum in the world plus Lester will almost certainly have a better start than he did in game 3 (five runs). Just sayin'.