Sunday, October 19, 2008

Rays Stop Red Sox in Game 7 of ALCS

There will be a new World Series Champion in 2008. The Tampa Bay Rays defeated the Boston Red Sox 3-1 in Game 7 of the American League Championship Series. The Rays advance to their first World Series in franchise history and will host the Philadelphia Phillies in Game 1 on Wednesday night.

This loss is a little hard to take. It would have been easier had the Rays won Game 5 and put the Sox out of their misery. But with the Red Sox overcoming a 7-0 lead on Thursday and then winning Game 6 last night 4-2 there was reason to believe the Sox would triumph in the ALCS as they had against the New York Yankees in 2004 and the Cleveland Indians in 2007.

The Red Sox got off to 1-0 lead in the first on a solo home run by Dustin Pedroia. They never scored again. Matt Garza pitched into the 8th and only surrendered one other hit apart from the Pedroia home run. The Rays tied the game in the 4th on an Evan Longoria double. Rocco Baldelli drove in the go ahead run with a single in the 5th. It is nice to see Baldelli do well. His career has been plagued by injuries which have been complicated by mitochondrial abnormalities which have rendered him exhausted and unable to play more than a few innings at a time. Baldelli also hit a home run in Game 4 in Boston. That was nice because Baldelli grew up in Rhode Island and got to share the moment with his 10-year-old brother who also has medical problems.

Willy Aybar put the icing on the cake with a solo home run in the 7th. The Rays bullpen which had imploded in Game 5 did its job, especially David Price. With two out and the bases loaded, Price struck out Game 5 hero J.D. Drew to end the inning. Price was the Rays first round draft pick in the June 2007 MLB Draft. A little over a year later he saves the game clincher to win the AL pennant. I think the Rays have found their new closer. After walking Jason Bay, Price struck out Mark Kotsay and Jason Varitek. Pinch hitter Jed Lowrie hit the ball softly to Akinori Iwamura who tagged second base and pocketed the ball. Rays won 3-1.

Give the Rays credit. The implosion they endured in Game 5 and the loss last night would have done in most teams, especially a team of 20-somethings. But they beat the defending World Series Champions and are going to the Fall Classic.

Matt Garza was named the ALCS MVP. He won tonight's game as well as Game 3. Earlier in the season, Garza got into a row with catcher Dioner Navarro and was unable to control his emotions let alone his pitches. Garza, who was acquired in an off-season trade with the Twins along with shortstop Jason Bartlett, certainly got both under control in this post-season.

Yes, I am very disappointed. All the more so having been witness to the miracle of Game 5. But let's look at it this way. People in Boston and New England still celebrate Carlton Fisk's 12th inning home run in Game 6 of the 1975 World Series despite the fact the Cincinnati Reds won the World Series in Game 7. Game 5 of the 2008 ALCS will stand on its own in Red Sox Nation in the same way Game 6 is lauded.

Of course, I predicted the Rays to win the World Series - in 2006. But when the Rays hired Joe Maddon I saw a team going into the right direction. It didn't occur as quickly as I thought but it occurred a lot more quickly than almost anyone outside the Rays organization thought possible.

A Rays-Phillies World Series will be a ratings loser for FOX but it should be a good one. The Rays in six.

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