David Brown

Rays, Garza rock 'n' roll the Red Sox in Game 3 of ALCS

David Brown
Big League Stew

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Behold, the powerful right arm of Matt Garza! The wiry shoulders of B.J. Upton! The medical miracle that is Rocco Baldelli! The juggernaut that is the Tampa Bay Rays!

The Boston Red Sox got an up-close look Monday night, and the Rays got something even better, a 9-1 victory in Game 3 of the ALCS that put them two wins from the World Series. Here are a few thoughts regarding the biggest event in Tampa Bay-St. Petersburg baseball history at least until Tuesday:

Garza strips: The spunky right-hander was pure domination for six innings (which is the "new" complete game these days) before appearing to run out of petrol in the seventh. Famous earlier in his career for losing control of his emotions, even with his own catcher, Garza doesn't do that anymore. He just gets outs, which can be tough to do in Fenway Pahhhk against a top-notch lineup. The Red Sox never mounted even a semblance of a comeback until the seventh, and that was neutralized by the Rays bullpen. This shot of Garza, giving the "Devil Horns" sign as a nod to the Rays' nickname history, was taken by an expert AP photog.

Upton train: Continuing his postseason blossoming-into-greatness, B.J. Upton cranked a three-run home run to key a four-run third inning against Jon Lester, who had become everyone's favorite Red Sox pitcher. Upton, who had nine homers in the regular season, has five in the playoffs.

Rocco our world: In his hometown(ish) park, Woonsocket, R.I., native Baldelli started in right field for the first time this postseason. It probably was a move by manager Joe Maddon to settle him down; TBS announcer Buck Martinez said Baldelli told him he was too nervous to even step on the field before the game. Baldelli's come a long way, losing more than 100 games in the regular season to a neuromuscular disorder that threatened his career, to contributing to a 102-victory team nearing baseball's holy grail.

Lester molesters: The feisty left-hander came in with a 3-0 record and an 0.77 ERA in five playoff appearances, but that's a little messier now. With Lester shown to be imperfect, and with Josh Beckett ailing (or whatever his problem is) do the Red Sox have enough arms to wriggle themselves back to the World Series?

Exit strategy: Baldelli's three-run deep against Paul Byrd in the eighth sent many in the Fenway crowd filing through the aisles. Wait, Red Sox fans, the game's not over yet, don't leave! OK, now it's over. G'head.

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