With the series shifting to Fenway Park for the next three games, the Red Sox look to continue their dominance in Boston on Monday in Game 3 of the ALCS as they try to prevent the Rays from building off their big win.
Boston and Tampa Bay combined for seven home runs, tying a postseason record, but the game was won on B.J. Upton’s sacrifice fly in the 11th inning as the Rays outlasted the Red Sox 9-8.
“We did not want to go to Boston down 0-2,” said Tampa Bay’s Evan Longoria, who opened the home run barrage with a two-run shot in the first inning to snap an 0-for-13 drought.
Upton and Cliff Floyd also homered as the Rays appeared to steal away the momentum with their Game 2 win, but the Red Sox would argue they have the advantage with the next three games being at Fenway.
“Why not?” Boston’s David Ortiz asked. “Return to the house. Good things happen over there.”
The Red Sox had the majors’ second-best home record at 56-25 this season, and have won 12 of their last 15 playoff games at Fenway.
“I don’t really see the sense of urgency right now,” said Boston’s Jon Lester, who has not lost at home since April and will start Monday. “We’re at home, and we’ve got three against them here, and hopefully we can put up a good fight these next couple games and pick up a couple wins.”
In the regular season, Boston won its first seven games against the Rays at Fenway before dropping the final two of a three-game series on Sept. 9 and 10. That was the first series Boston lost to Tampa Bay at home since 1999, as the Red Sox have won 32 of their last 39 home games against the Rays.
“Those were huge momentum shifts,” Tampa pitcher Matt Garza, slated to start Monday, told the team’s official Web site. “We needed those two in Boston - it let us know there is no curse, that we can play there and win.”
The victories at Fenway were hardly easy for the Rays, though, as they needed two runs in the ninth inning for one win and scored three in the 14th for the other. Boston lost those games by a combined three runs after outscoring Tampa Bay by at least three runs in each of its seven wins.
“Game 3 is going to be a pivotal game no matter what,” said Garza (0-1, 7.50 ERA). “It’s their first game on their home turf, so there’s going to be a lot of momentum on their side.”
Plus, the Red Sox have been unbeatable at Fenway virtually all season when Lester (1-0, 0.00) has been on the mound.
Including his AL division series start against the Los Angeles Angels last Monday, Lester is 11-0 with a 1.78 ERA in his last 15 outings at Fenway with the Red Sox winning each game.
He has been even better against the Rays, posting a 0.90 ERA in winning all three starts against them this season - all in Boston.
The right-hander also looks to continue his postseason dominance, having gone 2-0 without allowing an earned run in 19 2-3 innings over three playoff starts.
After allowing an unearned run with seven strikeouts in seven innings of a 4-1 win at Los Angeles in Game 1 of the ALDS, Lester gave up four hits in seven shutout innings in Boston’s 3-2 series-clinching win in Game 4 against the Angels.
“It doesn’t matter to me who’s the No. 1 starter and who’s the No. 5 starter. We all have equal importance to this team when it comes to winning,” Lester said. “I just try to go out and execute pitches. Hopefully I can go deep in the game and give the bullpen a rest.”
While Lester and the Red Sox have been stellar at home this season, Garza has struggled on the road.
The right-hander went 4-6 with a 4.53 ERA in 15 road starts during the regular season, compared to 7-3 with a 2.89 ERA in 15 outings at Tropicana Field. He pitched at Chicago in Game 3 of the ALDS, giving up five runs, seven hits and four walks in six innings of a 5-3 loss to the White Sox.
Garza’s only start of the season at Fenway was rough. On June 3 at Boston, he was tagged for seven runs and six hits - including two homers - in 5 1-3 innings of a 7-4 loss. In his other three starts against the Red Sox this year - all at home - he went 1-0 with a 3.24 ERA.
Ortiz has homered twice off Garza this season, but the perennial All-Star is only batting .174 (4-for-23) with one RBI in the playoffs. Jason Bay has helped make up for Ortiz’s quiet bat, leading Boston in batting average (.440), home runs (three), RBIs (nine) and runs (five) in the postseason.
Youkilis, who has hit safely all nine of his career ALCS games, is 6-for-10 in this series, but is 1-for-12 lifetime against Garza.