March 13, 2010

Strangely familiar

KEVIN THOMAS

— By

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Tampa Bay Rays players congratulate each other after defeating Boston Red Sox 9-1 in Game 3 of the American League baseball championship series in Boston, Monday, Oct. 13, 2008. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)

AP

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Tampa Bay Rays' Carl Crawford runs into Boston Red Sox catcher Jason Varitek as he tries to score on a single by Dioner Navarro in the eighth inning in Game 3 of the American League baseball championship series in Boston, Monday, Oct. 13, 2008. Crawford was out at the plate. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)

AP

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Staff Writer

BOSTON — When Tampa Bay lost Game 1 of the American League Championship Series to Boston on Friday, Rays Manager Joe Maddon shrugged.

''We've been there before,'' Maddon said, referring to September, when Boston won the opening game of two series with Tampa Bay, only to have the Rays win the next two games both times.

Déjà vu, Red Sox fans.

The Rays have again rebounded, and on a bigger stage. Tampa Bay blasted Boston 9-1 Monday evening at Fenway Park, to take a 2-1 lead in the best-of-seven ALCS.

Coming back in September against Boston ''gave us a lot of confidence then,'' said Rays outfielder B.J. Upton, who slammed a three-run homer in the third inning.

''We knew coming back in here, we can win.''

Boston calls upon knuckleball pitcher Tim Wakefield to slow down these can-do kids from St. Petersburg. He pitches tonight's Game 4, vs. Andy Sonnanstine.

When Wakefield is needed in the clutch it means something is wrong. To take the lead in this series, Tampa Bay did what was considered improbable -- beating both Josh Beckett and Jon Lester.

On Monday, the Rays got to Lester for an unearned run in the second inning. Then came the backbreaker -- four runs in the third on Upton's blast and a solo homer by Evan Longoria.

Lester was to get ''a fastball up under (Upton's hands) that he didn't get where he needed to be,'' Red Sox Manager Terry Francona said. ''Then he threw a cutter to Longoria, right in the middle of the plate.

''That was four runs right there ... other than that (Lester) was actually OK.''

Tampa Bay made it a rout with two more home runs against Paul Byrd; a three-run blast by Rocco Baldelli in the eighth, and Carlos Pena's solo in the ninth.

Nine runs was overkill with Matt Garza dealing. Garza, the Rays No. 3 starter, is showing the ace potential Tampa Bay saw in him this offseason, when it traded slugger Delmon Young to the Twins for him.

Garza had his fastball working, painting the corners with 97 mph heat. He gave up one run, six hits and three walks, striking out five over six-plus innings.

''He was throwing his fastball at times by us,'' Francona said. ''And that breaking ball at times that you had to respect.''

Against Garza, Boston put at least one base runner on through seven innings. Only one scored -- Jason Varitek, on Jacoby Ellsbury's sacrifice fly in the seventh.

Tampa Bay had six runners reach base in the first two innings. Five of them scored.

Some Red Sox continue to scuffle in the postseason. Ellsbury, who began the playoffs going 6 for 12, has gone 0 for 20 since, although he did get an RBI.

David Ortiz is hitless in his last 12 playoff at-bats. He was 0 for 4 Monday.

Varitek, batting .125 in the postseason, went 0 for 3, including a strikeout with runners on second and third in the second inning. He did walk and score Boston's only run.

Varitek's fielding got Lester in trouble in the second inning.

Lester, who dispatched the Rays with four pitches in the first inning, gave up a walk and single in the second. Then Varitek mishandled an elevated fastball against Dioner Navarro. The passed ball advanced the runners.

Navarro grounded out to second, scoring Longoria.

Boston had its own chance in the second after a single (Jason Bay) and double (Mark Kotsay). With one out, Varitek took a called third strike, and then Alex Cora flied out to center.

Boston did not get another runner to second base until the seventh inning.

In the top of the third, Jason Bartlett grounded a single to left. Akinori Awamura doubled him to third.

Lester fell behind to Upton 2-0. He threw a curve for a called strike, but then delivered a 94 mph fastball into Upton's wheelhouse.

Upton clocked it, over the Green Monster seats, and Tampa Bay led 4-0. One batter later, Longoria went deep, and the rout began taking shape.

 ''They are tough here, but we knew what we needed to do,'' Navarro said.

Staff Writer Kevin Thomas can be contacted at 791-6411 or at:

kthomas@pressherald.com

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Additional Photos

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Tampa Bay Rays' Carl Crawford runs into Boston Red Sox catcher Jason Varitek as he tries to score on a single by Dioner Navarro in the eighth inning in Game 3 of the American League baseball championship series in Boston, Monday, Oct. 13, 2008. Crawford was out at the plate. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara)

AP

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Tampa Bay Rays starting pitcher Matt Garza, right, congratulates catcher Dioner Navarro after defeating the Boston Red Sox 9-1 in Game 3 of the American League baseball championship series in Boston, Monday, Oct. 13, 2008. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)

AP

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Tampa Bay Rays' Rocco Baldelli, right, is congratulated by his teammates Fernando Perez, rear, and Dioner Navarro (30) after his three run home run off of Boston Red Sox pitcher Paul Byrd (36) in the eighth inning in Game 3 of the American League baseball championship series in Boston, Monday, Oct. 13, 2008. Perez and Navarro scored on the hit. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)

AP

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Tampa Bay Rays' Rocco Baldelli, right, is congratulated by his teammates Fernando Perez (38) and Dioner Navarro (30) after his three run home run in the eighth inning in Game 3 of the American League baseball championship series in Boston, Monday, Oct. 13, 2008. Perez and Navarro scored on the hit. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara)

AP

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Tampa Bay Rays' Rocco Baldelli hits a three run home run off of Boston Red Sox's Paul Byrd in the eighth inning in Game 3 of the American League baseball championship series in Boston, Monday, Oct. 13, 2008. Behind the plate is Boston Red Sox catcher Jason Varitek and home plate umpire Brian O'Nora. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)

AP

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Boston Red Sox pitcher Jon Lester looks out to center field as Tampa Bay Rays' Akinori Iwamura, right, and Jason Bartlett wait for teammate B.J. Upton after Upton's three run home run in the third inning in Game 3 of the American League baseball championship series in Boston, Monday, Oct. 13, 2008. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)

AP

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Boston Red Sox pitcher Jon Lester, left, and Tampa Bay Rays' B.J. Upton watch Upton's three run home run in the third inning against the Red Sox in Game 3 of the American League baseball championship series in Boston, Monday, Oct. 13, 2008. The Rays' Akinori Iwamura and Jason Bartlett scored on the home run. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)

AP

  


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