October 6, 2013

MLB Playoffs Notebook: Wall ball left Rays wailing

The Associated Press

No team in the American League had more of a home-field advantage this season than the Boston Red Sox.

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Seth Smith of Oakland may have wanted a word with the umpire early in the game, but the A’s were celebrating late, scoring in the ninth to beat Detroit 1-0 and even the series.

The Associated Press

Marlon Byrd
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The Pittsburgh Pirates needed a veteran presence and Marlon Byrd needed a chance to reach the postseason. Everybody benefited from the waiver wire move in August.

The Associated Press

SUNDAY’S GAMES

St. Louis (Kelly) at Pittsburgh (Liriano), 4:37 p.m. (TBS)

Atlanta (Teheran) at L.A. Dodgers (Ryu), 8:07 p.m. (TBS)

The Red Sox went 53-28 at Fenway Park, the best home record in the league. And they won their first home game of the AL division series against the Tampa Bay Rays 12-2 on Friday, thanks in part to Fenway's quirks and odd configuration.

In a five-run fourth inning that turned a two-run deficit into a three-run lead, Will Middlebrooks' line drive took a strange hop off the Green Monster standings posted on the scoreboard. That allowed Stephen Drew to score and may have helped Middlebrooks make it to second base.

"You've got so many different angles," Boston Manager John Farrell said. "You get team plates. You've got different things that are hanging on that, so there's going to be a lot of potential caroms that are going to be inconsistent."

Farrell said the team practices taking balls off the wall every day. But one can never really anticipate all the different ways a ball can fly when it hits a hook or ladder or ad that on the 37-foot-high Green Monster.

Plus, there are an assortment of surfaces, producing differing ricochets.

"It's a matter of getting comfortable with the space that an outfielder plays with it out there," Farrell said. "Whether it's Jonny Gomes, (Daniel) Nava or (Mike) Carp, there's daily work that goes on there. Part of why it's home-field advantage."

Rays left fielder Sean Rodriguez struggled all game playing the carom off the Wall. But the Rays' biggest problem in the fourth couldn't really be blamed on Fenway. Right fielder Wil Myers went back to catch David Ortiz's popup in front of the Red Sox bullpen, but he backed off at the last minute when he saw center fielder Desmond Jennings in the corner of his eye.

It first looked like one of the Boston relievers might have called for it to confuse the fielders, but Myers said that's not what happened.

"No, no, no. There's no chicanery by the Red Sox," Rays Manager Joe Maddon said, adding: "Although I would not put it past them."

NEITHER THE Oakland Athletics nor the Detroit Tigers planned workouts for Sunday at Comerica Park given the overnight travel challenges awaiting them.

Game 2 of the AL division series was set for Saturday night in Oakland. Game 3 was Monday afternoon in Motown.

The A's were scheduled to land in Detroit sometime around 6 a.m. Sunday, depending on how long Game 2 took.

Oakland Manager Bob Melvin will alter his club's typical pregame routine for a day game by taking batting practice Monday at Comerica.

"It's an interesting turnaround, it's one that's unique," Melvin said. "But there's not a problem with adrenaline in the postseason. We usually don't hit before day games, we hit in the cage and don't usually hit on the field, but this is one you do have to hit on the field to get used to the conditions on the field."

FOR TWO teams so evenly matched, the Pittsburgh Pirates and St. Louis Cardinals don't play a ton of tight games.

Only five of the 21 games between the two NL Central rivals this season have been decided by no more than two runs. Instead, 13 have resulted in margins of five runs or more, including a 9-1 win for St. Louis in Game 1 of the NL division series and a 7-1 romp for the Pirates in Game 2.

(Continued on page 2)

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