BOSTON – This Boston Red Sox team may be built to go all the way.

And that has nothing to do with beating a team by 10 runs.

A romp means nothing in the playoffs unless it’s in the deciding game. Ask the 2004 Yankees, who beat Boston 19-8 in Game 3 of the ALCS.

And first-game victories guarantee little. Ask the 2008 Red Sox, who beat the Rays in Game 1 of the ALCS.

But it is the way these Boston Red Sox grabbed a win Friday.

They showed composure.

They showed grit.

And showed enough balance to keep it going.

The composure came early when Jon Lester appeared to strike out Sean Rodriguez on a 2-and-2 change-up in the second inning. Umpire Chris Guccione ruled it a ball.

Lester then threw a full-count fastball over the plate and Rodriguez crushed it for a home run and a 1-0 lead.

The way Matt Moore can pitch, that could have been the game right there.

Lester got a groundout to end the inning and approached Guccione as he walked off the mound.

“I thought it was a pretty good pitch,” Lester said of the change-up. “I asked him he just said it was borderline down. And he had it down.

“So nothing you can do after that.”

When Ben Zobrist clubbed a home run in the fourth for a 2-0 lead, Lester had to regroup again.

“I knew two runs wasn’t going to beat us,” Lester said. “As long as I kept it close enough, our guys were going to figure out (Moore).”

Lester, for his part, allowed one more hit, a single, the rest of his outing.

Now for the grit.

After a fielding goof by Tampa Bay put runners on second and third with no outs, Boston needed to capitalize. Mike Napoli popped out on the fifth pitch from Moore.

“It allowed me to see (all those) pitches and I was able to jump on the first two pitches,” Jonny Gomes said.

After a foul ball, Gomes tattooed the wall for a two-run double.

So the game is tied. But Gomes and company are not done, even with two outs and Stephen Drew hitting a slow bouncer to first.

Drew not only beat out Moore, rushing over to cover first base, but the heads-up Gomes never stopped and scored.

Dustin Pedroia called it the play of the game, saying the whole dugout was electric over Gomes’ hustle.

“The way he plays the game and what he brings every day makes us go,” Pedroia said.

You may not remember, but Gomes did the same thing in the opener in Yankee Stadium, scoring from second base on an infield single.

“We generate runs any way possible,” Gomes said. “And that’s just not my hustle from second. That hustle is definitely erased if Stephen Drew doesn’t hustle to first.

“We don’t sit back and wait for the three-run homer. We continue to apply pressure.”

A lot of talk of “we.” This team keeps relying on each other.

Much is made of the Red Sox character. Before the game, Manager John Farrell joked that “we didn’t say go and find a bunch of good guys and bring them in and lose 95 games.

“We felt the talent was important (as well) as their reputation as quality teammates. The way we’ve gone about this 25 guys buying into a team concept. Things have jelled very well.”

The Red Sox slowed down the juggernaut Rays, who rolled into Fenway on the wave of three must-win victories and plenty of confidence.

They are still confident and bring ace David Price to the mound Saturday.

“We made a bunch of mistakes today,” Tampa Bay Manager Joe Maddon said. “That’s just one game, baby. We’ll be back (Saturday), I promise you. We’ll be ready to play.”

This series is far from over.

But these Red Sox showed something Friday. They had the look of a champion.

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

[email protected]

Twitter: ClearTheBases

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