ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – The Red Sox are returning to Fenway Park.

October baseball continues.

This is a golden time for the New England and its love affair with baseball. For all the recent talk about rebounding from a couple of disastrous seasons, expand the picture just a little.

Seven trips to the playoffs in 11 years.

With sights on a third World Series title.

Tuesday marked the ninth anniversary of David Ortiz coming to bat in the 10th inning of Game 3 of the division series between the Angels and Boston. The score was 6-6. Pinch-runner Pokey Reese was on base.

Angels Manager Mike Scioscia called on left-hander Jarrod Washburn to face Ortiz.

He blasted a ball over the Green Monster and players erupted out of the Red Sox dugout. Boston was on its way.

After a bumpy but successful road through New York and a sweep of St. Louis, the Red Sox were champions.

This year?

The one leftover player from 2004, Ortiz, is still a crucial part of the lineup.

“David is a game-changer,” pitcher Jake Peavy said before Tuesday’s game. “When you watch the attitude that he comes to work with every day, so relaxed, but at the same time so professional.

“David does not get enough credit for being as smart and as prepared as he is to play.”

Ortiz is a leader among a whole lot of leaders in that Red Sox clubhouse.

“I’ve never been around a group of guys who truly have one goal,” Peavy said, “and it’s been talked about since the day I arrived.

“We’re going to win the World Series and do everything we possibly can to make that happen.”

Peavy did his part Tuesday, shutting out Tampa Bay for five innings before the Rays broke through for a run in the sixth. Peavy kept his team in contention.

Just another one of the new guys who has ignited a spark in this team.

In previous years, Boston had more talent than Tampa Bay but the Rays seem to find ways to beat the Red Sox.

Tampa Bay Manager Joe Maddon sees a difference this season.

“In the recent past, regular season and playoffs, we’ve done pretty well against them,” Maddon said. “Their team this year is different.

“A big part of it is beyond the numbers. These guys have great makeup and character. That’s the thing about this particular group that I find most formidable.

“I think right now what you’re seeing is them flipping their culture back, based on a lot of personalities. We’re facing a different kind of foe.”

That foe has eyes on the prize. Will the Red Sox get there?

Who knows?

How can you predict baseball? I mean, would you have predicted that Tampa Bay’s starter would record only one inning Tuesday? Or that Boston would still be shut out through six innings?

It’s baseball.

In October.

Enjoy it.


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

[email protected]

Twitter: ClearTheBases


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