For Red Sox, yesterday's gone
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- Joe Maddon summoned everybody to pitch for the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field Tuesday night. The guy who feeds the stingrays in the Rays' tank. The gyrating grounds crew guy. The security lady who was checking bags before the game and found a set of false teeth.
Any time Maddon touched either arm, even if it was just to scratch his elbow, a new pitcher entered.
Duke Knutson, the press box attendant. Dave Wills, the radio play-by-play man. Don Zimmer.
Maddon used so many pitchers, TBS ran out of commercials.The guy who waves the pizza flag for free pies for 10 strikeouts. Dick Vitale, the Rays' No. 1 fan. Ben Zobrist's wife, the anthem singer.
Maddon used more pitchers than the Rays have fans, or so it seemed.
Rocco Baldelli, the former Ray (and Red Sox) who threw out the ceremonial first pitch, was lifted only slightly more quickly than Maddon pulled his starter, Jeremy Hellickson, yanked in the second inning of a scoreless tie. Five more pitchers proceeded to the mound by the seventh inning, and the Red Sox still hadn't scored.
Maddon managed as though there was no tomorrow -- which there isn't for his team anymore -- and Tampa Bay used nine pitchers, none for more than two innings, before succumbing 3-1 to the Red Sox, who eliminated the Rays three games to one to advance to the ALCS to face the winner of the Detroit Tigers-Oakland A's series.
"That was different," said Jake Peavy, the Sox starter who must have felt a little like Leonidas in "300," holding off the Rays single-handedly while they came at him in waves. "I've never seen anybody like Hellickson get such a quick hook. Joe Maddon is an outstanding manager, and obviously he thought that was the right move."
Red Sox manager John Farrell, meanwhile, managed as though there was no yesterday. What he insisted was absolutely clear-cut Monday -- not to use Xander Bogaerts to pinch hit for Stephen Drew against Rays left-hander Jake McGee -- made perfect sense in the seventh inning Tuesday night.Did it ever. Bogaerts, as precocious a rookie as the Red Sox have developed in years, patiently drew a one-out walk from McGee, who had spooked the Sox the night before with an overpowering eighth inning, in which he struck out Jarrod Saltalamacchia and retired Drew on a pop fly with two on.
Bogaerts went from first to third on a single by Jacoby Ellsbury, whose nine hits made him Boston's eminent batsman in the series, prompting Maddon to gesture for his sixth pitcher of the night, Joel Peralta. Maddon might as well have been hailing a cab to take him home.
Peralta's first pitch bounced through catcher Jose Lobaton for a wild pitch, allowing Bogaerts to score and Ellsbury, who had second base stolen, to cruise into third. From there, Ellsbury scored on Shane Victorino's infield chopper to short, the Red Sox accomplishing with speed -- a rare concept in Boston annals -- what they had once achieved only by bashing people into submission.
"Well, I reserve the right to change my mind," said Farrell, after a postgame champagne soaking administered by bench coach Torey Lovullo and pitcher Jon Lester, the Red Sox making a bigger splash with their bubbly bash than Lobaton had made with his walk-off home run into the Rays Tank Monday night.
"And given some of the struggles Stephen has had -- we had talked about this leading into the series," Farrell said, "I felt like at the moment, as tough as left-handers have been on Stephen, I felt like we had to try something different.
"And for a young guy [Bogaerts] that's been sitting quite a while, obviously he showed tremendous poise and almost ice in his veins."
Bogaerts just turned 21 a week ago Tuesday. How impressive was that at-bat, in which he laid off three 96 mph fastballs from McGee after falling behind in the count 1 and 2?
"I'm not having that at-bat at 21, I'm telling you right now," said Jonny Gomes, his buddy's Afghanistan-tested combat helmet affixed upon his head for the second time this season, the first being after the Sox clinched the AL East. "I don't know what I was doing at 21.
"I mean, he's a great kid. You guys see his talent in between the lines, we see his talent inside the clubhouse, his will to work, and his will to win, and he's off to a heck of a start. To be 21 years old, with postseason experiences, says a heck of a lot."
More evidence that Farrell hit "delete memory" from the night before: After a sensational five-out stint from Craig Breslow (four strikeouts, an infield hit) in relief of Peavy (5⅔ innings, one run), the Sox manager called upon Koji Uehara to record the final four outs, even though it was Uehara who had given up Lobaton's walk-off home run Monday.
Farrell had spoken Tuesday afternoon with his Japanese closer. "He's fine," Farrell said. "He's good to go."Was he ever. (Do you sense a pattern here?) After Farrell got the matchup he wanted for setup man Junichi Tazawa -- waiting for Sean Rodriguez to be announced as a pinch hitter before bringing in the right-hander -- Maddon summoned slump-ridden Matt Joyce, who struck out.
Uehara then entered and struck out David DeJesus to end the inning.
"I had completely gotten over what happened yesterday," Uehara said. "This was a new day. I wasn't down on myself at all."
By the time he took the mound again, the Sox had added another run, with Bogaerts walking again and coming around on a walk, hit batsman and sacrifice fly by Dustin Pedroia.
David Price, who would have started Game 5 on Thursday, was warming up in the bullpen when Wil Myers flied to deep center. James Loney hit a ball off Uehara's glove that deflected to Pedroia, who threw him out. Standing between the Red Sox and their first trip back to the ALCS since 2008 -- when they were eliminated by the Rays -- was Evan Longoria, the face of the franchise.
Longoria took a half-swing at a 1-and-2 pitch, and plate umpire Paul Emmel threw out his right hand signaling strike three. Uehara, again back to the future, leaped into the arms of catcher David Ross.
"No more, no more," Uehara barked in Japanese at Tazawa, who persisted in emptying bottles of bubbly over the closer's head during each interview he was trying to conduct.
No more for the Rays, true enough. For the Red Sox?
"This is uncharted territory for me," said Breslow, who matched a career high with his four strikeouts. "So every win that we get, I'm going to relish and I'm going to understand we have an ultimate goal in mind. This is great, hopefully this is just one step in the next few."