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2008 American League Championship Series
From BR Bullpen
|2008 American League Championship Series|
|Tampa Bay Rays
97 - 65 in the AL
|4 - 3
|Boston Red Sox|
95 - 67 in the AL
|2008 MLB Postseason|
|AL||LAA - BOS||TB - BOS||PHI - TB|
|TB - CHW|
|NL||CHC - LAD||PHI - LAD|
|PHI - MIL|
|<< 2007||2009 >>|
The American League Championship Series of 2008 featured the upstart Tampa Bay Rays, havbing the first winning season in franchise history and just coming off a win in their first postseason series, agsint the Boston Red Sox, defending World Series champions, and one of the richest and most powerful teams in baseball. In a thrilling series that went the distance, the young Rays managed to hold off the favored Red Sox and continued their new-found excellence by reaching the World Series for the first time.
 The Teams
Tampa Bay Rays
Boston Red Sox
 Series results
|1||Boston Red Sox 2 Tampa Bay Rays 0||October 10||Daisuke Matsuzaka (1-0) James Shields (0-1)||8:37 p.m.|
|2||Boston Red Sox 8 Tampa Bay Rays 9||October 11||Josh Beckett (0-0) Scott Kazmir (0-0)||8:07 p.m.|
|3||Tampa Bay Rays 9 Boston Red Sox 1||October 13||Matt Garza (1-0) Jon Lester (0-1)||4:37 p.m.|
|4||Tampa Bay Rays 13 Boston Red Sox 4||October 14||Andy Sonnanstine (1-0) Tim Wakefield (0-1)||8:07 p.m.|
|5||Tampa Bay Rays 7 Boston Red Sox 8||October 16||Scott Kazmir (0-0) Daisuke Matsuzaka (1-0)||8:07 p.m.|
|6||Boston Red Sox 4 Tampa Bay Rays 2||October 18||Josh Beckett (1-0) James Shields (0-2)||8:07 p.m.|
|7||Boston Red Sox 1 Tampa Bay Rays 3||October 19||Jon Lester (0-2) Matt Garza (2-0)||8:07 p.m.|
 Game 1 @ Tropicana Field
|WP: Daisuke Matsuzaka (1-0), LP: James Shields (0-1), SV: Jonathan Papelbon (1)|
|Home Runs: - none|
- Attendance: 35,001
Both pitchers escaped from trouble in the 1st inning. Shields walked Dustin Pedroia with one out, then with two outs allowed a double to Kevin Youkilis. Pedroia was running on the hit and would have scored easily if the ball had not bounced into the stands for a ground-rule double, forcing him back to third base where he was stranded when J.D. Drew struck out. For his part, Matsuzaka walked the bases loaded in the bottom of the inning, but retired Cliff Floyd on a ground ball to end the inning.
Boston scored the game's first run in the 5th, when Jason Bay walked to open the frame, then Mark Kotsay blooped a double to the opposite field on a checked swing. Jed Lowrie followed with a sacrifice fly to center. Matsuzaka did not give up a hit until the 7th, when Carl Crawford led off with a single and Floyd followed with another single that pushed Crawford to third. However, Dice-K got Dioner Navarro to fly out to shallow left, then struck out Gabe Gross and forced Jason Bartlett to ground out to end the inning. The Red Sox added a second run in the top of the 8th when Pedroia singled after one out. J.P. Howell replaced Shields and allowed Pedroia to steal second, then walked David Ortiz. Youkilis followed with a sinking line drive to left; Crawford dove for it but it bounced off his glove for a double, allowing Pedroia to score. Grant Balfour was now brought in to pitch and hit Drew with his first pitch to load the bases, before escaping the jam with a strike out and a fly ball.
Tampa Bay had one last chance to get back in the game in the 8th. Surprisingly, Matsuzaka came out to start the inning, even though he had thrown well over a hundred pitches. He allowed a lead-off single to Akinori Iwamura and then threw a wild pitch. B.J. Upton followed with a sharply-hit ground ball to third that Youkilis blocked, but could do nothing else with. With runners on first and second, Matsuzaka was removed in favor of Hideki Okajima. He ran a 3-0 count on Carlos Pena, but the Rays' slugger flied out to right on the next pitch. Justin Masterson came in and induced Evan Longoria to hit a double play grounder to end the threat. Jonathan Papelbon was then called in to pitch the 9th and retired the Rays in order to put Boston up, one game to none.
 Game 2 @ Tropicana Field
|WP: David Price (1-0), LP: Mike Timlin (0-1)|
|Home Runs: TB - Evan Longoria (1), B.J. Upton (1), Cliff Floyd (1); BOS - Dustin Pedroia 2 (2), Kevin Youkilis (1), Jason Bay (1)|
- Attendance: 34,904
The Tampa Bay Rays tied up the series with a wild 9-8, 11-inning win in Game 2 that was punctuated by seven home runs, a marked contrast from the low-scoring Game 1. On paper, it should have been different, with both teams sending their ace to the mound, Scott Kazmir for the Rays and Josh Beckett for the Sox, but the heavy-duty scoring started immediately.
After two outs in the 1st, David Ortiz walked and Kevin Youkilis singled; Jason Bay followed with a double scoring both runners for a short-lived 2-0 lead. The Rays got those two runs back in the bottom of the inning, also after two outs. Carlos Pena doubled and Evan Longoria followed with the first of a barrage of home runs that would be hit that evening. After a rare scoreless inning in the 2nd, Dustin Pedroia led off the 3rd with a home run for a 3-2 Boston lead. That did not last either, as in the bottom of the frame, B.J. Upton hit a long ball after one out, Longoria doubled, and Carl Crawford singled for the first Rays' lead of the night, 4-3. Cliff Floyd added a solo shot in the 4th to make it 5-3.
The Red Sox showed their teeth in the 5th, as Pedroia, his hitting slump from the ALDS obviously over, hit another lead-off home run. After one out, Youkilis drove one out to tie the score again. That was it for Kazmir, and surprisingly it was Grant Balfour, usually the Rays' set-up man, who came in to pitch. In this unfamiliar situation, he gave up a lead-taking homer to the first batter he faced, Jason Bay, then walked Jed Lowrie and Jason Varitek. He surrendered the ball to J.P. Howell, also coming in much earlier than usual, but the lefty got the last two outs with no further damage. It was now 6-5 in favor of the Red Sox. The Rays would not take that sitting down: Upton walked and stole second after one out, Pena singled in the tying run and Longoria hit a double for the lead. Javier Lopez came in for Beckett but he gave up a single to Crawford, the only batter he faced, and gave way to Manny Delcarmen who registered the last two outs. After that wild inning, it was 8-6 for the Rays, and both managers had dug deeply into their bullpen with four innings still to go.
Pedroia started another push in the 6th, drawing a one-out walk from Howell. After a second out, right-handed sidearmer Chad Bradford was sent in to face Youkilis, who singled, and Bay, who singled too, for the Red Sox's 7th run. The scoring quieted down for a while after that, until the 8th inning. Pedroia, again, led off with a single, and veteran left-handed specialist Trever Miller came to the mound. He failed in his mission, though, walking Ortiz and forcing Joe Maddon to bring in his closer, Dan Wheeler, with 6 outs still to be registered. Wheeler got Youkilis to ground into a double play, but that moved Pedroia to third, and Boston's short dynamo then scored on Wheeler's wild pitch to Bay. Neither team scored in the 9th, but between the 7th and the 9th, Boston used Hideki Okajima, Justin Masterson and Jonathan Papelbon, leaving it short of reliable pitchers available for extra innings; they had already suffered that fate in Game 3 of the ALDS, when the Angels won the game against Lopez, forced to pitch more than the his usual few outs. In this case, after the 10th was scoreless for both teams Terry Francona would have to bring in veteran Mike Timlin in a game-deciding situation. Maddon faced a similar problem, but decided to keep Wheeler in for 3 1/3 innings, a supremely long outing for a closer in today's game. When Wheeler was obviously gassed, Maddon still had an ace-in-the-hole, rookie fireballer David Price, who may have lacked major league experience, but was gifted with as much raw stuff as any pitcher in the game.
Price got out of the top of the 11th by stranding two Boston runners on base, but Timlin had a harder time of it in his first inning of work of the postseason. The veteran had been a mainstay of Boston's bullpen for years, including the epic World Championship campaign of 2004 when he was simply outstanding, but by 2008, he was on his last legs, past 40 and apparently pitching on fumes as witnesssed by his 5.66 ERA in the regular season and his ever-diminishing role as the season wore on. He was no match for Tampa's good young hitters. Timlin walked the first batter he faced, Dioner Navarro, who was lifted for pinch runner Fernando Perez. Ben Zobrist, who had come in for Gabe Gross in the 8th, drew another walk. Light-hitting shortstop Jason Bartlett then grounded to third base, but both runners advanced. Timlin had no choice but to walk Akinori Iwamura intentionally and hope that B.J. Upton would make an out without driving in the game-winning run, but it wasn't to be; Upton lifted a relatively shallow fly ball to right field but Perez, one of the fastest men in baseball, came in ahead of J.D. Drew's throw to even the series as it moved to Fenway Park.
 Game 3 @ Fenway Park
|WP: Matt Garza (1-0), LP: Jon Lester (0-1)|
|Home Runs: TB - B.J. Upton (2), Evan Longoria (2), Rocco Baldelli (1), Carlos Pena (1)|
- Attendance: 38,031
The Tampa Bay Rays continued their hot hitting in Game 3, this time teeing off against left-hander Jon Lester, who had been impeccable in his three lifetime postseason starts, including two against the Los Angeles Angels in the ALDS. This time, though, he could not contain the Rays. They scrapped together a run in the 2nd when Evan Longoria walked, moved to second on a single, to third on a passed ball, and came scoring on a ground ball by Dioner Navarro. There was nothing scrappy about Tampa's barrage in the 3rd though: Jason Bartlett hit a leadoff single and moved to third on Akinori Iwamura's double off the Green Monster. B.J. Upton followed with a three-run blast that landed in the street behing the Monster, then, for good measure, Longoria added another shot into the seats on top of the famous wall for a 5-0 Rays' lead.
Boston had wasted two good chances to get at Matt Garza early, coming up empty after doubles by Dustin Pedroia in the 1st and Mark Kotsay in the 2nd. After giving up that huge 3rd inning, they were taken off their game, and Garza toyed with them for the next while, keeping them off the scoreboard until the 7th. Jason Varitek led off that inning with a walk and moved to third on a single by Alex Cora. Out came Garza, in came J.P. Howell, and he extinguished that fire, getting Jacoby Ellsbury to extend his hitless streak with a sacrifice fly, then having Pedroia ground into a double play started by Longoria. The Rays came right back in the top of the 8th. Facing Paul Byrd, Boston's fifth starter who had taken over for Lester in the 6th, Carl Crawford led off with a single. Willy Aybar singled to left to move him to third. With the infield playing in, Navarro hit a ground ball to Pedroia, who threw Crawford out at home to keep the score at 5-1. That would be the last glimmer of daylight for the Sox: Rocco Baldelli then took Byrd deep with another shot to left for an 8-1 lead. In the 9th, it was Carlos Pena's turn to hit a towering fly ball to left, a solo shot that gave Tampa Bay its ninth run. With the Rays' bullpen taxed from Game 2's extra innings, Joe Maddon could safely use his own fifth starter, Edwin Jackson, to close, and the big righthander got the demoralized Red Sox out in order, to put the Rays ahead, 2 games to 1.
 Game 4 @ Fenway Park
|WP: Andy Sonnanstine (1-0), LP: Tim Wakefield (0-1)|
|Home Runs: TB - Carlos Pena (2), Evan Longoria (3), Willy Aybar (1); BOS - Kevin Cash (1)|
- Attendance: 38,133
The Tampa Bay Rays advanced to within one win of the World Series with another dominant offensive performance in Game 4, scoring 13 runs after putting 9 on the scoreboard in Games 2 and 3. The victim of the onslaught was veteran knuckleballer Tim Wakefield, who was making his first start of the postseason and his first appearance in two weeks. He seemed affected by the long lay-off, as his knuckleball wasn't fluttering properly in the 1st inning: after he struck out lead-off batter Akinori Iwamura, the Rays' hitters started teeing off on hanging knucklers and running at will once they reached base. Carlos Pena hit a two-run homer, followed by a solo blast by Evan Longoria and before the inning was over, Justin Masterson was already warming up in the Red Sox bullpen. Perhaps Terry Francona should have cut his losses and lifted the struggling Wakefield immediately - bullpen fatigue be damned - but he chose to leave him in, and in the 3rd, the hitting started anew. Carl Crawford singled and stole second after two outs - one of a record-tying five hits that evening for the left fielder - and switch hitter Willy Aybar, batting righthanded against the righthander Wakefield, at manager Joe Maddon's urging, hit Tampa's third long ball of the evening for a 5-0 lead. After Dioner Navarro followed with a single, Francona had no choice but to remove Wakefield for Masterson, but the damage had been done.
Boston, which had wasted an opportunity in the 2nd when Coco Crisp had grounded into an inning-ending double play with a man on third, made the score closer with Kevin Cash's solo home run in the 3rd. Cash was in the line-up as Wakefield's personal catcher, while J.D. Drew was batting lead-off for the slumping Jacoby Ellsbury, who was given the day off. The changes were for naught, as apart from Cash's home run, the Red Sox's bats were completely muzzled by starter Andy Sonnanstine who had only given up two hits through six innings. At that point, the game was completely out of hand, as the Rays scored a run in the 5th, then exploded for five more in the 6th off relievers Manny Delcarmen and Javier Lopez. It was thus 11-1 when David Ortiz led off the 7th with a triple and came scoring on a ground out. Both teams added two more inconsequential runs as Trever Miller and Edwin Jackson closed the game for Tampa Bay, with a final score of 13-4. The Red Sox were now in a familiar, although uncomfortable, position, having had to overcome a 3-0 deficit in the 2004 ALCS and a 3-1 hole in the 2007 ALCS.
 Game 5 @ Fenway Park
|WP: Justin Masterson (1-0), LP: J.P. Howell (0-1)|
|Home Runs: TB - B.J. Upton (3), Carlos Pena (3), Evan Longoria (4); BOS - David Ortiz (1), J.D. Drew (1)|
- Attendance: 38,437
The Boston Red Sox staged a comeback for the ages in Game 5 of the ALCS. Facing a must-win situation, they fell into a deep 7-0 hole, but managed to climb back over the last 3 innings to eke out an 8-7 win and send the series back to St. Petersburg. Daisuke Matsuzaka, the winner of Game 1, started for Boston, while Scott Kazmir, who had been hit hard in Game 2, was on the mound for Tampa Bay.
As had been the case in the previous two games, the Rays got off to a quick start: Akinori Iwamura led off the game with a single and B.J. Upton followed with a homer. In the 3rd, they pushed their lead to 5-0 when Upton singled and Carlos Pena and Evan Longoria both hit homers. Matsuzaka was lifted after giving up a lead-off walk to Iwamura in the 5th, but the Red Sox bullpen gave up two more runs. Manny Delcarmen started the 7th on the mound for Boston and walked both batters he faced, Jason Bartlett and Iwamura. In a desperate move, Terry Francona brought in closer Jonathan Papelbon at that point, but things got even more dire when the two runners pulled off a double steal and Upton doubled, scoring both of them. Papelbon then got the inning back under control, but it was 7-0 for the Rays and looking to all the world like the Series was lost for the defending World Champions.
Joe Maddon made his own first fateful decision at that point. With a well-rested bullpen, he decided to remove Kazmir, who had been outstanding, to bring in Grant Balfour to start the 7th. Jed Lowrie hit a lead-off double, but the next two batters flied out. Then the roof started to cave in: Coco Crisp singled, Dustin Pedroia singled for a first run and David Ortiz, who had shown none of his customary power since the postseason started, blasted a three-run home run. It was now 7-4 Rays, and Maddon brought in his closer, Dan Wheeler, with 7 outs to go. In the 8th, Boston got to Wheeler: Jason Bay walked, then J.D. Drew homered to make it 7-6. Two outs later, Mark Kotsay doubled and Crisp got another clutch single to tie the score.
The stunned Rays were unable to take back the lead in the 9th, with Pena grounding into an inning-ending double play off Justin Masterson. The Red Sox came back to the fore facing J.P. Howell in the bottom of the 9th. He got the first two outs, then Kevin Youkilis hit an infield single to third and reached second on Longoria's throwing error. Howell walked Bay intentionally, but Drew followed with a base hit to deep right for an improbable win for Boston. The two teams were headed back to Florida with the Red Sox pumped up with memories of other past comebacks from the brink of elimination.
 Game 6 @ Tropicana Field
|WP: Josh Beckett (1-0), LP: James Shields (0-2), SV: Jonathan Papelbon (2)|
|Home Runs: BOS - Kevin Youkilis (1), Jason Varitek (1); TB - B.J. Upton (4), Jason Bartlett (1)|
- Attendance: 40,947
The Boston Red Sox, looking more and more like the team which had come back from huge deficits in the 2004 and 2007 postseasons to reach and win the World Series, forced a Game 7 by beating the Tampa Bay Rays, 4-2, in Tropicana Field. The game was affected by two unusual incidents: first, there was no television coverage for the first 20 minutes of action because of a technical breakdown with the TBS network, and then home plate umpire Derryl Cousins had to leave the game after three innings, being replaced by Tim McClelland after being struck by a foul ball off the bat of Jason Varitek.
The Red Sox were worried about having to send Josh Beckett to the mound, after he had shown in previous starts that he was far from is usual form, but he hung in with a limited arsenal of weapons to provide his team with 5 decent innings, giving up only two runs, and earned the victory. He gave up a 1st-inning home run to the red-hot B.J. Upton, but that early Rays' lead was nullified when Kevin Youkilis homered off Tampa starter James Shields in the 2nd inning. The Red Sox then took the lead in the 3rd on a walk to Dustin Pedroia, a double by David Ortiz and a ground out by Youkilis. However, the Rays tied the game in the bottom of the 5th with a contribution from an unlikely source: shortstop Jason Bartlett, who had hit a single home run during the regular season, took Beckett deep.
The Red Sox made their winning push in the 6th. With one out, Varitek homered to right field. They added an insurance run when the following batter, Coco Crisp, singled. J.P. Howell relieved Shields and induced Pedroia to hit a ground ball to shortstop, but Bartlett threw wildly, sending Crisp to third to score on Ortiz’s subsequent single. Boston’s bullpen then came into action, with Hideki Okajima pitching two scoreless innings and Justin Masterson adding a third. Jonathan Papelbon was sent in to earn the save and did so by retiring the Rays in order in the bottom of the 9th.
 Game 7 @ Tropicana Field
|WP: Matt Garza (2-0), LP: Jon Lester (0-2), SV: David Price (1)|
|Home Runs: BOS - Dustin Pedroia (3); TB - Willy Aybar (2)|
- Attendance: 40,473
The storybook season of the Tampa Bay Rays continued further when they defeated the Boston Red Sox, 3-1, in the decisive Game 7 of the ALCS. Matt Garza, who was named the Series MVP after the game, made a second brilliant start in two outings to pick up the win and to put an end to another budding comeback by the Red Sox, who had managed to bring themselves back from the brink of elimination. In the end, Tampa's greater depth, particularly on the mound, was the difference in a series that saw both teams display the qualities of champions.
Facing Matt Garza was Jon Lester, who had been among baseball's best pitchers during the regular season and the postseason, until being battered around by the Rays in Game 3. Lester pitched well, but was no match for an inspired Garza, who gave up one run on two hits and struck out nine in seven innings of work to pick up his second win of the series. Things didn't start so auspiciously for him however, as he gave up a home run to Dustin Pedroia in the 1st inning, but he was almost unhittable after that. For his part, Lester retired the first nine batters he faced until Akinori Iwamura led off the 4th with a single. He was forced out by Carlos Pena, but Evan Longoria hit a double down the right field line to tie the score. The Rays went ahead to stay in the 5th when Willy Aybar led off with a double; Dioner Navarro hit an infield single, but Aybar couldn't advance, However, he came in to score on Rocco Baldelli's single. Aybar then added a solo home run in the 7th to close the scoring.
For his part, Garza left with none out in the 8th, after lead-off hitter Alex Cora reached on an error by Jason Bartlett. Dan Wheeler came in but gave up a single to Coco Crisp before retiring Pedroia on a fly ball. Lefty J.P. Howell then came in to face David Ortiz and had him ground into a fielder's choice, moving Cora to third. Righty Chad Bradford came in next, but walked Kevin Youkilis to load the bases. Joe Maddon then made his fourth pitching change of the inning, bringing in young lefty David Price. He struck out J.D. Drew to end the inning, then returned to the mound for the 9th. He walked Jason Bay, but after that, looking like a poised veteran, he struck out Mark Kotsay and Jason Varitek. Terry Francona sent in Jed Lowrie to pinch hit for Cora, but Price won the battle of the rookies, forcing Lowrie to hit a weak ground ball that ended the game and sent the Rays to the World Series for the first time in their history.
 Related Sites
|Major League Baseball American League Championship Series