10/13/08 1:54 AM ET
Fenway or the Rays' way?
Tampa Bay arrives in Boston with momentum, knows it can win
By Tom Singer / MLB.com
By taking Saturday night's Game 2, 9-8, in 11 innings, the Rays might have done more than just even the best-of-seven series by winning a game they absolutely had to have.They might have shaken the Red Sox's bravado, while honing their own raider instincts. Put it this way: The Rays aren't sneaking into Fenway Park's side door; they're storming the front gates. Saturday night's epic win didn't merely give Tampa Bay momentum. It fed the mo the Rays already had going against Boston. The Red Sox could be getting to the point where they'll be looking around warily the next time they find themselves late in a game within a run of either side of the Rays. Including the club's last five regular-season encounters, Tampa Bay has beaten Boston five out of seven. Four of the five victories have been last-inning jobs. "Is that right?" said Rays first baseman Carlos Pena, growing wide-eyed. "We don't track stuff like that." Trust us, Carlos: Saturday: B.J. Upton's 11th-inning sacrifice fly propels home Fernando Perez and triggers the joyous bop at The Trop. Sept. 16, Tropicana Field: Dioner Navarro singles off Justin Masterson with the bases loaded and one out in the bottom of the ninth for a 2-1 win. Sept. 10, Fenway Park: Pena goes opposite field and over the wall for a three-run homer off Mike Timlin in the 14th inning to set up a 4-2 win. Sept. 9, Fenway Park: Dan Johnson homers for the tying run and Navarro doubles for the go-ahead run, both off Jonathan Papelbon, in the ninth inning for a 5-4 win. The Bad News Rays.
|Since the LCS went to a best-of-seven format in 1985, there have been 25 instances in which teams split the first two games.|
|When the road team won Game 3, it took the series 80 percent of the time (8 of 10)|
|When the home team won, it took the series 60 percent of the time (9 of 15)|
|Overall, the winner of Game 3 took the series 68 percent of the time (17 of 25)|
"Oh, yeah, games like that have a great carry-over," Pena said. "The way we were jumping around at the end of the Saturday's game ... that was one of the most amazing games I'd ever been around. You want to keep that feeling."They had even caught David Ortiz's eyes. "They looked more like the Rays," Ortiz said, a day after he had detected some Game 1 trepidation on their faces. "That's pretty much how they play. Those guys, when you get late in the game and you play close games like that, they win a lot of games." Those guys now move in here, taunting, "Yo, Fenway, is that the best you got?" "It'll be hostile," said Tampa Bay third baseman Evan Longoria. "In The Trop, the crowds were definitely pro-Ray, but you could still hear the ... oh, I don't know, about 10,000 Red Sox fans. "I don't think you'll be able to make out the Rays fans here." The Rays already have the Red Sox's AL East title. The Rays already have the last word. About the only thing the Red Sox have left right now is their idiosyncratic little ballpark. Not so little, incidentally. At about 37,500, Fenway Park officially holds approximately 2,500 more than does Tropicana Field -- making this their first postseason series in which the Red Sox actually play out of the bigger house. The Rays also have the momentary upper hand that results from extracting a victory from a game that began with the Red Sox hitting four homers behind Josh Beckett. But it can be taken away from them very quickly, if the Red Sox's evident complacency with their home park turns out to be justified. "We've already forgotten about the last one," said Jacoby Ellsbury, "and are glad to be back in Fenway." "I don't see any sense of urgency," said Jon Lester, the left-hander assigned with the task of derailing the Rays' momentum. "We're home, and we have three here." "We're better at home," Ortiz noted matter-of-factly. "We've played two games, two good games, and each team won one. It's a long series. We'll come back [today] and play well. We know how to do that." A simplistic analysis. Pena is all for that. "When you overanalyze things, it does you absolutely no good," he said. "Unless you're a masochist."
Tom Singer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.