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Home » 2008 PostseasonOctober 2008 » Belong


ALCS Game 6: October 18, 2008
Rays 2 L: James Shields (0-2) 3-3
WinRed Sox 4 W: Josh Beckett (1-0)
H: Hideki Okajima (2)
H: Justin Masterson (2)
S: Jonathan Papelbon (2)
Highlights: Craig Sager could not help but attire himself in the bright blue jacket with a tie with a swirly blue and yellow pattern. I think he was trying to match Raymond and the Rays’ color scheme; last night for once Sager’s togs would correspond to something. As for mismatches, “Big Game” James Shields didn’t live up to his sobriquet. He was more like “Deici Game” Shields.

Good thing TBS locked itself in with the MLB until 2013; last night’s router in issue in Atlanta left millions of fans scrambling for coverage. I logged into MLB’s internet feed to hear Joe Castiglione and Dale Arnold telling me that Coco Crisp had bunted to get on base. On the radio one doesn’t have to be visually exposed to ugliness such as Sager’s suits, Tropicana Field, “Frank TV” commercials, and Crisp being picked off.

Whatever bedlam affecting the cable feed didn’t impact the internet feeds that powered TBS Hot Corner. I wish I had known about this sooner; the four split screens of the Dugout, PitchTrax, Pitcher, and Batter cams outclasses Fox’s Diamond-Cam.

So much is being made of the Rays’ youth, but James Shields is just a year and a half younger than Josh Beckett. Shields doesn’t deserve the nickname granted him, especially in light of Beckett’s accomplishments.

Beckett is not in the World Series MVP form that catapulted the Marlins to the 2003 title, but this time a compromised Beckett proved up to the task of extending the series to the final game. He allowed two homers over his five innings of work. One of them, a soaring shot that found the catwalk in the first inning, was not a surprise as it came off the bat of B.J. Upton.

It was the fifth-inning dinger by nine-hole hitter Jason Bartlett that was a shocker. Fortunately it was just a solo homer as Dioner Navarro thought he could get a jump on his counterpart’s arm and was erased from the basepaths. When Bartlett’s first postseason home run ever slipped just fair past the pole in left the score knotted at 2-2.

Jason Varitek has more of a postseason resume than Bartlett but his recent production has been nonexistent. But it was he who answered back in the sixth with a solo four-bagger to right, breaking his hitless and RBI-less streak with a single swing.

Bartlett, the hero of the prior inning, airmailed a throw to the foul territory behind first to allow Dustin Pedroia to reach and Crisp to advance to second. Given the extra out, David Ortiz dropped a single into right-center for an insurance run.

Joe Maddon can’t like the turn his team has taken these past two games: his hitters have lost momentum, his starters have not been equal to the Red Sox’s rotation, his bullpen has faltered, and his defenders have bungled routine plays.

While Bartlett’s error was costly, just as Evan Longoria’s was in Game 5, Maddon’s outfielders have had subtle lapses as well. Gabe Gross had a bad read and route on J.D. Drew’s game-winner on Thursday night and the scene was recreated in the fifth frame with another Drew fly ball floating over his retreating figure. Maddon pinch hit Ben Zobrist for Gross in the bottom of the inning.

Boston responded to the Rays’ every offensive in kind: Upton homered, Kevin Youkilis did the same. Bartlett scored, Varitek matched his feat. In a span of two games the defending World Champions recreated their hopes to repeat.

One game more. They’ve been here before, where the Rays have never been. Let’s see who belongs.

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