By: Bob George/BosSports.net
October 05, 2013

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Three words you learn at the most basic levels of baseball: I got it.

Two guys going for a fly ball. Call for it. Outfielder has priority over infielder. Centerfielder has priority over other corner outfielders. Yell loud enough so they can hear. Take charge and don't be shy if it's your ball. And make the call.

I got it.

This baseball fundamental has defined this ALDS so far between the Red Sox and the Tampa Bay Rays, and swung momentum to the home team. Tampa Bay threw two of the best lefties in the AL against them, one of them the defending Cy Young Award winner, and the Red Sox came away with two wins in the series with Clay Buchholz primed to pitch the Sox to the ALCS on Monday night. One single play on Friday in Game 1 has set the tone for the entire series, which changed what was supposed to be a suffocation of the Red Sox offense into a series where the Red Sox have confidence and full control.

Game 1 started ominously for the Red Sox. Jon Lester, the obvious choice to start the opener, gave up solo home runs to Sean Rodriguez and Ben Zobrist and fell behind, 2-0. Matt Moore, the All-Star lefty who shut out the Sox on two hits in July here at Fenway, was set up to breeze to a win. He had held the Sox hitless through three innings with little trouble, pitching as expected.

Dustin Pedroia led off the fourth with a single up the middle. David Ortiz came up next and launched a rocket towards the Sox bullpen in right center. Wil Myers, the rookie right fielder who was almost traded to Boston from Kansas City for Lester, called for the ball. Center fielder Desmond Jennings converged on the ball, then gave way to Myers.

Who suddenly gave way to Jennings.

Much to the amazement of the Fenway faithful, the ball simply fell in between the two befuddled fielders and bounced into the bullpen for a ground rule double. Instead of Pedroia on first with one out, you had second and third and nobody out.

Had the catch been made, Mike Napoli then pops out, and Jonny Gomes doubles off the wall. Let's say Pedroia scores, then Jarrod Saltalamacchia strikes out to end the inning. The Rays at worst keep the lead at 2-1, and all that followed might not have happened. But Gomes' double scored two runs, and paved the way for three more to come across in the inning, along with three more in the inning to follow. If the catch is made, Stephen Drew leads off the fifth and not Ortiz.

But the Rays came unglued after the missed play. Moore mislocated pitches in bunches, James Loney misplayed an infield ground ball into an infield single where a runner (Gomes) scores from second, catcher Jose Lobaton cannot catch a third strike on Jacoby Ellsbury which extends the inning, and Saltalamacchia doubles home two runs the next inning to chase Moore.

The Red Sox go on to wallop the Rays, 12-2 as Lester gave the Rays nothing after the two solo bombs. Leading the series 1-0 instead of trailing, the Sox were able to relax somewhat going into Saturday's Game 2 with David Price on the hill facing John Lackey.

The Red Sox now had the confidence the Rays were supposed to have, and looked fearless against a pitcher who usually dominates the Red Sox. The Sox jumped on Price for six runs in the first five innings. Lefthanded hitters were 5 for 11 against Price, with Ortiz hitting two solo home runs and Ellsbury scoring three runs. Drew also had the rare triple to left, as he was able to knock one off the wall with the rebound getting away from left fielder David DeJesus. By the time Price found his range in the sixth and seventh innings, it was too late.

Tampa Bay never led in Game 2, but not without chances to tie the game or take the lead. Lackey was anything but sharp, as he walked three batters, gave up seven hits and hit a batter. Lackey had to come out of the game in the sixth inning with the score 6-4 Sox. Craig Breslow got the final two outs of the sixth, then walked and hit a batter in the seventh before being bailed out by a 4-6-3 double play. Junichi Tazawa pitched the eighth and gave up a single to Delmon Young, but like Breslow, was rescued by a 4-6-3 twin killing.

Ortiz chased Price with a solo bomb to lead off the eighth, and Koji Uehara pitched a surreal ninth inning to secure the 7-4 Red Sox win and a 2-0 lead in the ALDS. Uehara threw 11 pitches, all strikes, and retired the side without breaking a sweat. He struck out the first two hitters on six pitches, and Myers, the subject of fan chants thanks to Friday's missed catch, fouled off three pitches before grounding out to Napoli to end it.

The entire series goes back to the Myers play. If Moore retains the 2-1 lead, one might conjecture that he holds the lead and that Tampa Bay might manage to dent Lester later on pitching from behind instead of pitching with a big lead. And if Tampa Bay wins the opener, Price pitches innings one through five like he pitched innings six and seven.

The Red Sox now have all the momentum. Their confidence at the plate is obvious and contagious. All nine Red Sox starters on Friday had one hit. On Saturday, only Napoli went hitless, but he reached twice on walks. Against pitchers with the pedigree of Moore and Price, that is remarkable. The Red Sox have had a great offense all season long, but have been susceptible to great pitching efforts along the way. Tampa Bay was set up to bring the Red Sox down to earth, but the Myers gaffe changed all that.

The teams now head for Florida and the ugly edifice known as Tropicana Field for Game 3. Alex Cobb, who shut out Cleveland on Wednesday night in the Wild Card game, will be sent out to save the Rays' season against a Red Sox pitcher with a sub-2.00 ERA. The plan was to have Lackey start at home where he is more effective, and though he wasn't lock down, it did work and Lackey did get the win. Now the Sox get Buchholz to close out the series, and he was part of a 2-0 win over Price at the Trop the last time he was there in September.

So, when players work on fundamentals in spring training, and you head down to Fort Myers and wonder to yourself, "These guys are pros, do they really need to work on this little league stuff?", remember Game 1 on Friday and pray that the Red Sox do their due diligence and work on every little thing possible.

For Tampa Bay, one little "I got it" might cost them their season.


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