Jacoby Ellsbury, Daniel Nava and Dustin Pedroia congratulate Jonny Gomes after he scored in Boston's five-run fourth inning. (Michael Dwyer / Associated Press)
Boston — One ball fell between two outfielders. Another took a bad hop off the Green Monster standings. One batter reached safely on a dropped third strike and another when the pitcher was slow to cover first.
By the time it was over Friday, the Boston Red Sox had scored five runs in the fourth inning, taking advantage of Tampa Bay’s bad luck and bad defense to overcome an early deficit and beat the Rays, 12-2, in Game 1 of the AL Division Series.
“You play 162 games, a lot of innings, a lot of pitches, a lot of runs. One thing you can guarantee in the playoffs is you’re going to see something you haven’t seen all year,” said Jonny Gomes, who doubled to tie the game and then scored from second on an infield single to give Boston the lead for good. “And we saw that right away.”
Needing a 163rd game to earn a wild-card berth, the Rays won three win-or-go-home games in three different cities to reach this series. Now they need a victory in Game 2 today to tie the best-of-five series before it shifts to St. Petersburg, Fla., for Games 3 and 4.
“We’ve been playing very well. We’ve not been making any mistakes. We made a bunch tonight,” Tampa Bay manager Joe Maddon said. “But I’ve also learned one other thing regarding baseball: 24 hours can make a huge difference. That’s just one game, baby. That’s just one. We’ll be back tomorrow, I promise you. We’ll be ready to play. We will not be affected mentally by tonight’s game.”
Jon Lester allowed three hits in 72⁄3 innings for the AL East champions, giving up solo homers to Sean Rodriguez and Ben Zobrist to spot the Rays a 2-0 lead through the top of the fourth. Tampa Bay starter Matt Moore had still not given up a hit.
But Dustin Pedroia led off the bottom half with a single up the middle, and then David Ortiz hit a high fly ball that center fielder Desmond Jennings and right fielder Wil Myers converged on. The Rays rookie raised his right hand to call off Jennings but let it fall behind him and bounce off the warning track and into the bullpen for a double.
After an out, Gomes hit a fly ball that scraped the left-field wall on the way down, scoring Pedroia and Ortiz to make it 2-2.
Later, Stephen Drew hit a slow hopper to first that James Loney fielded and flicked to Moore. But the pitcher’s foot came down a split second after Drew’s; with Moore facing the wrong way, Gomes never slowed down as he rounded third and scored without a throw.
Will Middlebrooks followed with a line drive to left that took a bad hop off the Monster where the AL East standings are posted, and it got past Rodriguez on the rebound. That allowed Drew to score and make it 4-2, while Middlebrooks went into second with a double. Then Jacoby Ellsbury reached on a passed ball on strike three and Middlebrooks moved to third, where he scored on Shane Victorino’s single to make it 5-2.
The Red Sox added three more runs to chase Moore in the fifth inning, when they sent nine batters to the plate — the first time in franchise history they have batted around in consecutive innings in a postseason game. In all, Moore was charged with eight runs — seven earned — on eight hits, two walks, a hit batter and a wild pitch, in 41⁄3 innings.
Every Boston starter got a hit and scored a run, the first time a team had done that in the postseason since Lou Gehrig, Joe DiMaggio and the Yankees in the 1936 World Series.
(At) Atlanta 4, L.A. Dodgers 3: Mike Minor pitched six strong innings, Jason Heyward had a two-run single and the Braves pulled off some nifty plays in the field, holding off the Dodgers to even the NL Division Series at one game apiece.
Hanley Ramirez drove in all three runs for the Dodgers, including an impressive show of strength in the eighth for a two-run homer. He cleared the wall down the left-field line with a one-handed swing off David Carpenter.
Not taking any chances, the Braves went to closer Craig Kimbrel for a rare four-out save. He ended the eighth by retiring Juan Uribe on a ground-out, then pitched around two walks in the ninth — again getting a hand from the defense when catcher Gerald Laird threw out pinch runner Dee Gordon attempting to steal second.
Pittsburgh 7, (at) St. Louis 1: Rookie Gerrit Cole gave up two hits in six dominant innings and drove in a run, Pedro Alvarez had a two-run homer and the Pirates beat the Cardinals to even their Division Series at a game apiece.
Cardinals starter Lance Lynn, who hasn’t lasted long enough to qualify for the victory in any of his three career postseason starts, found trouble early when Alvarez doubled in the second and scored on Cole’s single. Alvarez then hit a 418-foot homer in the third.