To say that the Tampa Bay Rays are running on all cylinders right now might be the understatement of the year.
For the second consecutive night, the Rays pounded the Boston Red Sox, winning Game Four by a score of 13-4 to take a commanding 3-1 lead in the American League Championship Series.
Carl Crawford and Willy Aybar combined to go 9-for-10, with four runs scored, seven RBI, two doubles, a triple, a home run, and two stolen bases. Crawford tied an ALCS record for hits in a game with his 5-for-5 performance, coming within a home run of hitting for the cycle.
The Rays scored early and often, as Carlos Pena and Evan Longoria both homered in the top of the first inning, their second, and third long flies’ of the series, respectively.
Boston starter Tim Wakefield (0-1) was unable to recover, getting touched for five runs on six hits in only 2.2 innings of work. Wakefield added to the Red Sox’s starting pitching woes, joining unlikely candidates Josh Beckett and Jon Lester on the list.
Tampa Bay scored twice more in the third inning, and once in the fifth before blowing the game wide open with a five-run, sixth-inning outburst.
Rays starter Andy Sonnanstine (1-0) looked masterful, limiting the Red Sox to four runs on six hits in 7.1 innings of work. Sonnanstine surrendered a solo shot to Kevin Cash in the third inning but settled down beautifully after that.
With the exception of Akinori Iwamura and Fernando Perez, every Ray recorded at-least one hit, and with the exception of Dioner Navarro and Perez, every Ray scored at-least one run. Manager Joe Maddon was quoted after the game as saying, “This was the best game we’ve had offensively all year long.”
What a time to have that happen, huh?
Consider this: In the past two games, at Fenway I might add, the Rays have outscored the World Champion Boston Red Sox 22-to-five, and outhit them a whopping 27-to-14.
Both Rays starters recorded wins, while both Boston starters recorded losses.
In Games Four and Five, B.J. Upton, Pena, Longoria, and Crawford have combined to go 14-for-34 (.411), with 14 runs scored and 12 RBI. Compare that to a combined 7-for-30 (.233), with two runs scored, and three RBI from Dustin Pedroia, David Ortiz, Kevin Youkilis, and Jason Bay.
Boston has come back from this exact 3-1 deficit in the ALCS before (see 2007 playoffs against Cleveland), but needless to say, they’re in some serious trouble. I don’t think they’ve faced a team as hot as the Rays in any of their recent playoff runs.
During the ninth inning, with the Rays up 13-4, TBS broadcaster and long time manager Buck Martinez questioned, “Who are these guys?”
These are the 2008 Tampa Bay Rays, and they are here to stay.