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Now that, my friends, is more like it. The Red Sox sweep of Sunday’s doubleheader against the Rays was all about dominating starting pitching. Josh Beckett’s excellent, albeit rain-shortened, outing on Saturday night was followed up by even more impressive performances by Clay Buchholz and Jon Lester.
We all know that power pitchers win in the playoffs, and he Sox might have the best power trio since Cream. Excellent.
Game one was a classic pitchers duel, as Matt Garza shut down the Sox offense until Victor Martinez drove in Dustin Pedroia in the bottom of the sixth. Tampa Bay countered with a run off Buchholz in the top of the seventh, but Pedroia busted the game open with a two-run homer into the Sox bullpen in the eighth off a tiring Garza.
Okajima contributed a scoreless inning before Papelbon ended the game with strikeouts of Greg Zaun and Gabe Gross with a runner on second.
The second game was also well pitched on both sides. Rays starter James “Don’t call me Big Game” James gave up three runs in six innings of work with six strikeouts. This was a rare solid performance for Shields at Fenway, as he is 0-5 with a 9.00 ERA in the friendly confines. He would have had to be a whole lot better, however, to beat Jon Lester. Following up his aborted start on Friday, Lester was virtually unhittable.
Staked to a 1-0 lead in the second inning, Lester pitched like that was all he would need. The Rays managed just two hits, and three walks, off Lester in eight shutout innings. Billy Wagner struck out two in the ninth to finish off the game, series, and season for Tampa Bay. Good riddance.
Okajima “earned” the win with a scoreless eighth inning in game one to raise his record to 6-0 . . . Garza, the hard luck loser, dropped to 7-10 . . . Jacoby Ellsbury executed a rare Sox sacrifice bunt in the eighth . . . Papelbon is fourth in the AL with 36 saves . . . Lester is now 13-8, and lowered his ERA to a 3.29, good enough for seventh best in the AL . . . Jason Bay hit his 32nd home run of the season just inside the Pesky Pole.