It wasn't easy, but the Red Sox finally got a series victory over the Tampa Bay Rays, taking two of three at Fenway in a weekend marked by huge games for Boston sports.
On Friday night, as the Celtics were getting crushed by the Magic in Game 3 of their Eastern Conference semis and the Bruins were down in Carolina falling behind the Hurricanes 3-1, the Red Sox kept the hometown happy with a five-run outburst in the sixth inning that turned a 3-0 deficit into a quick lead and paved the way for a 7-3 win. Jason Bay hit a three-run shot, J.D. Drew hit a two-run bomb and Dustin Pedroia had four hits. And Brad Penny was solid for the second straight game against a lineup that has otherwise bedeviled the Red Sox staff. Penny worked into the seventh inning before turning it over to the Okajima-Ramirez-Paps tag team to close it out.
Saturday was ugly and more along the lines of what we've seen all too often when these teams play. The Rays offense sets the tone early and then blows it wide open by the middle of the game. Evan Longoria hit a line drive home run to dead center off Jon Lester. After the game seemed to be settling down and the Sox only trailed 2-1, thanks to a Rocco Baldelli long ball off his old mates, Tampa racked up six runs in the fifth and chased Lester to the showers, a 6.31 ERA following him along the way. The Rays had 17 hits for the game.
On Sunday night, Bostonians were channel-surfing again and it was a clean sweep. The Bruins blew away Carolina quickly and stayed alive. The Celtics went down to the wire before Glen Davis hit a 21-foot jumper to beat Orlando by a point and keep the defending champs breathing. And the boys from Fenway followed suit. Josh Beckett battled and delivered a good outing, working six innings and giving up three runs. Playing the Rays has begun to feel like playing the Yankees did from 2003-06 when you felt like a 6 IP/3 ER outing wasn't just decent, but a downright gem. Matt Garza also pitched well, his third straight greating outing against the Sox, but we got to him for three in the fourth, aided by a defensive miscommunication when a blooper came off the bat of Nick Green. It was tied 3-3, before Bay doubled in the lead run in the eighth. Again it was Oki-Ramon-Paps trio finishing it off, but this one got adventurous. The Rays put men on first and third with no one out, but Papelbon reached back and struck out the side and the Boston Trifecta of Sunday night was complete.
Week 6 will be spent out on the West Coast. The Sox go to Anaheim to face the Angels for a three-game set that starts Tuesday night. Those who tivo games, note that Thursday's start time is 3:35 ET. And the weekend will be in Seattle, before the team comes back home to face Toronto.