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September 22, 2007
Game Story: Red Sox 8, Devil Rays 6; Sox clinch playoff berth
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – The hope is that last night was just a checkpoint along the way, the first of several this fall. But fresh off a dramatic comeback in the ninth that clinched – at the very least – a post-season appearance, the Red Sox couldn't help but observe a short clubhouse celebration after their 8-6 win over the Tampa Bay Devil Rays.
``I don't think there's a person in the clubhouse that has their sights set on anything less than winning the American League pennant,'' said closer Jonathan Papelbon who punctuated the win with his 36th save. ``We have a lot of expectations for ourselves. We realize this isn't the only thing we have for a goal.''
``We're where we want to be – in the playoffs,'' said Julio Lugo, whose two-run homer in the ninth provided the winning margin after Jason Varitek led off the inning with a game-tying solo shot. ``The most important thing is to get in (to the post-season).''
The Sox win came after the Kansas City Royals beat the Detroit Tigers 7-4. That game, coupled with the Sox' win, eliminated the Tigers, the defending A.L. champions, from post-season consideration.
The victory also helped the Sox maintain their 2 ½ game lead over the New York Yankees in the AL East and dropped their magic number to six to win their first division title since 1995. The Sox have seven games remaining.
The playoff appearance will be the 18th in Red Sox franchise history and manager Terry Francona will become the first Sox manager to take them to the post-season three times.
For those searching for omens, the Sox also clinched a playoff berth here in 2004, when they went on to win their first World Series in 86 years.
The last two days, the Sox had debated the propriety of celebrating a playoff spot with the division title still up for grabs. But given the nature of the win, taking a few minutes to commemorate the achievement seemed appropriate.
The club closed the clubhouse for a few minutes and had a brief toast.
``It was good that we meet for a second,'' said Francona. ``We have huge aspirations, but there's nothing wrong with taking five minutes to recognize this accomplishment. I get a kick out of seeing the enjoyment on (the players') faces.'' For a time, it seemed as though any celebration would have to be postponed for at least a day.
The Sox carried a 5-3 lead into the bottom of the seventh and Daisuke Matsuzaka recorded the first two outs without incident. But he then walked countryman Akinori Iwamura and Jorge Velandia and, with lefty Carlos Pena due, gave way to Javier Lopez. Lopez got ahead 0-and-2, but Pena worked the count full before Pena drilled a 3-and-2 pitch into the seats in right, giving the Devil Rays a 6-5 lead.
``The more pitches you throw (Pena), like all good hitters,'' said Francona, ``the more dangerous they become.''
The Sox went meekly in the eighth against Warwick's Dan Wheeler, but with closer Al Reyes on in the ninth, Varitek drilled a pitch out to left, his second homer in as many nights.
``I think he wills himself to be a winner,'' said Francona of his catcher and team captain. ``Certain people have the ability to do that with the game on the line.''
The Varitek homer stirred the crowd, which was dominated by Red Sox fans.
A double down the line by Eric Hinske was next, and after a popup by Coco Crisp, Lugo rode to the rescue.
``I felt like David Ortiz running around the bases,'' said a smiling Lugo. ``It's nice to be able to do something to help us win.''
J.D. Drew also was a big contributor, doubling home a run in the fourth as the Sox jumped out a 3-0 lead over Tampa starter Andy Sonnanstine. Drew later added his 10th homer in the sixth, a two-run shot that serves as his first multi-run homer since June 8.
The three-RBI night was his first since June 15.
Matsuzaka, pitching with the benefit of seven days' rest, limited the Rays to three runs through the first six innings. But the two walks and the homer by Pena robbed him of a chance to win his 15th game.
``It's kind of shame – he battled so hard,'' said Francona.
``Of course, going into tonight's game, I knew it was a situation where I could be the winning pitcher (in the clinching game),'' said Matsuzala. `` But now, I'm excited to be in the playoffs.''
Posted by Chris Venditto at 11:49 PM | Permalink
Sox celebrate quietly after clinching playoff berth
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- There was no raucous public celebration for the Red Sox after clinching a playoff spot last night.
''Cheers to Boston,'' Jonathan Papelbon told NESN's Tina Cervasio in a quiet, and mostly empty, clubhouse Saturday night after the Red Sox had guaranteed themselves a berth in the postseason with a come-from-behind, 8-6 win over the Devil Rays.
The clubhouse was closed to the media for approximately 10 minutes after the game ended, and not many players were at their lockers when the doors opened. There is a back room in the Tropicana Field clubhouse, and most of the players were still there when reporters were allowed in.
There were no plastic sheets over the lockers to protect them from spraying champagne, as were present when the Sox clinched wild-card berths in 2003, '04 and '05, and no champagne cases were seen, either. The manager, players and coaches enjoyed a toast in the back room, out of the public eye.
''It was such a roller-coaster game, I don't think any of us were [aware of the playoff implications until after the game],'' manager Terry Francona told Cervasio.
Still, Papelbon said the Red Sox were delighted at what they'd accomplished.
''We're ecstatic,'' he told Cervasio, ''and everyone in this clubhouse is as happy as can be right now.''
The Sox remain 2 1/2 games ahead of the Yankees in the A.L. East race and their magic number for clinching the division is six.
''Our mission is to finish in first place,'' Eric Gagne, Saturday night's winning pitcher, told Cervasio.
Posted by Art Martone at 11:01 PM | Permalink
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FINAL: Red Sox 8, Devil Rays 6; Sox clinch playoff berth
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- If Saturday night was a glimpse into the Red Sox' playoff future, October could truly be a month to remember in New England.
After having blown a 5-3 lead in the seventh inning, the Red Sox got ninth-inning home runs from Jason Varitek and Julio Lugo off Devil Rays closer Al Reyes and pulled out an 8-6 victory that put them into the postseason. Boston's victory, coupled with the Tigers' loss to the Royals, clinched a playoff spot for the Red Sox.
''It means a lot to us. Just getting to the playoffs, that's the important thing,'' Lugo told NESN's Tina Cervasio immediately after the game. ''Winning the division is nice, but the main thing is going to the playoffs.''
The Sox lowered their magic number for clinching the A.L. East to six. But even if they lose the division, last night's victory and the Tigers' loss guaranteed the Red Sox will at least win the wild card.
Reyes came on in the ninth with the Devil Rays leading 6-5, but Varitek tied the game with a leadoff home run to left field. Eric Hinske followed with a double down the right-field line, putting the go-ahead run at second with nobody out.
Coco Crisp failed to advance the runner, popping up on a 3-and-2 pitch, but Lugo made it a moot point by blasting a long homer to left, putting Boston on top 8-6.
Eric Gagne, who had pitched a scoreless eighth, got the victory. Jonathan Papelbon pitched a 1-2-3 ninth for the save.
Daisuke Matsuzaka had seemed well on his way to his 15th victory, as his teammates handed him a 5-2 lead in the fifth. But he allowed a run in the bottom of the sixth on an RBI single by Greg Norton, and then got lifted after walking Akinori Iwamura and Jorge Velandia with two outs and nobody on in the seventh.
Javier Lopez came on to pitch to the left-handed Carlos Pena and got ahead on the count 0-and-2. Pena, however, worked the count to 3-and-2, then deposited a fastball deep into the right-field stands for a three-run homer -- his second home run of the game -- and put Tampa Bay ahead, 6-5.
The Sox had taken a 1-0 lead in the second on an RBI single by Jacoby Ellsbury, and increased it to 3-0 in the third on a run-scoring double by J.D. Drew followed by an RBI single by Varitek.
The Devil Rays got two runs back in the bottom of the third when Pena homered, leading off the inning, and Norton singled in Delmon Young from second with two outs. Drew hit a two-run homer in the top of the fifth, making it 5-2, but another RBI single by Norton, this one in the sixth, cut the lead to 5-3.
Posted by Art Martone at 10:34 PM | Permalink
Lineups from The Trop
Jacoby Ellsbury lf
Dustin Pedroia 2b
David Ortiz dh
Mike Lowell 3b
J.D. Drew rf
Jason Varitek c
Eric Hinske 1b
Coco Crisp cf
Julio Lugo ss
Daisuke Matsuzaka p
Akinori Iwamura 3b
Jorge Velandia 2b
Carlos Pena 1b
B.J. Upton cf
Delmon Young rf
Greg Norton dh
Jonny Gomes lf
Dioner Navarro c
Josh Wilson ss
P Andy Sonnanstine
Posted by Sean McAdam at 4:57 PM | Permalink