Not after missing them for the past three seasons.
Not after the September collapse that ruined their chances in 2011.
And certainly not after they stumbled to the club's worst record in 48 years in 2012."This was part of the mindset at the end of last year, a strong desire to rewrite what took place," Red Sox manager John Farrell said Thursday.
The revised edition tied the St. Louis Cardinals for the best record, was the highest scoring team in the majors and turned a toxic clubhouse atmosphere into a fun-loving one that was a big reason the Red Sox had 28 more wins than they did last season.
They'll try for their first in the playoffs on Friday against the Tampa Bay Rays in the opener of the best-of-five AL division series."Guys in here love playing baseball," Red Sox left fielder Jonny Gomes said. "It's a bunch of baseball junkies, so I'm sure they'll be happy to strap on their cleats."
Boston ended its regular season on Sunday then waited for its opponent to be determined.
Tampa Bay had to win three road games to get this far - at Toronto on Sunday to force a tiebreaker for the second AL wild-card spot, at Texas on Monday night in that tiebreaker, and at Cleveland on Wednesday night to advance to the ALDS."It's quite an accomplishment," Rays manager Joe Maddon said. "And, moving forward, I want to believe it's going to create some kind of different form of momentum going into this series because we've been playing. We've been playing under duress and we're not tired."
But the Red Sox don't think their layoff will hurt."It's just a second All-Star break for us," Gomes said after a nearly two-hour team workout Thursday.
The Rays finished six games behind the Red Sox in the AL East but are on a roll with 10 wins in their last 12 games. And they have star left-handers Matt Moore and David Price ready to go in the first two games at Fenway Park.
Moore (17-4) is 9-1 in his last 13 starts. Price (10-8) is coming off a 5-2, complete-game win against the Rangers in the tiebreaker. In a span of eight days in late July, they combined to go 3-0 against the Red Sox in Boston with each pitching a complete game.
More bad news for the Red Sox: the Rays are 14-2 on the road when Moore starts."For me going into a game on the road, I try to take that as a little bit more of a challenge than when you're at home" with support from the crowd, Moore said. "There's nothing better than winning on the road in an environment like this."
The Red Sox have a pretty good left-hander themselves set for the opener. Jon Lester (15-8) was 5-1 with a 2.22 ERA in his last eight starts and 7-2 with a 2.57 ERA since the All-Star break."To be named Game 1 starter, especially after last year," Lester said, "big honor, obviously, very excited."
Lester had his worst season in 2012 with a 9-14 record and 4.82 ERA. Even worse was the team's 69-93 record and clubhouse discord under Bobby Valentine , who was fired after his only season as Boston's manager. He took over from Terry Francona after Boston went 7-20 the previous September."Last year was just horrendous all the way around," Lester said.
And this year?
No losing streak longer than three games. A total of 158 days in first place. And a lineup with no easy outs."It's nine guys in the lineup getting it done," Gomes said, but "it's a clean slate as of (Friday). So it's zeroes across the board."
Farrell said the righty-hitting Gomes, a platoon player, would start in left field in the first two games. He also said first-string catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia and backup David Ross would split the first two games.
Third baseman Will Middlebrooks , who bats right-handed, could be a key against Moore and Price."He's shown the ability to be streaky, and when he's in those upticks it really lengthens our lineup," Farrell said. "I will tell you that going up against left-handed starters, we're going to need him."
Middlebrooks' position is the only spot where the Rays have an obvious edge. Tampa Bay third baseman Evan Longoria had three hits, including his 32nd homer, in the tiebreaker in Texas."He comes in here swinging the bat very well," Farrell said. "And, seemingly, in those key moments he's come up with some big hits. So anytime we focus on one given player, it's not so much that particular guy, it's what we do with the guys ahead of him in the order. And if we can minimize the opportunities when he comes to the plate, we might put ourselves in a decent position."
Both teams know each other very well, having met 19 times this season with the Red Sox winning 12.
But Maddon thinks the Rays surge just to reach the ALDS will help them."I want to believe the journey we've just gone through is going to hopefully relax our hitters a bit," he said. "So you might see a better offensive ballclub."
|Tampa Bay Rays|
|September 30, 2013||Jesse Crain||60-Day DL||Strained right shoulder|
|September 26, 2013||Jesse Crain||Day-to-Day||Shoulder|
|September 24, 2013||Jose Lobaton||Day-to-Day||Bruised right elbow|
|September 24, 2013||Yunel Escobar||Day-to-Day||Sore left ankle|
|September 23, 2013||Desmond Jennings||Day-to-Day||Strained left hamstring|
|August 15, 2013||Luke Scott||15-Day DL||Lower back spasms|
|Boston Red Sox|
|September 01, 2013||Shane Victorino||Day-to-Day||Left hip contusion|
|August 29, 2013||Mike Carp||Day-to-Day||Left shoulder irritation|
|August 17, 2013||Mike Napoli||Day-to-Day||Sore left foot|
|August 08, 2013||Brandon Snyder||15-Day DL||Ulnar neuritis, right elbow|
|August 08, 2013||Brandon Snyder||15-Day DL||Ulnar neuritis, right elbow|
|August 05, 2013||Matt Thornton||15-Day DL||Strained right oblique|
BOSTON (AP) -- 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, 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 on Friday 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 on Saturday 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 7 2-3 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.
"I was under the ball and I saw Des out of the corner of my eye and backed off," Myers said. "I messed it up, and it won't happen again. ... That play kind of gave them a spark, and a good team takes advantage of it."
With a derisive cheer of "Myers" echoing through the ballpark, Mike Napoli popped up to second base for the first out before Gomes hit a fly ball that scraped the left-field wall on the way down. Pedroia held to tag up, then scored easily with Ortiz coming in just a few steps behind him to make it 2-2.
Jarrod Saltalamacchia struck out before 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.
Jacoby Ellsbury reached on a passed ball on strike three - which would have been the third out of the inning - and Middlebrooks moved to third, where he scored on Shane Victorino 's single to make it 5-2.
None of the misplays was scored an error.
"That Myers play obviously gave us some momentum," Victorino said. "All those kind of things and it became a snowball effect. Plays like that happen. You've got to thrive and you've got to get as many runs as you can when a mistake like that is made."
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, striking out four in 4 1-3 innings.
Lester struck out the first four batters he faced, but gave up homers over the Monster to Rodriguez in the second and Zobrist in the fourth. In all, he allowed three hits and three walks while striking out seven before leaving with two on and two out in the eighth.
Junichi Tazawa got Myers on a line drive to right to end the eighth, and extra starter Ryan Dempster got the last three outs. Victorino had three hits and Saltalamacchia had three RBIs for the Red Sox, who tied for the best record in baseball this season a year after finishing last.
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.
"No longer it's the best team, it's the hottest team," Gomes said. "And we obviously know Tampa is coming in hot, coming in on a roll. So it took a couple of innings to break the ice, but once Petey got that hit up the middle, I think that took a lot of questions out."
The clubs got to the ballpark for the series opener to find the tarp on the field, but the rain let up a few hours before game time and made way for a pregame ceremony to honor the victims and first-responders of the Boston Marathon bombings. With a giant "B Strong" logo mowed into the center field grass, the families of the late Krystle Campbell and Sean Collier took the field, followed by marathon volunteers, doctors and nurses, police officers and others who helped out after the April 15 explosions that killed three and wounded at least 260 more.
Campbell was one of three people killed in the bombings. Collier was a MIT police officer shot during the manhunt for the bombers.
Players, managers and coaches from both teams lined up on the first- and third-base lines and applauded throughout the ceremony. A giant U.S. flag was draped over the Green Monster for the national anthem, and Cowboy-hatted good Samaritan Carlos Arredondo joined former New England Patriot Joe Andruzzi to shout the traditional "Play Ball!"
"Maybe our place in this market, this city, is we take those things to heart," Red Sox manager John Farrell said. "And in some ways this game and what we do here at Fenway is a vehicle to acknowledge others."
NOTES: Rodriguez made a diving catch of Gomes' sinking liner in the second inning. ... Lester went nine straight outings without allowing a homer before giving one up to Baltimore's Brian Roberts in his last start of the regular season. ... John Lackey will face David Price in Game 2, which is scheduled to start at 5:07 p.m. EDT. ... Moore had been 10-1 in 16 road starts this season. ... The Rays used potential Game 4 starter Chris Archer to get four outs. ... Actor John Travolta was in the crowd.