Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports
An American League double-bill today, with both the small-budget teams, Tampa and Oakland, trying to even the series, after having dropped their opening games yesterday.
It all fell apart, and fell apart quickly, for the Rays in the opener. After holding a 2-0 lead in the middle of the fourth, they allowed eight runs by the end of the fifth, as the Red Sox cruised to a 12-2 win. The game could be seen as an example of what I mentioned earlier in the week: in the post-season, fundamentally sound baseball is even more important than usual. Though Tampa was not charged with any actual errors, Boston's five-run fourth came courtesy of miscommunication in the outfield, a failure by the pitcher to tag first, and a dropped third strike. Tampa will need to regroup and play much better, if they're to avoid returning home in win-or-die mode.
Oakland are possibly facing a steeper climb, pitting a rookie with less than three months of major-league experience against the pitcher who won the 2011 Cy Young and was runner-up in 2012. Defeat today would also leave them in elimination mode - except they would be traveling to Detroit. Gray has certainly been decent, and as we saw from the Pirates' Gerrit Cole the other day, there no inherent reason why a rookie can't be as successful in the post-season as he was during the regular season. Indeed, the fact that the Tigers have never seen him live, could work to their advantage. But if the A's fall behind early, as yesterday, it's going to be a tough climb back.