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Rays nail Dice-K for deep 3

Rays nail Dice-K for deep 3
Joe Morgan, the pithy former Red Sox manager as opposed to the verbose current broadcaster, was fond of saying, "The worm has turned" when things began going opposite to where they usually went.

And the worm has definitely turned in the Red Sox -Rays rivalry.

Tampa Bay won again here yesterday, 4-3, to take the final game of the opening series of 2009, just the way it took the final game of the American League Championship Series of 2008. As the Devil Rays, they used to almost be a guaranteed victory for the Sox . Yesterday's result means that Tampa Bay has won five straight series with Boston - four in the regular season as well as the ALCS.

Three games into the Baseball year, the Red Sox are chasing the Rays, just as they did for almost all of 2008.

For the old Rays, this would have been a most losable game. They jumped ahead early, pounding an ineffective Daisuke Matsuzaka, then lost the killer instinct. They let the Red Sox hang around long enough to get back in it, and get back in it they did against a stumbling Tampa Bay bullpen.

Boston made it 4-1 against starter Matt Garza in the sixth on Jason Bay's RBI triple, then the Sox scored another run in the eighth to make it 4-2 and left the bases loaded.

Troy Percival came on for the ninth, and if there were ever an example of how being a closer in this day and age is like having a mail-away Ph.D., it is Percival. He got a one-inning save even though the Sox crushed two of his offerings and semi-crushed one.

Jason Varitek started the inning with a home run into the Rays' bullpen. Percival fell behind Jacoby Ellsbury, 3 and 1, before getting him on a soft fly to center. Dustin Pedroia followed with a vicious grounder to third that Evan Longoria snared - "That was a web gem," Varitek said - then David Ortiz walked to bring the Sox hottest hitter to the plate, Kevin Youkilis.

Youkilis got most of one, sending it to the warning track in right-center, and the Rays had held on.

"Not really," Terry Francona said when asked if he thought Youkilis' ball might be out. "He really didn't get all of it."

The Sox would not have been in that position had it not been for a poor outing by Matsuzaka, who gave up four runs in 5-1/3 innings and served up three homers. He had not given up that many home runs in a regular-season game since July 8, 2007 in Detroit, but gave up three to the Rays in four innings here on Oct. 16, 2008, in the ALCS.

That was the memorable Game 5 in which the Red Sox came back from a 7-0 deficit to send the series back to St. Petersburg.

"He kept us in the game," Varitek said of Matsuzaka, but he was being overly generous, since the Sox starter actually put them in a hole too deep to dig out of.

Yesterday's result represents 33-1/3 percent of the season, so far, for the Red Sox and the Rays, and the series represents 100 percent of 2009, and the managers were quick to point out how much the ratio will have changed by October.

"We lost the first game," Rays manager Joe Maddon said, "and you hear all these different things - people are already becoming concerned with us, and it's rather humorous to me."

"We battled," Varitek said, "and had several different opportunities to come back. If we keep playing like that, we'll win our share of these games."

Against the Rays, though, the Red Sox used to win a lot more than their share. They used to win most of them. But here in early April, with the ground still a little chilly and soggy, the worm has definitely turned.

Author:Fox Sports
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Added: April 11, 2009

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