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Rays set to defend

Rays set to defend
Rays 4, RED SOX 3

The cure for what ails the Red Sox offense may simply be getting away from the Tampa Bay defense.

The Sox dropped the series finale, 4-3, to their upstart rivals yesterday, and while it would be partially true to say their offense underperformed over the last two days, much of the credit goes to a Rays defense that made a habit of snaring everything it could reach.

Just consider three plays, any one of which could have turned the tide of the loss:

** With Jacoby Ellsbury on third and two outs in the first, J.D. Drew smoked one at shortstop Jason Bartlett, who snared the liner to end the inning.

** With one out and Ellsbury on first in the fifth, Carl Crawford chased down Dustin Pedroia's drive to left, keeping the Red Sox off the scoreboard.

** Pedroia was robbed again in the ninth when third baseman Evan Longoria speared his wicked liner on a short hop and threw him out at first, keeping the Red Sox from putting the tying run on base with David Ortiz coming to the plate.

``They made some really good plays,'' said catcher Jason Varitek, whose solo homer in the ninth gave the Sox a chance. ``They're very good defensively. They ran some balls down in the outfield. They made some plays in the infield. People don't understand - that ball (Pedroia) hit in the ninth, that's a `Web Gem.' That's a base hit with David up and a man on first.''

It wasn't to be, however, and the Rays picked up where they left off down the stretch last year, when they consistently came out one game ahead of the Sox , whether it was taking 2-of-3 at Fenway and then Tampa in September, or winning the ALCS in seven games a month later.

``They've got a good team and we've got a good team,'' Drew said. ``We understand it's going to come down to pitching and defense, which is what it seemed to do today. It's good to get this series out of the way, get rolling, find our rhythm, and see how it works out.''

The Sox had a tough time finding anything resembling a rhythm against ALCS MVP Matt Garza, who limited them to four hits and a run in seven innings.

That wasn't nearly enough for starter Daisuke Matsuzaka, who was not on his game. Often pitching behind in the count, Matsuzaka was undone by the long ball. He surrendered three home runs in 5 1/3 innings and was lucky the damage wasn't far worse, since he walked three and allowed nine hits.

Matt Joyce, Shawn Riggans and Longoria took him deep for all of Tampa Bay's scoring.

``The mistakes really hurt him,'' manager Terry Francona said. ``He threw a breaking ball - Longoria - caught too much of the plate. Ahead of Joyce - fastball over the plate. I know there were baserunners in between - lots of them - but that was their runs.''

From there, it was up to the Tampa Bay defense to make those runs stand. The Sox chipped away with single tallies in the sixth (Youkilis double, Bay triple), eighth (Youkilis single, Mike Lowell double) and ninth (Varitek homer), but the Rays made the plays when they needed to.

``Defense is a big part of the game now,'' Bay said. ``It got forgotten for a while, but it's coming into vogue again. They played well, they beat us, and it's back to the drawing board.''


Author:Fox Sports
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Added: April 11, 2009

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