Behind David Ortiz’s two-homer night, Red Sox take a 2-0 lead in the ALDS

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The Red Sox will head down to Tampa Bay happy campers. After a thorough 12-2 dismantling of the Rays in Game 1, the Sox scored seven runs against 2012 AL Cy Young award winner David Price in seven-plus innings, just enough run support for John Lackey.

The scoring started early, with Jacoby Ellsbury leading off the game with a single, stealing second base and forcing a throwing error to advance to third base, then scoring on Dustin Pedroia’s sacrifice fly. David Ortiz added a well-struck home run to right-center to make it 2-0.

After the Rays clawed back for a run in the top of the second on a Delmon Young sac fly, the Sox scored another two runs in the bottom of the third on a double by Jacoby Ellsbury and an RBI fielder’s choice by Pedroia. The Sox would make it 5-1 in the fourth on an RBI triple by Stephen Drew.

The Rays did a good job against Lackey, tagging him for seven hits and three walks. James Loney struck a big blow in the fifth, driving a two-run double to center to make it 5-3. With Loney on second, the Rays had two opportunities to draw closer or even tie the game, but after Evan Longoria walked, Ben Zobrist struck out to end the rally.

As quickly as the Rays got those two runs, the Red Sox took one back. Ellsbury led off the inning with a single, then used his speed to score from first on a Pedroia double off the Green Monster.

Lackey took the hill for the sixth, but the Rays chased him quickly. Desmond Jennings led off the inning with a single, then advanced to second on Young’s ground out. He came around to score from second on an RBI single to right by Yunel Escobar. Rays manager Joe Maddon then pinch-hit catcher Jose Molina with the left-handed Matt Joyce, prompting Red Sox manager John Farrell to take out Lackey in favor of lefty reliever Craig Breslow. Breslow retired Joyce and then Sean Rodriguez to exit the inning without any further damage. Breslow also pitched a scoreless seventh in support of Lackey. Junichi Tazawa worked around a one-out single by Young in the eighth.

In the bottom of the eighth, Ortiz struck again, leading off the inning with a home run to right field that wrapped around Pesky’s Pole for his second home run of the night. Prior to Ortiz, the last Red Sox hitter to homer twice in a post-season game was Pedroia in Game 2 of the ALCS against the Rays in 2008.

Closer Koji Uehara disposed of the Rays quickly in the ninth, striking out Joyce and Jose Lobaton, then getting Wil Myers to ground out to first to make the 7-4 Sox victory official. He threw 11 pitches, all of them strikes. Now up 2-0 in the ALDS, the two teams will head down to Tampa for Game 3 on Monday. Red Sox starter Clay Buchholz will oppose Rays starter Alex Cobb.

Red Sox look to punch their ticket to the World Series tonight

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Thanks to some amazing defense, some big hits and — to continue to beat this horse, a bad call by Joe West — the Red Sox have a 3-1 lead in the ALCS and look to clinch the AL Pennant tonight down in Houston.

If you believe in momentum, you’d have to say it’s on Boston’s side. If you believe that momentum is the next day’s starting pitcher, however, you’d have to say things favor Houston more than the standing of the series would suggest. All of which makes me wish Game 5 was starting right now, because it figures to be a tense and exciting affair.

ALCS Game 5

Red Sox vs. Astros
Ballpark: Minute Maid Park
Time: 8:09 PM Eastern
TV: TBS
Pitchers: David Price vs. Justin Verlander
Breakdown:

If someone told you that you had to win one baseball game against the Martians to save the human race, you could do far worse than calling on Justin Verlander to be your starting pitcher. Among the pitchers still in the postseason, he’d almost certainly be your choice right now.

Does Verlander himself appreciate the situation? This is what he said about that yesterday:

“I mean, these are all must-win games at this point. Every time you take the mound I don’t think there’s any difference whether it’s 2-2 or 3-1.”

Look, we’re asking him to beat the Martians here, not win the National Math Bee, so let’s let that go. The point is that after all of these years he’s still one of the most dominant pitchers in the game and after the exhausting, see-saw battle of Game 4, he stands the best chance of giving Houston what it needs: a quick, quiet and drama-free win.

Not that the Red Sox are likely to roll over for that. They didn’t the first time they faced Verlander in this series. They Astros won, yes, and Verlander limited them to two runs on two hits. But he also issued four walks and wasn’t his sharpest overall. Boston didn’t capitalize on his mistakes as best they could, but he’s not invincible.

For Boston it’s David Price. He allowed four runs on five hits and four walks over four and two-thirds innings in Game 2, not factoring in the decision. That’s not great, but given the talk leading up to that game being all about how Price is a postseason flop, the fact that the Sox won it in the end had to bouy him at least a little. As does the fact that, here, tonight, it’s not 100% on his shoulders. Sure, the Sox want to close this out, but with a 3-1 lead there is less pressure on Price than on his former teammate Verlander. Worth noting, though: Price is on short rest and warmed up in the bullpen last night in case he was needed to bail out Craig Kimbrel. He may not go deep into this game.