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Longoria, Upton making Red Sox pay

Longoria, Upton making Red Sox pay

BOSTON -- The Rays came into Fenway Park with a game plan against the great Jon Lester. That wasn't a question. But the game plan means little for a team if it can't take advantage of the mistakes a pitcher makes.

complete postseason coverage
Evan Longoria and B.J. Upton aren't missing many mistakes this postseason. The advantage in this American League Championship Series now reflects it. The record books will show it, too.

"Don't be deceived -- he's very good," Rays manager Joe Maddon said of Lester after his club pounded the Red Sox starter's pitches for four earned runs over 5 2/3 innings. "We just had a relatively good night. We had some good at-bats at crucial moments."

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The stats back up the skipper. Over the second- and third-inning stretch that decided this game, Lester actually struck out four of the 10 batters he faced. Yet of the six Lester pitches the Rays put in play in that span, five of them went for base hits. Two left the field, and another hit high off the Green Monster.

The Rays' game plan against Lester worked.

"We made him throw a couple more balls over the plate that obviously he didn't want to," Upton said.

But, as Longoria also suggested, "It might be that we're getting good pitches to hit and we're not missing them."

In Upton's case, his good pitch cleared the Monster and left the stadium entirely. In Longoria's case two batters later, his shot landed in the record books.

Most homers in one postseason
Year
Player
Team
Games
HR
2002
Barry Bonds
Giants
17
8
2004
Carlos Beltran
Astros
12
8
2002
Troy Glaus
Angels
16
7
1971
Bob Robertson
Pirates
11
6
1993
Len Dykstra
Phillies
12
6
1995
Ken Griffey Jr.
Mariners
11
6
1996
Bernie Williams
Yankees
15
6
1998
Jim Thome
Indians
10
6
2002
Rich Aurilia
Giants
17
6
2004
Albert Pujols
Cardinals
15
6
2004
Larry Walker
Cardinals
15
6
1977
Reggie Jackson
Yankees
17
5
1978
Davey Lopes
Dodgers
10
5
1979
Willie Stargell
Pirates
10
5
1996
Juan Gonzalez
Rangers
4
5
1996
Fred McGriff
Braves
16
5
2004
David Ortiz
Red Sox
14
5
2008
B.J. Upton
Rays
7
5
Longoria's solo homer in that third inning was his fourth home run of the postseason, tying former Florida Marlin Miguel Cabrera's rookie playoff record. Cabrera homered four times during the Marlins' run to the World Series in 2003, covering 17 games. Longoria, the favorite for the AL Rookie of the Year Award, needed just seven games to enter Cabrera's territory.

After getting a head start with a two-homer debut to start the AL Division Series against the White Sox, Longoria has homered in the last two games of this ALCS. The latest came off of a two-strike cutter from Lester.

It's the same pitch that Lester usually can unleash to dominate hitters, but Longoria didn't see it working with its usual bite on this night.

"He's usually able to throw that cutter underneath the hands pretty consistently," Longoria said. "The two balls that me and B.J. hit out were kind of just backup cutters that just went over the middle of the plate."

The game plan had been to watch out for that pitch and make Lester beat them with something else. But not only was Lester never able to establish the cutter in the first place, he left it over the plate.

"From the beginning, he wasn't able to establish that pitch," Longoria said. "And when you don't establish it, as a hitter, you don't really have to worry about it. He didn't throw one for a strike on me, except for the one that I hit out. And I don't think he threw many, except to the lefties, that were for strikes."

Dynamic duos
The nine combined homers hit by Evan Longoria and B.J. Upton are tied for the fourth-most all-time among teammates in the playoffs
HRs
Players
Team
Year
14
R. Aurilia, B. Bonds
S.F.
2002
12
A. Pujols, L. Walker
Stl.
2004
11
T. Glaus, T. Salmon
Ana.
2002
9
E. Longoria, B.J. Upton
T.B.
2008
9
S. Garvey, D. Lopes
LAD
1978
9
C. Fielder, B. Williams
NYY
1996
9
K. Lofton, J. Thome
Cle.
1998
9
B. Bonds, K. Lofton
S.F.
2002
9
T. Walker, J. Varitek
Bos.
2003
9
B. Ausmus, C. Beltran
Hou.
2004
9
C. Beltran, J. Lane
Hou.
2004
9
J. Edmonds, L. Walker
Stl.
2004
The one to Upton was also a strike over the plate, and not inside where Lester wanted it. Upton put it in a less desirable place for Red Sox fans, clearing the Green Monster with it altogether. The three-run shot pulled Tampa Bay ahead.

"B.J.'s was big," Maddon said. "You have second and third, nobody out, you're looking even a ground ball to second base right there, but the way this guy pitches, he did the appropriate thing and just tried to hit right there, and obviously the three-run homer is a nice result."

It was Upton's fifth homer of the playoffs, and it kept him climbing up the leaderboard for home runs in a single postseason. Barry Bonds and Carlos Beltran share the mark with eight each, Bonds in 2002 and Beltran in '04.

Even if Tampa Bay somehow doesn't win another game, Upton has at least three more games to close in on that mark. The way the Rays are hitting, they could have a lot more than that coming their way.

If Upton has many more homers, though, he'll als obe closing in on his regular-season total of nine home runs. Considering the distances he's reaching on some of his shots, it's hard to explain.

"You can't," Upton said. "They're perfect swings, and they happen every once in a while. That's what's going on right now."

They're perfect swings coming off the right pitches. They laid off Lester's good cutters and punished the bad ones. And they're forcing the Red Sox into a tough position.

Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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{"content":["league_championship_series" ] }
{"content":["league_championship_series" ] }