Boston B.J. Upton, Evan Longoria and the rest of the Tampa Bay Rays have quickly become a playoff monster.
Upton hit a three-run home run, and Longoria also homered off a suddenly shaky Jon Lester, then Rocco Baldelli and Carlos Pena cleared the Green Monster later Monday to give the Rays a 9-1 victory over the Boston Red Sox and a 2-1 lead in the AL championship series.
Matt Garza held Boston scoreless through six innings as Tampa Bay put the defending World Series champions in a postseason hole for the first time since they overcame a 3-1 deficit in last year's ALCS against Cleveland. Now the Rays right-hander, who thought he was sent to baseball purgatory when he was traded from Minnesota to Tampa Bay last offseason, has brought them within two victories of their first AL pennant.
"When I first got traded, yes, there was a doubt. But walking into the clubhouse in spring training, it was like, 'We could actually pull this thing off,"' said Garza, the only Tampa Bay pitcher to lose in the first-round series against the White Sox.
"Everybody was on that one mission, and that was to win. We want to win now. We don't want to be the team that waits for later, we want to win now," he said.
Andy Sonnanstine will try to win Game 4 for the Rays when he faces knuckleballer Tim Wakefield in Game 4 of the best-of-seven series tonight.
Fenway Park has batting practice baseballs older than the Rays franchise, and the 37-foot wall that looms over left field is the signature feature of the major leagues' oldest ballpark. But Tampa Bay, which climbed past the Yankees and Red Sox in the regular season, treated the Monster like just another old-fashioned obstacle to overcome.
Upton, whose shallow sacrifice fly in the 11th inning won Game 2, hit a three-run homer in the third that sailed completely out of the park. Longoria added a solo shot later in the third - also off Lester, who pitched a no-hitter at Fenway in May and was 11-1 at home this year.
Baldelli added on a three-run shot in the eighth, and Pena made it 9-1 in the ninth, both off Paul Byrd. A lifetime Ray, Baldelli never had appeared in the postseason before; Pena is well traveled - this is his fifth team, including the Red Sox - but he somehow managed to avoid appearing in a playoff game until arriving in Tampa Bay.
The four homers in a game tied the ALCS home run record last matched by Boston in Game 2 against Tampa Bay on Saturday.
"Solo home runs are good, but three-run homers mean so much more. It put us up 4-0 and gave us all the confidence in the world," said Upton, who has five homers in the playoffs after hitting just nine during the regular season. "We feel the sky's the limit for us all year. To beat (Lester), and to beat him at Fenway, hopefully it'll have a snowball effect."