The following is commentary as part of TBS' coverage of Tuesday's ALCS between the Red Sox and Rays.
Crawford on how the Rays are approaching the series: “The whole team came in relaxed, we wanted to be aggressive at the plate. Guys are really focused right now and I think we all want this really bad.”TBS’ exclusive coverage of the ALCS continues on Thurs., October 16 at 7:30 p.m. ET with TBS MLB on Deck followed by Game #5 featuring the Tampa Bay Rays @ Boston Red Sox.
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TBS MLB on Deck presented by Sprint
Announcers: Ernie Johnson, Harold Reynolds, Dennis Eckersley and Cal Ripken
Reynolds on Rays pitcher Andy Sonnanstine helping the defense by pitching quickly: “When you’ve got a pitcher that throws strikes like (Andy Sonnanstine) does and he works fast you’re defense is going to be great. The Tampa defense is a tribute to the pitching because they go hand in hand. When you have good pitching and they work fast your defense is going to be solid.”
Ripken on hitting against a knuckleball pitcher such as Red Sox pitcher Tim Wakefield: “You get out of your normal mindset and timing mechanism to go up and hit. I used to like to spread my stance out a little bit and get a little closer to the plate. You almost treat it like a slow pitch softball game; don’t get fooled, hit the ball at the highest point, don’t let it come down in, and try to catch it a little early so you drive the ball out of the ballpark.”
Ripken on Rays manager Joe Maddon: “(Joe Maddon) is the perfect type of manager for the team, a young team, he has a fatherly sort of approach. He develops the players, he brings them along but he also has a stern side to him as well. If you don’t run out a ball, if you don’t play the game the right way, he will pull you out of the game. He’s got the respect of all the guys in there, and he has done a fantastic job.”
Ripken on the Red Sox shifting their line-up to place rightfielder J. D. Drew at the top of the batting order in place of leftfielder Jacoby Ellsbury: “Ordinarily, I don’t like shifting the line-up, I like people in roles where they know their roles, but I like this move. J.D. Drew up in the front, he’s got a good eye at the plate, I think it’s going to cause some change in the line-up and maybe produce some good results.”
Eckersley on not being able to relate to Red Sox pitcher Tim Wakefield and his knuckleball pitch: “All I know is I can’t throw (the knuckleball) and I can’t analyze (Wakefield). Anybody can hit it, I might be able to go bridge (homer) off this guy.”
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Tampa Bay Rays (13) @ Boston Red Sox (4) – The Rays lead the series 3-1.
Announcers: Chip Caray, Ron Darling and Buck Martinez; Craig Sager reporting
Martinez on the ease of stealing bases against a knuckleball pitcher, just prior to B.J. Upton stealing second base: “What you have to do as a base stealer is just make sure that (Wakefield) is going home, you don’t have to get a great jump because the velocity of the knuckleball is only about 70. (Catcher) Kevin Cash will be challenged first and foremost to catch it, then the transfer with that big glove, then the accurate throw. A lot of things have to go right for them to throw out B.J. Upton.”
Darling on Red Sox reliever Justin Masterson warming up in case he was needed on the mound after Tim Wakefield gave up three runs in the first inning: “It’s really interesting that (Justin) Masterson would be up, he’s the guy you like to use in the seventh and eighth inning but this is like the seventh and eighth right now because you cannot allow any more runs to score.”
Martinez on the Rays taking advantage of the Red Sox’s mistakes to go up 5-0 by the third inning: “It’s supposed to be the experienced club that takes advantage of mistakes, but it’s been the young Rays who have cashed in on the mistakes that Boston has made.”
Darling on Rays third baseman Fernando Perez who has proved to be an asset to the team: “When (the Rays) brought (Perez) up they really brought him up for defensive purposes, for some pinch running, to steal some bases late in the game. Then he got a few starts and they said this guy can really play, he can help us. They took him because of his ability to steal a base and we saw that in the second game when he scored that winning run on the Upton sac fly.”
TBS’ Chip Caray, Ron Darling and Buck Martinez spoke to Rays pitching coach Jim Hickey during the game.
Hickey on the pitching talent of Rays starter Andy Sonnanstine: “(Andy Sonnanstine) has a knack for winning, he’s won everywhere he’s been in the minor leagues and he continues to win here. The thing he does is he doesn’t beat himself, he doesn’t walk people. If you’re going to beat him in a game like this he’s not going to help you out, you’re going to have to string together three, four or five base hits in an inning to have a big inning, he’s not going to allow any freebies.”
Martinez on the Rays players rising up to Postseason play: “It’s one thing to play your way in the Postseason, it’s another thing to perform on this stage. This (Tampa Bay) coaching staff has done a great job of preparing these young players for this big stage and they’ve all performed very well.”
Darling: “Maybe they are young enough to be immune and unaware of the pressure because they are playing free and easy.”
Martinez on the calmness of Rays third baseman Evan Longoria: “(Evan) Longoria didn’t turn 23 until the seventh of October. This is his first full season in the majors but it seems as though he’s played 10 years, he’s so clam and relaxed.”
Martinez on the all-around game of the Rays: “Every aspect of (the Tampa Bay) game is solid. (They have) solid pitching, when you look at the nature of their five man rotation they actually had a better ERA than the Red Sox starting pitching. (They have) good defense, a lot of speed and the ability to score a run in many different fashions.”
Martinez on whether Red Sox pitcher Daisuke Matsuzaka will be as effective in Game #5 against the Rays now that they Rays offense has picked up: “It will be interesting to see in Game #5 how Daisuke Matsuzaka pitches to the Rays team that now has tremendous confidence at the plate. In Game #1 they were a little on their heels, a little in awe of playing in the Championship Series. The approach was tentative, they chased a lot of bad pitches. Now it will be interesting to see if he can be as effective against a red hot hitting line-up.”
TBS’ Craig Sager interviewed Rays leftfielder Carl Crawford who tied the ALCS record for most hits in a game going five for five.
Crawford on what the Rays will do on their off day: “We’re going to think about the game, think about Dice-K (Daisuke Matsuzaka), relax a little bit and get ready to play the game. It will be nice to finish it up here.”
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Johnson, Reynolds, Eckersley and Ripken
Reynolds on the Tampa Bay Rays taking advantage of getting on base and scoring runs early: “The thing about this (Tampa Bay) club is they are a double-edge sword, they get on base and they steal bases, they steal extra bases. They run the bases great and they continue to put pressure on you. And you’ve got a knuckleball pitcher on the mound (Wakefield), they are the best guys to run on, so (the Red Sox) were beat any way you look at it. It’s demoralizing, every night you are down five runs before you blink.”
Eckersley on the Rays early lead allowing pitcher Andy Sonnanstine to pitch more effectively: “You’re up 3-0 in the first inning, that’s huge. Here’s a finesse guy (in Sonnanstine) who is going to throw strikes and now you’re not afraid to throw strikes. You’re just not. I think you have more confidence going into the zone. For the most part he did what he always does, he doesn’t strike out a lot guys, he puts the ball in play, ground balls and changes speeds and more than anything (he has) confidence throwing strikes.”
Reynolds on predicting that Red Sox pitcher Daisuke Matsuzaka will not be able to repeat his performance from Game #1: “Daisuke Matsuzaka threw the game of his life and it ain’t happening again. I’m calling it, it’s not happening. He was 3-2 on everybody, he wiggled out and it’s not happening. This is not the same Red Sox team that everyone says they came back three games (against the Yankees in 2004), it’s not the same team. There’s no Manny, there’s no Mike Lowell, they are scuffling on the offensive side.”