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10/12/08 3:12 AM EST

Chess Match: 'Pen moves huge

After homer barrage, relievers make a difference for Rays, Sox

ST. PETERSBURG -- There is very little strategy for the home run. After seven homers over the first five innings in Game 2 of the American League Championship Series, however, there was plenty of strategy for the close game that followed.

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Most of the decisions came down to the bullpen, especially the use of so many late-inning relievers in the middle innings. There was no advance notice that the managers would do that, and some relievers admitted they were caught a little by surprise, but the moves kept either side from pulling away. By game's end, the attrition pretty much made the relief choices by themselves.

Beaten like Beckett
The situation:
After taking a 6-5 lead into the bottom of the fifth inning, Red Sox starter Josh Beckett gives up a one-out walk to B.J. Upton and Carlos Pena's game-tying RBI single, putting the go-ahead run on first base for Evan Longoria.

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The decision: Red Sox manager Terry Francona, who has right-hander Manny Delcarmen warming up in the bullpen, sticks with Beckett.

The outcome: Longoria doubles in Pena and knocks Beckett out of the game before Carl Crawford drives Longoria in with a single off lefty Javier Lopez.

The analysis: Having the left-handed-hitting Crawford looming on deck arguably kept Francona from using a right-hander for just one batter. On the other hand, that one batter was Longoria, who had homered and doubled off of Beckett in his previous two at-bats despite Beckett's previously solid numbers against him.

The explanation: "We wanted Beckett to get through that fifth and set up our bullpen, and it didn't work." -- Francona

Point to Paps
The situation:
After Akinori Iwamura's single puts the potential winning run on base in the bottom of the ninth, Justin Masterson strikes out Upton for the second out, bringing up Pena as the only hope to extend the ninth.

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The decision: Francona replaces Masterson with closer Jonathan Papelbon with the game tied.

The outcome: Papelbon strikes out Pena swinging at a fastball to end the threat and send the game into extra innings.

The analysis: Conventional wisdom usually leads visiting teams in extra innings to save their closers for when they take the lead. Francona went to Papelbon knowing he'd need three more outs from him in the 10th. However, Pena was 3-for-5 with two doubles, a home run and four RBIs off Masterson in the regular season. By contrast, Pena was 1-for-4 lifetime off Papelbon -- though the lone hit was a two-run homer -- and Pena and Papelbon hadn't faced each other at all this year.

The Price is right
The situation:
Jed Lowrie's one-out walk puts the potential go-ahead run on base for Boston in the 11th inning, Dan Wheeler's fourth inning of work, as J.D. Drew steps to the plate.

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The decision: Rays manager Joe Maddon inserts rookie David Price, just called up to the big leagues a month ago and just drafted with the top overall pick a year earlier.

The outcome: Price walks Drew, moving Lowrie into scoring position, but recovers to strike out Mark Kotsay and induce an inning-ending ground ball from Coco Crisp.

The analysis: The only other pitcher left in the bullpen who wasn't a part of the postseason rotation was right-hander Edwin Jackson, and Drew is 6-for-14 with four doubles lifetime off him. It's a tough situation for any young pitcher, but the game dictated using Price.

The explanation: "I had to try and make pitches, a double-play ball, anything. Just throw strikes and trust my defense." -- Price

Run for the end zone
The situation:
Dioner Navarro draws a walk against Red Sox reliever Mike Timlin to lead off the bottom of the 11th inning, again putting the potential winning run on base.

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The decision: Maddon inserts pinch-runner Fernando Perez for speed and goes about trying to manufacture a game-winning run.

The outcome: After a Ben Zobrist walk moves Perez to second, he advances again on Jason Bartlett's groundout to third, then scores on Upton's sacrifice fly to shallow right field.

The analysis: The decision to pinch-run with Perez probably wasn't as aggressive as the decision to send Perez home on the fly ball. In the end, however, the Rays forced Drew to try to make a strong, accurate throw, and took advantage when he didn't.

The analysis: "In a straight up race, I've got him over Seabiscuit. I'm dating myself a bit. I'm sorry, but that's the first horse that came to my mind." -- Maddon on Perez

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