10/19/08 12:25 AM ET
Rays Short Hops: Game 6
Struggles of Shields, offense lead to evened-up ALCS
By Mark Remme / MLB.com
James Shields battled his control much more than he did during his Game 1 performance, and the Red Sox found a way to earn a close win.
Jason Varitek walked to the plate in the sixth inning having gone 0-for-14 in the ALCS. This time, against Shields with the game knotted at 2, the Red Sox's captain came through. Varitek lofted a solo home run to right that gave Boston the lead, and Shields would not make it out of the frame. Big number
2 -- Runs the Rays have scored off the Red Sox's bullpen in Games 5 and 6, a span of nine innings. Game balls B.J. Upton
Upton got Tampa Bay on the scoreboard in the first inning with a home run off Josh Beckett, his fourth of the series and seventh of the postseason. Upton now has 16 RBIs during his impressive October.
Bradford pitched nearly perfect relief for the Rays on Saturday, allowing just one walk and no hits in 1 2/3 innings of work. Not only did Bradford cruise through the Red Sox lineup, but he did so through the heart of the order.
Bartlett hit just one home run all season for Tampa Bay, but he launched a blast to left field off Beckett in the fifth inning that had absolutely no doubt of going out. For Bartlett, it was the first postseason homer of his career. But the shortstop did have a throwing error in the sixth that ended up resulting in Boston's fourth run.
Sense of October
It seemed the patrons of Tropicana Field understood the urgency of a Game 6 win. Given Boston's track record for comebacks, the Trop used every opportunity to make home-field advantage a factor in the ballgame. It just wasn't enough on Saturday, as the Red Sox prevailed and forced Game 7.
4 AB, 1 H, 1 HR, 1 RBI
Comment: Upton, Carlos Pena and Evan Longoria have terrorized Red Sox pitching all series long. On this night, it was only Upton who broke through to carry the Rays offense.
5.2 IP, 4 R, 3 ER, 9 H, 3 BB, 3 K, 2 HR
Comment: Shields allowed just two runs in his first outing against the Red Sox in Game 1 only to get outdueled by Daisuke Matsuzaka. In Game 6, his pitch count reached 109 in the sixth inning, and his home run allowed to previously hitless Varitek was the turning point in the contest.
With seven outs to play in Game 5 at Fenway Park, it seemed like the Rays were well on their way to the World Series. After Game 6, it's clear that the Red Sox are very much alive and not ready to concede their title defense. Matt Garza will take the hill for Sunday's Game 7, hoping to push his crew past Boston once and for all.
Mark Remme is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.