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Missed chances haunt Rays

Missed chances haunt Rays

ST. PETERSBURG -- Home-field advantage is gone.

The Rays fought hard all season long to win the American League East so they could have four games at home in the American League Championship Series if they played the Red Sox.

Now that's out the window and the Rays know they must win at Fenway Park if they are going to advance to the World Series.

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The Red Sox pulled out a 2-0 win over the Rays on Friday night in front of a sellout crowd of 35,001 at Tropicana Field to take a 1-0 lead in the best-of-seven ALCS.

"Tough night," Cliff Floyd said. "We don't like losing at home. You lose home-field advantage. It's not a good thing, but we're not out of this and tomorrow's a new day.

"That's baseball. You put so much effort into going out there and taking full advantage of home-field advantage. And sometimes things just don't go your way."

The Red Sox won for just the second time in 10 tries at Tropicana Field this season, a place where the Rays went 57-24 during the regular season and 2-0 in the ALDS. In 38 previous ALCS matchups, the team winning Game 1 has gone on to win the series 23 times, and since the introduction of the seven-game series in 1985, 12 of 22 teams winning Game 1 have gone on to win the series.

Friday night saw a classic pitching matchup between James Shields and Daisuke Matsuzaka, who started for the Rays and Red Sox, respectively, and matched zeroes through four innings.

The Red Sox finally scratched out a run in the fifth on Jed Lowrie's sacrifice fly. It turns out that was all the Red Sox needed.

Matsuzaka held the Rays hitless for six innings before Carl Crawford finally broke the spell with a leadoff single in the seventh. Floyd followed with a single to left-center field that allowed Crawford to reach third with no outs.

But the Rays' best chance against Matsuzaka went by the wayside as the Red Sox right-hander retired Dioner Navarro on a short fly to left for the first out. Gabe Gross struck out swinging for the second out before Jason Bartlett hit into a fielder's choice to end the threat.

The Rays squandered an earlier chance against Matsuzaka in the first inning when they loaded the bases with two outs, but Floyd grounded out for the third out.

"He's got one that moves away from you, one that cuts into you, he's got a slow curveball, and a hard slider, and a changeup and a rising fastball, so this is a guy who has like 45 pitches," Carlos Pena said. "And to be honest with you, I don't even know how [Red Sox catcher Jason] Varitek can give the signs."

GAME 2: JUST THE FACTS
Tropicana Field, 8:07 p.m. ET
Red Sox starter: RHP Josh Beckett
2008: 12-10, 4.03 ERA
2008 on the road: 7-5, 2.85 ERA
2008 vs. Rays: 2-1, 2.06 ERA
Career vs. Rays: 5-3, 3.10 ERA
2008 postseason: 0-0, 7.20 ERA
Career postseason: 2-3, 3.51 ERA (10 games, eight starts)
Career postseason: 6-2, 2.09 ERA
Rays starter: LHP Scott Kazmir
2008: 12-8, 3.49 ERA
2008 at home: 8-2, 2.90 ERA
2008 vs. Red Sox: 0-2, 9.00 ERA
Career vs. Red Sox: 6-7, 3.62 ERA
2008 postseason: 1-0, 3.38 ERA
Career postseason: 1-0, 3.38 ERA
Red Sox lead series, 1-0. Red Sox lead series, 1-0. Twenty-three of the previous 38 teams to win the first game of the ALCS have gone on to take the series. However, just 12 of 22 teams have done so since the LCS went to a best-of-7 format in 1985.
Game 1: Red Sox 2, Rays 0
Did You Know? The Red Sox have won their last six postseason road games since dropping Game 4 of last year's ALCS at Cleveland. It's the longest road winning streak in the postseason since the Yankees won six straight from the 2000 World Series through the first two games of the 2001 ALCS.

Shields pitched brilliantly, leaving the game with one out in the eighth after Dustin Pedroia singled. J.P. Howell took over and after Pedroia stole second, Howell walked David Ortiz. Kevin Youkilis then hit a line drive to left that Crawford dove for, and the ball glanced off his glove for an RBI double and a 2-0 lead.

"A lot of top-spin on that ball," Crawford said. "I don't think anybody else would have even gotten to it. So I just tried to make a play on it because I thought we needed an out at that time. He hit it pretty hard and it had some serious top-spin."

The Rays' final opportunity came in the eighth, when Akinori Iwamura and B.J. Upton cobbled together singles to start the inning, chasing Matsuzaka in favor of left-hander Hideki Okajima to face the left-handed-hitting Pena.

Initially, the move appeared as though it backfired when Pena got ahead in the count 3-0 before swinging at the next pitch and flying out to right field.

"[Rays manager] Joe [Maddon] wanted me to take a swing, and all you try to do is just focus on that pitch and you kind of forget about the count at that moment," Pena said. "You don't try to do anything with the ball, you don't try to hit a home run or get a big hit. You just try to play the same way if the count is 1-0 or whatever it may be. And it didn't work out. I got to it a little bit too quick and I hit it off the end [of the bat]."

Justin Masterson then entered the game to pitch to Evan Longoria and the move worked perfectly for the Red Sox as Longoria grounded into an inning-ending double play.

Jonathan Papelbon retired the side in order in the ninth to preserve the win and pick up the save.

"We had some opportunities. We didn't take advantage of them," Maddon said. "It was really a well-pitched game on both sides. Our guys did a good job. It was a clean game. It was a good game."

Playoff baseball turns up the pressure, which can affect any team, particularly a young team like the Rays, according to Boston DH David Ortiz.

"I saw faces tonight different than what I [saw] in the regular season. I don't blame nobody," Ortiz said. "There's a lot of pressure right now in this game because you know you have to win. Otherwise you go home. That relaxed type of thing that you have during the regular season, it wasn't out there tonight."

But Ortiz is just one opinion. Inside the Rays' clubhouse, the mood remained light despite the loss, and a feeling of confidence could be felt that they would rebound in Game 2.

"I have faith in the entire team," Shields said. "[Rebounding from tough losses] is what we've done all season. They played a [great] ballgame tonight. You just have to tip your cap to Dice-K the way he pitched tonight and come back ready to play again tomorrow night."

The Rays will have their chance to even the series on Saturday. Scott Kazmir will start for Tampa Bay at 8:07 p.m. ET on TBS.

Bill Chastain 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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