Pent up after four off-days, the Red Sox got into their groove in the middle innings and grinded out Rays starter Matt Moore in much the same way they've done to countless other pitchers this season.
"Obviously, as I've said, we've done that all year long," said Shane Victorino, who led the attack with three hits. "We've been a good offense, we've been a good team. We've scored a lot of runs. That's the kind of stuff -- it's a testament to what we do every day. We grind out at-bats. We play 27 outs."
Even by their own standards, the Red Sox were ridiculously balanced in this one. All nine starters had at least a hit and a run, marking just the third time that's been done in postseason history by any team, and the first since 1936.
"You see nine hitters, and we all work together," said Jonny Gomes, who had a big game-tying two-run double. "The inning we scored, right before me, [Mike] Napoli didn't get it done, but I think he saw seven or eight pitches. I was able to see eight pitches from the on-deck circle and it allowed me to jump on the first two. We continue to apply pressure."
And Jon Lester stayed right in the groove he's been in since mid-July, overpowering Tampa Bay for much of the afternoon.
The lefty went 7 2/3 innings, a career high in the postseason. He allowed three hits, two of which were solo homers. Lester walked three and struck out seven, throwing 114 pitches.
"Obviously getting the start in Game 1 at Fenway Park is pretty exciting," Lester said. "The adrenaline was going. Our game plan early on was to set the tone and come right after the guys. It felt pretty good."
It was the first postseason game at Fenway Park since 2009, and Boston's first playoff victory since beating the Rays in Game 6 of the 2008 AL Championship Series.
The intensity in the stands was apparent from the first pitch, and the players no doubt fed off of it.
"This place just erupts," said third baseman Will Middlebrooks. "It was pretty cool to hear, a few different times tonight."
Nobody heard it more than Rays right fielder Wil Myers, the highly touted rookie who had a tough initiation to postseason play in a hostile environment.
Without question, the game's turning point was a flyball to deep right by David Ortiz that Myers called for, only to mysteriously peel off at the last second. The ground-rule double set the wheels in motion for the five-spot the Red Sox dropped on the Rays in that bottom of the fourth.
Perhaps the roar of the crowd -- and the fact that Myers saw center fielder Desmond Jennings out of the corner of his eye -- combined to make one memorable gaffe.
"It's one of those ones I saw went up," Myers said. "I waved Desmond off. I called the ball myself. I saw it up there. It's loud out there, so a hand motion, I had the ball, I was under the ball, and I saw Des out of the corner of my eye and backed off. It was a loud crowd today. That was totally my fault. I should have taken more charge out there and caught the ball."
The Fenway faithful became almost gleeful at the misplay by Myers, hollering his name in mocking fashion countless times for the rest of the day.
The Rays will try to even the best-of-five series when they send ace David Price to the mound for Saturday's Game 2 at 5:30 p.m. ET on TBS.
Lester looked completely unhittable when the game started, striking out the side -- all swinging -- in a 14-pitch first. He whiffed Evan Longoria to open the second.
"That first inning was powerful," said Red Sox manager John Farrell, "and something we probably haven't seen in a couple of years' time. I know he was more than ready for today's start."
With two outs in that second, there was an abrupt halt to Lester's momentum. Lester thought he had Sean Rodriguez with a strikeout on a 2-2 changeup. Then came the next pitch, a misplaced fastball, that Rodriguez belted over the Monster to make it a 1-0 game.
Between innings, Lester conferred with home-plate umpire Chris Guccione.
"As far as the conversation with Chris, I thought it was a pretty good pitch," Lester said. "And he just said it was borderline down. So there's nothing you can do about it."
While Moore held it there with three no-hit innings, the Rays got another home run swing in the fourth, this one a solo blow by Ben Zobrist on a 3-1 fastball that was high enough to probably be called ball four.
The game changed entirely in the bottom of the fourth when the Rays blinked with some misplays and the Red Sox pounced hard on all of them.
Dustin Pedroia opened the rally innocently enough with a leadoff single up the middle. Then came the Ortiz flyball that landed inches in front of the wall and then into Boston's bullpen after Myers gave up on it.
"I don't feel bad for him, brother. I've been in that situation before as a young player," said Victorino. "This kid is going to be a good player. He's actually going to be a great player. He has a lot of tools."
That play could have just been a footnote instead of a big story if Moore had been able to stop the bleeding.
But the Red Sox kept coming. Gomes hit a high fly ball to left that glanced off the Monster for a two-run double, tying the game at 2. Two batters later, Stephen Drew hit a grounder to the right side that the Rays hoped could be the third out.
Instead, the feed from first baseman James Loney to Moore was too late. Not only that, but as Moore glanced at first-base umpire Eric Cooper to see the ball, Gomes roared around from second and scored to give the Red Sox the lead. Gomes pulled off a similar play on Opening Day at Yankee Stadium.
"It was awesome. I think it got everybody [fired up], not only our dugout, but the crowd," said Pedroia. "It was the turning point in the game. We fed off that. We always feed off him."
The unraveling of the Rays continued when Moore surrendered a double to Will Middlebrooks that took a strange hop that eluded Rodriguez in left, allowing Drew to score all the way from first. And when Moore struck out Jacoby Ellsbury, that wasn't even a good thing. Instead, it was a passed ball by Jose Lobaton, keeping the inning alive. Naturally, Victorino capitalized, punching an RBI single to right that capped the damage in the five-run frame.
"You have to," Victorino said. "You have to capitalize, and we were able to do it."
When the Red Sox came back up in the fifth, they went right back on the attack. Napoli hit one off the wall in left and made a tremendous hook slide into second that allowed him to beat out a subpar throw by Rodriguez. With one out, Rays manager Joe Maddon opted for an intentional walk to Gomes, challenging Jarrod Saltalamacchia from his weaker right side. But Saltalamacchia came through, lofting a two-run double off the Monster.
Ellsbury lifted the lead to 8-2 with a single up the middle against reliever Wesley Wright.
Though the Red Sox got off to a rousing start in this series, they know it's only one game. And in the history of the ALDS, teams who win the first game have just a slight edge, winning 21 of the 36 series.
One thing is clear -- the Boston fans are as up for this series as the players they are cheering for.
"Completely different than the regular season," Middlebrooks said. "I was like, 'This place is crazy in the regular season, it can't be too different.' But it erupted out there tonight. You could even hear the people in the outfield."