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October 8, 2013

Pressure now on Sox to avoid Price

The Rays are right back in this series. And all the pressure now falls on the Red Sox.

Clay Buchholz could not shut the door when ahead 3-0 in the fifth. Franklin Morales predictably walked the leadoff hitter in the eighth with the game tied 3-3. The Red Sox self-destructed defensively in the eighth.

And then, Jose Lobaton, a career .228 hitter, blasted a walkoff homer against the hottest closer in baseball, Koji Uehara.

The Rays prevailed 5-4 and have life left in them. Can you hear them coming?

Boston will face Tampa righty Jeremy Hellickson today in Game 4 at 8:37 p.m. at Tropicana Field.

The 26-year-old Hellickson won the 2011 AL Rookie of the Year. But he was awful this season, posting a 5.17 ERA. Still, he was 1-0 with a 3.44 ERA, 0.98 WHIP in three starts against Boston this summer — and Red Sox hitters batted just .209 against him.

Hellckson grew up in a Iowa household that didn’t show any love for the Red Sox. His dad Steve rooted for the New York Yankees.

“He was a Reggie Jackson fan,” Hellickson told The Eagle-Tribune.

So this is it in a nutshell: The Red Sox better beat Hellickson today because if they lose, they would have to face 2012 AL Cy Young winner David Price in a do-or-die Game 5 in Boston on Thursday.

Believe me, Red Sox players don’t want to give Price a chance to redeem himself after he surrendered seven earned runs in 7.0-plus innings in a loss to Boston in Game 2. Price has been way too good against the Red Sox and way too good against everyone to throw two straight playoff stinkers.

But the challenge today might be greater than it appears.

Hellickson, who loved watching Greg Maddux and Roger Clemens when he was a youngster, had a bad year but he has good stuff. He showed it in 2011 as a rookie and also posted a 3.10 ERA in 31 starts in 2012.

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