AL Playoff Preview: Tampa Bay Rays At Boston Red Sox
The Boston Red Sox and Tampa Bay Rays will play at least 22 times this season. The Rays defeated the Cleveland Indians 4-0 to advance to the American League Division Series and face their foe, the Red Sox.
The Red Sox and Rays have quite a history for the Rays being just a 15 year old franchise. In 2008 the Rays beat out the Red Sox for the AL East and defeated them in the ALCS in seven games. In 2011 the Rays won the division again when they won on the last day of the season to complete the Red Sox epic collapse when they fell to the Baltimore Orioles.
Despite playing in three must win games in a row, the Rays pitching is relatively fresh. David Price went the distance in their play-in game against the Texas Rangers while against Cleveland they just used three relievers. The Red Sox will be going with 11 relief pitchers in the series despite having four lefties in the pen and they will use four starters in the rotation. We take a look at how the teams match up.
Lester has seen a revival this season, after starting horribly he has bounced back to re-establish himself as the Boston ace and had an ERA of 2.57 in the second half of the year. His counter part in game one, Moore, finished with a 3.29 ERA and went 17-4 overall. He and Lester had similar seasons with starting well, struggling in the middle and finishing strong.
Lackey was the wild card for the Sox going into 2013, and even after when he got injured during his first start of the season. He has bounced back strong and become one of Boston’s most trusted pitchers has an ERA of 2.47 in home games. His only struggle all season has been run support. He faces lefty David Price, who has been dominant against the Red Sox his entire career.
We saw how good Alex Cobb could be last night and though he is a righty, he will be tough on left handed hitters with the way his ball tails. He matches up with Buchholz who missed most of the season for Boston but is arguably their best pitcher. Game four will see the newest starter for the Sox, Jake Peavy, face off with Jeremy Hellickson.
Boston scored more than any team in the American League this season, led by the 100 RBI performance by David Ortiz and the .300+ batting averages from Dustin Pedroia and Daniel Nava. Their lineup will be back to normal with Jacoby Ellsbury back and leading off and then Shane Victorino second. At times this season Victorino had to be taken out of games with injuries, so it will be interesting to see how he fares in the intense playoff environment.
A big factor for the Red Sox lineup is the two lefty pitchers they face to start. This will affect three regulars; Ortiz, Ellsbury, and shortstop Stephen Drew. This will also lead to Johnny Gomes likely playing instead of Nava and Jarrod Saltalamacchia having to bat on the right side, his weaker side.
For the Rays, they are known as the team that can’t score yet somehow finds a way. They always seem to find the steal of the off season offensively an they did again with first baseman James Loney. They will go with Evan Longoria at third and batting third, and then Ben Zobrist at second base. Those two are the only ones left from the 2008 series against the Red Sox as position players.
The outfield is led by youngsters Wil Myers and Desmond Jennings along with waiver-wire pickup David DeJesus. DeJesus, along with DH and fellow waiver pickup Delmon Young, make the roster over the lefty hitting Luke Scott. Jennings is also fighting with a hamstring injury that will take away some of his speed.
Boston will add starters Ryan Dempster and Felix Doubront to the bullpen, but they are led by their stud closer Koji Uehara who has made waves all season after Boston lost their first two closers. Junichi Tazawa has been the eighth inning man but has struggled of late, opening that slot for Dempster. Brandon Workman and Craig Breslow can also go late in games.
The shaky ones other than Tazawa are Franklin Morales and Matt Thornton. Morales has a tendency to be wild while Thornton has not been what the Sox expected when they acquired him from the Chicago White Sox; though, the Rays lineup has a career .230 BA against him.
Fernando Rodney has been the guy in Tampa all year but they also are solid with lefty Jake McGee coming in late and starter Chris Archer will also get valuable innings. Brandon Gomes and Wesley Wright also made roster spots along with Joel Peralta and the righty Alex Torres.