The Tampa Bay Rays have been playing for their postseason lives on a game-to-game basis since Sunday in Toronto. Having a five game series with the Boston Red Sox in the American League Division Series should come as a relief.
Of course, these two teams are no strangers to each other as they battled 19 times with the Red Sox winning the season series, 12-7. Those 12 wins were part of an American League best 97 on the season which was earned the Red Sox the AL East division crown. Thanks to the American League’s victory in the All-Star game the Red Sox have home field advantage in every series they are a part of this postseason.
Boston’s resurgence this season involved a thorough off season makeover. Gone was manager Bobby Valentine who was replaced by AL Manager Of the Year candidate John Farrell. Farrell is a former Red Sox pitcher and pitching coach who spent the last two seasons as the Toronto Blue Jays manager.
Instead of spending lavishly on the free agent market the Red Sox were prudent and targeted players who could contribute on and off the field. They signed outfielders Shane Victorino and Jonny Gomes, catcher David Ross, first baseman Mike Napoli and shortstop Steven Drew.
It is almost as if the Red Sox copied how the Rays put together their roster every year. Tampa Bay will never be able to compete dollar for dollar with the big money franchises in their division. They developed their own way to compete in the AL East.
First, the Rays draft and develop players from within the organization, especially starting pitching. Then sign modestly priced free agents who will come in and contribute on the field and in the clubhouse. No manager keeps his club as loose as Rays manager Joe Madden.
Game 1 will feature Matt Moore(17-4, 3.29 ERA) for the Rays versus Jon Lester(15-8, 3.75 ERA) for the Red Sox. Tampa’s ace David Price(10-8, 3.33 ERA) will face John Lackey(10-13, 3.52 ERA) of the Red Sox in game 2. Lackey has been extremely tough at home for the Sox this season. Game 3 in Tampa will pit Alex Cobb(12-3, 2.64 ERA) against Clay Buchholz(12-1, 1.74 ERA).
The Red Sox got the better of the rays in the regular season and that will continue in the ALDS. Boston will end the Rays season in four games.
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