The last team that the Reds Sox wanted to see in the American League Divisional series that begins tomorrow afternoon in Boston is the Tampa Bay Rays. The two teams have faced each other 19 times with the Red Sox winning 12 games to the Rays 7 but that is really meaningless at this point.
The Rays enter the series winning 10 out of their last 12 and they have ended the season’s of the Baltimore Orioles, New York Yankees, Texas Rangers and in the Wild Card play in game they took out the Cleveland Indians. The last three weeks the Rays have been in full playoff mode.
The Fenway Park crowd will not intimidate the Rays – been there and done that-in many ways the pressure is clearly on the Red Sox. They are the favorites while the Rays are the underdogs – a team that has been playing on the road for over a week.
They face for the moment no more – one and done games- they are now in a best 3 out of 5 ALDS with a team that has no surprises. This a free and easy team that is ready to take on the Red Sox with a clear head and no fear.
Pitching will be Tampa Bay’s key weapon in taking out the Red Sox. The Rays not only have the reigning Cy Young Award winner David Price, but they have an All-Star in Matt Moore and their hottest pitcher in the underrated Alex Cobb. Tampa Bay’s starting pitcher own a 3.44 ERA in 19 games against Boston in 2013 and in 19 games, only twice did they allow more than three earned runs.
When it comes to the bullpen I will give Boston a slight edge in the closer with an outstanding year that Koji Uehara is having. He has the edge over a still flame throwing Fernando Rodney. But the Rays have more viable late-inning options to get to Rodney than the Red Sox have in their pen.
The Rays Joel Peralta is essentially Tampa Bay’s version of Boston’s Junichi Tazawa — a fairly reliable set-up man occasionally prone to a letdown. The Rays Jake McGee is tough on lefties, and Alex Torres has been a game-changing longman all season. Then there is, Jeremy Hellickson who can give the Rays as many quality innings as they need.
The Rays head to Boston confident that they can score runs in large part because they do have some pop in their bats with Desomond Jennings, Evan Longoria, Ben Zobrist, rookie of the year candidate Wil Myers and the resurgence of Delmon Young - the Rays own Mr. October with nine post season home runs. Tampa Bay now has the kind offense it takes to win in the post season.
Look for every game to be a close one with the Rays winning in four games.