Why the Rays will beat the Red Sox

Let’s play a little pepper with the Boston Red Sox and the ALCS.

First inning. (A look back)…
Both the Rays and Red Sox dominated the season series in their home parks. The Rays won eight of nine at home against the Sox, sweeping two series. On the other hand, Boston was 7-2 at Fenway, also sweeping two series. Will this trend continue in the ALCS?

This won’t be a ’91 World Series scenario where the home team wins all seven games, but the home teams will dominate. The Rays won more games at home this season (57) than any team since the ’98 Yankees. And no park is more intimidating than Fenway Park in October.

But the Rays know they can win in Boston. After dropping their first seven games at Fenway this season, the Rays broke through in September with first place on the line. They would win their final two in Fenway in playoff-like atmospheres. The Rays will win one in Fenway, which means the Sox have to win one of the first two if they want a chance to win the series…
Rays have proven they can win in Fenway.

Second inning. (Come from behind)…
In the final month of the season, the Rays twice faced the Red Sox. In both cases, the Red Sox won the first game to pull within one win of the lead in the AL East. Each time, the Rays won the final two games, to win each series and maintain their lead in the East. What can we learn from those series and how will it affect the ALCS?

If the Rays fall behind early in any games, they will not panic. In all four wins during those two September series, the Rays trailed and three times they trailed in the seventh inning or later. One time they even got to Jonathon Papelbon. In the playoffs, teams tend to panic when they give up the lead. The Rays know they have a bullpen that will keep them in games and an offense capable of coming from behind…
Rays know they won’t have to panic

Third inning. (The right stuff)…
Jon Heyman of SI.com broke down the final four and the only weakness he could find for the Rays was a lack of experience. Will this hurt the Rays in the ALCS?

In other divisions, a team can be built for the long haul and survive 162 games only to get trounced in the playoffs (*cough* Oakland *cough*). To win the AL East, a team has to be designed to win in both the long haul and the short series. The Rays played 24 series against divisional rivals, in a division in which four teams finished with a winning record. The season is nothing but a bunch of short series with a heightened magnitude. The Rays have more experience than most teams…
no

Fourth inning (No fairy tale)…
Several writers have referred to the Rays as a Cinderella, the likes of George Mason in the NCAA basketball tournament. Does the slipper fit?

In terms of the ’08 season, sure. But with respect to the playoffs, this is not the ’07 Rockies. The Rays did not slip in the back door by way of a weak division. The Rays held sole possession of first place every day in the second half of the season. This is a good team from the toughest division…
the Trop is an orange, not a pumpkin

Fifth inning. (Really, Reilly?)…
Rick Reilly says the Rays are “bad for baseball” Is this possible?

When people say a certain team or matchup in the World Series is “bad for baseball,” they rarely see the whole picture. Before this season, the Rays had trouble selling tickets. Tampa/St. Pete is still an untapped market. A trip to the World Series will only increase the popularity of the team in the Bay Area. How is that “bad for baseball”? Now, the Rays may not be good for the TV ratings. But so what? Is baseball hurting for money? As long as teams keep handing out $100 million contracts…
baseball will be just fine

Sixth inning. (A look outside the box)…
With the Rays taking on the Red Sox in the ALCS, they are four wins from the World Series. Which team will The Rayshead Army be rooting for in the NLCS?

After two straight playoff blowouts at the hands of the Eagles, the Bucs finally broke through with a win in Philadelphia in the ’02 NFC championship game, en route to their first Super Bowl. In 2004, the Tampa Bay Lightning beat the Flyers in seven games in the Eastern Conference finals, on their way to their first Stanley Cup championship. Nothing gives a Tampa Bay sports fan more pleasure than keeping the City of Brotherly Love in its place…
Philadelphia Phillies

Seventh inning. (Over/unders)…
1.5 renditions of “Seven Nation Army” at the Trop during Game 1: When the Rays chase a pitcher during an inning, “Seven Nation Army” by the White Stripes is blasted through the speakers during the pitching change with fans chanting along. Unfortunately, Dice-K has not been pulled in the middle of an inning since July. But the Rays will get to Matsuzaka early; he has a tendency to walk a lot of Rays. If the Red Sox do have to go to the bullpen after the fifth inning, Tito Francona will play matchups the rest of the way…
over

0.5 saves for Troy Percival in the ALCS: Percival was held out of the ALDS because of a recurring back problem. He has thrown in a couple of instructional league games and says he feels good. The Rays carried only 10 pitchers in the ALDS and could go to 11 in the ALCS. If Edwin Jackson is not added to the roster, Percival will be, but he is not likely to take back his closer role…
under

0.5 bases loaded walks in this series: The Rays batters led baseball with 29 walks and hit batters with the bases loaded this season. Carlos Pena even set a major league record with nine bases-loaded free passes. Boston was second with 22, showing that both teams put incredible pressure on opposing pitchers. Still, it is not likely that either pitching staff will have to face too many bases-loaded situations…
under

0.5 hit batters after which the TBS announcers will overreact and show the brawl from the regular season:
Is this a serious question?…
over, way over

0.5 games that the Red Sox Nation thinks the Rays can win in the ALCS: Pink Hat Nation, defining humble and classy since 2004…
under

3.5 wins in the ALCS for the Tampa Bay Rays:
The story has been the same all season. The Rays lose a single game and everybody predicts imminent doom. And every time, the Rays answer the bell with a win. How quickly the Pink Hat Nation forgets their place and 86 years of ineptitude. The World Series is not a Boston birthright. The ALCS will be status quo…
over

6.5 games needed to win the ALCS: The Rays will win Games 1 and 2 at home and then take Game 4 in Fenway. Up three games to two, the Rays will come home and extinguish the Sox flame in Game 6…
under

Eighth inning. (On deck)…
The pitching matchups for the first four games are now known…Which games could be the key to the series?

The Rayshead Army should feel good about the Game 1 matchup between the Rays’ ace, James Shields, and Daisuke Matsuzaka, who may be the most overrated 18-3 in the history of baseball. The Rays also will have the advantage in Game 4 with Andy Sonnanstine facing Tim Wakefield. In two September starts against the Red Sox, The Duke gave up only two unearned runs on seven hits and two walks in 13 innings. Wakefield, the former Rays killer, struggled in three starts this season.

The key will be Games 2 and 3, with Scott Kazmir facing Josh Beckett and Matt Garza going against Jon Lester. If the Rays can split those two games, they will likely be up three games to two heading home for Game 6. If they lose both games, they likely will need to win both Games 6 and 7 to win the ALCS…
Rays need to split games two and three

Ninth inning. (Putting out the fire)…
The Rays won 97 games this season without a true MVP. If they win the ALCS, who will be named MVP?

In his final seven plate appearances of the ALDS, B.J. Upton hit three home runs and was on base five times. Before that, Upton was swinging scared because of a tear in the labrum of his shoulder. Upton has finally put that fear behind him. Look for a huge series as he makes up for lost time…
B.J. Upton

This season the Rays have been compared to both the ’69 Mets and the ’91 Braves. Which comparison do you prefer?

The Amazins won the World Series, while the Braves won 14 straight division titles. We’d never turn down a title, but this Rays team is not a flash in the pan…
’91 Braves

Numerous ALCS previews have been written with pictures of Jenn Sterger wearing the old Devil Rays green gear. Should this be a point of pride for Rays fans?

That is soooo 2006…
who?

For the last 10 years, the only extended break for the Rays and their fans during the season has been the All-Star break, and at that point the Rays were already 25 games out. Now the Rays and The Rayshead Army are faced with a three-day wait before the ALCS. How are you passing the time?

So this is what October baseball feels like…
very carefully

We have heard that you pick your beverage for a series based on the opponent. What is the drink of choice for the ALCS?

In an attempt to determine what the “Opposite of Sam Adams” would be, we recalled that Sam Adams (the person) was a key leader in the events that led to the Boston Tea Party. So obviously we should go British. Our favorite English beer is Boddingtons. And of course we will also have champagne on ice, because it won’t take the Rays 86 years…
Boddington’s and champagne

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