Friday, October 10, 2008

Rays-Sox: Getting Down to Bidness

No matter how you slice it, this should be one hell of a series. As Rays pitcher/puncher James Shields put it in the papers this morning, every time these two teams played each other this year it felt like a postseason game. Now that we're actually in the postseason, it should be an absolute treat.

I'm not gonna get into any technical mumbo-jumbo on the match-up. We've all seen the Rays enough this year to know that they're for real, their young arms are studs, they hit in clutch situations, and - save for maybe Evan Longoria - they're essentially superstar-less. I think what struck me the most, especially down the stretch, was their resiliency. How many times would we see the TV ticker scroll say the Rays were down three runs in the 7th, and then 20 minutes later they were up by four? It happened a lot. One thing I'm concerned about is the home-field advantage the Rays enjoy, and their incredible record in one-run games, which we're sure to see a few of.

As for the Sox, I've said it before and I'll say it again: This is far and away Terry Francona's best job as the manager of this team. Think about all the shit he's had to deal with - Schilling's injury and the ensuing medical debate, Papi's wrist, the uncertainty of Mike Lowell and J.D. Drew's injuries, and of course, the entire Manny fiasco. There were some dark days this season to be sure, but here they are again - and they may very well get into their third World Series in FIVE years. Unthinkable. If Lester keeps doing what he's doing, and Beckett and Dice-K can each improve on their ALDS performances, the keys to me will be getting Pedroia and Ortiz going again. Look for Pedroia to have a big series.

Tonight's matchup (8:37, TBS) has Dice-K going against Shields, and then tomorrow night it's Beckett vs. Scott Kazmir. When the series shift up to Fenway on Monday, it'll be Matt Garza vs. arguably the best pitcher in the game right now in Jon Lester, and then (for now) Game 4 has Andy Sonnanstine going against Tim Wakefield. Tonight would be a tremendous one for the Sox to steal, mostly because we're not sure what Beckett's going to do tomorrow night. He's looked anything but ace-like. If we can split, then we can put our faith in Lester on Monday to take a lead.

Two final observations: 1) Here's hoping the stupid catwalks at the Trop don't play a meaningful role in any of the games, and 2) Get ready for more of those Frank Caliendo commercials. I hate that these games are on TBS, mostly because the announcers (Chip Caray, Buck Martinez) stink and their high-def feed - at least compared to Fox - is terrible.

Go Sawx.

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