|ALCS Preview: Rays v. Red Sox||| Print ||
Written by At Home Plate Staff (Contact & Archive) on October 10, 2008
While regular season numbers mean little the Rays not only managed to win the season series 10-8, but they took 4 out of 6 from the Red Sox in September when the Sox were trying to steal the division title. Throw in the fact that this is the best season ever for a franchise which just a year ago was still considered a laughingstock and you realize that the pressure here weighs a lot more heavily on the Red Sox than the Rays.
The Rays are continuing their venture into unfamiliar territory here and to win they’ll have to depend on their pitching which was the second best in the American League this year. Of their starters only James Shields really dominated against the Red Sox but Matt Garza, Scott Kazmir and Andy Sonnenstine all stepped it up against the White Sox. But even if the Rays starters falter they have no problem handing the ball to the bullpen which features Grant Balfour, J.P. Howell, Dan Wheeler and Trever Miller all of who helped the pen manage a 3.55 ERA during the regular season and who time and time again put the brakes on against the BoSox during the regular season.
The Red Sox will also be dealing with plenty of injuries. Josh Beckett and J.D. Drew are both rather fragile and not playing in the best of health, while Mike Lowell has been scratched for the whole series.
What this all adds up to is a great series which could easily be a coin flip, but home field advantage could be a major factor since the Rays had the best home field record of any team in the majors .
First Base: Carlos Pena v, a mix and match of Kevin Youkilis, Sean Casey and Mark Kotsay. Pena has more power than the other three combined but Youkilis hits for better average and has plenty of power too.
Second Base: Dustin Pedroia v. Akinori Iwamura. Iwamura was a Red Sox killer during the regular season managing to hit .319 with 4 home runs (he hit six all season) while driving in 8 and stealing two bases, but Pedroia was an offensive monster going .326-16-18 with 118 runs scored and 20 steals.
Edge: Boston, hands down.
Third Base: Evan Longoria v. a mix and match of Kevin Youkilis and Jed Lowrie. Longoria is one of the most gifted young players to come to the Majors in a long time and he has a great career ahead of him. He’s much better than Lowrie and Youkilis should be playing first so....
Shortstop: Jed Lowrie/ Alex Cora v. Jason Bartlett. This is defensive matchup no matter who plays for the Red Sox and while Lowrie has more offensive upside his glove is weaker than that of Cora. Bartlett is solid singles hitter who can hit for decent average but probably has more speed than either of the boston defenders.
Catcher: Jason Varitek the Boston backstop is the commander of his team and calls a great game while controlling the action on the field. While his average has fallen precipitously this year he still manages to hit for power. Rays counterpart Dioner Navarro hits for solid average but has less pop and less experience behind the plate and that counts against him in the final tally.
Edge: Red Sox
Outfield: The Rays will match Carl Crawford, B.J. Upton, Rocco Baldelli and Gabe Gross against the Boston quad of Jacoby Ellsbury, Jason Bay, J.D Drew and Coco Crisp. The Boston offense hits for more power and better average while balancing out on speed between Crawford and Ellsbury. The Boston group also has the advantage when it comes to experience.
Edge: Red Sox
Designated Hitter: David “Big Papi” Ortiz v. Cliff Floyd. While the infinitely fragile Floyd can still swing the stick he’s not half the hitter that Big Papi is. Papi is a game changer and was a huge factor in giving the Sox the offensive edge they had during the regular season.
Edge: Red Sox
Starting Pitching: Even with a healthy Josh Beckett the edge here belongs to the Rays, but based upon the Beckett we saw against the Angels the edge might be a big one. Still Boston batters managed to push around everyone but James Shields in the starting rotation. Bad news for Boston is that the Rays could call on Shields three times if they felt they need to in a seven game set.
Relief Pitching: Of the remaining teams only the Dodgers possibly could hope to match the bullpen of the Rays and in analysis they would probably fall short too. The Rays pen simply dominated and that’s even without would be closer Troy Percival who was left off the ALCS roster. This group picked up six wins against the Red Sox during the regular season.
Prediction: Rays in Six.