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MLB Playoff Preview: Red Sox vs. Rays
CF Jacoby Ellsbury (.280, 9 HRs, 47 RBIs, 50 SB, 18-game hitting streak ending season), 2B Dustin Pedroia (.326, 17, 83, 213 H, 118 R, 54 2B, 20 SB), DH David Ortiz (.264, 23, 89), 3B Kevin Youkilis (.312, 29, 115), RF J.D. Drew (.280, 19, 64), LF Jason Bay (.293, 9, 37 in 49 games with Red Sox after July 31 trade from Pittsburgh; .286, 31, 101 overall), 1B Mark Kotsay (.226, 0, 12 in 84 at-bats with Red Sox after Aug. 27 trade from Atlanta; .276, 6, 49 overall), SS Jed Lowrie (.258, 2, 46), C Jason Varitek (.220, 13, 43).
2B Akinori Iwamura (.274, 6, 48), CF B.J. Upton (.273, 9, 67), 1B Carlos Pena (.247, 31, 102), 3B Evan Longoria (.272, 27, 85), LF Carl Crawford (.273, 8, 57), DH Cliff Floyd (.268, 11, 39), C Dioner Navarro (.295, 7, 54), RF Gabe Gross (.242, 13, 38), SS Jason Bartlett (.286, 1, 37).
RH Daisuke Matsuzaka (18-3, 2.90 ERA), RH Josh Beckett (12-10, 4.03), LH Jon Lester (16-6, 3.21), RH Tim Wakefield (10-11, 4.13).
RH James Shields (14-8, 3.56), LH Scott Kazmir (12-8, 3.49), RH Matt Garza (11-9, 3.70), RH Andy Sonnanstine (13-9, 4.38).
RH Jonathan Papelbon (5-4, 2.34, 40/45 saves), LH Hideki Okajima (3-2, 2.61), RH Justin Masterson (6-5, 3.16), RH Manny Delcarmen (1-2, 3.27), LH Javier Lopez (2-0, 2.43), RH Paul Byrd (11-12, 4.60).
RH Grant Balfour (6-2, 1.54, 82 strikeouts in 58 1-3 innings), LH J.P. Howell (6-1, 2.22), RH Dan Wheeler (5-6, 3.12, 13/18 saves), LH Trever Miller (2-0, 4.15), RH Chad Bradford (4-3, 2.12), LH David Price (0-0, 1.93).
In the heat of a tight pennant race, Tampa Bay took four of six from Boston during September and won the AL East by two games over the Red Sox. The gritty Rays took two of three at Fenway Park from Sept. 8-10, rallying in the ninth to beat Papelbon in the middle game and then winning the series finale in 14 innings the next night on Pena’s three-run homer. … These teams definitely don’t like each other. They had a nasty brawl June 5 at Fenway Park after Shields hit Coco Crisp on the hip with a pitch, the latest in a half-dozen dustups between the clubs this decade. … Tampa Bay was second in the AL with a 3.82 ERA, while Boston ranked fourth at 4.01. The Red Sox scored 845 runs to Tampa Bay’s 774. The Rays hit 180 homers to Boston’s 173. … The Red Sox will be without 3B Mike Lowell in this series. The 2007 World Series MVP has an injured hip. That means Youkilis, a Gold Glove first baseman, likely moves to third and Kotsay, normally an outfielder, probably sees time at first. … Drew was 12-for-37 (.324) with 7 extra-base hits and 8 RBIs against Tampa Bay this season. Ellsbury stole 6 bases, and Ortiz went 9-for-37 (.243) with 3 homers, 4 doubles and 11 RBIs. Bay was 4-for-17 (.235) with 3 homers. Youkilis had a team-high 14 RBIs, though he batted only .232. Varitek hit .167 in 54 at-bats. … Lester was 3-0 with a 0.90 ERA in 3 starts against the Rays. He struck out 19 in 20 innings. Beckett went 2-1 with a 2.06 ERA in 5 starts. He fanned 37 in 35 innings. Matsuzaka had a 3.00 ERA in 3 starts. Okajima (6 2-3 innings) and Lopez (8 2-3 innings) did not allow an earned run in 15 combined appearances. Delcarmen (5.59 ERA) and Masterson (5.65 ERA) struggled against Tampa Bay. Wakefield, a knuckleballer, was 0-2 with a 5.87 ERA in 3 starts. … Iwamura batted .319 with 4 homers and 10 runs against Boston this season. Pena hit .314 with 4 homers and 12 RBIs. Willy Aybar was 12-for-29 (.414) with 5 RBIs. Gross had 3 homers and a .204 average in 49 at-bats. Navarro hit .190 with one extra-base hit and 15 strikeouts in 63 at-bats. Upton was 5-for-39 (.128) with 12 Ks and Floyd went 3-for-24 (.125). … Sonnanstine did not allow an earned run in 13 innings against the Red Sox. He struck out 12. Balfour had a 1.74 ERA in 10 1-3 innings. Kazmir was 0-2 with a 9.00 ERA in 4 starts. He walked 14 batters and served up 6 homers in 18 innings. … Upbeat Rays manager Joe Maddon likes to use his bench. In the division series, he gave starts to Aybar, Rocco Baldelli and Fernando Perez. … Crawford is back from a finger injury and his speed puts pressure on opposing defenses. He had 25 of Tampa Bay’s major league-best 142 stolen bases this season, then added three more in the division series against Chicago. … Yet to be determined is whether closer Troy Percival (28/32 saves) will be on Tampa Bay’s roster for this series. He missed the first round because of a balky back. Starting pitcher Edwin Jackson also could be added to the bullpen, but he was 0-3 with a 5.48 ERA in 4 starts against Boston this year.
What To Watch For
Boston Medical Group
Lowell is out, Drew has been hurting and Beckett labored through his first-round start. These Red Sox play their best ball in October, but they’re not at full strength. Can they keep up with the energetic Rays in a long series?
Tricks At The Trop
Tropicana Field, with its catwalks and artificial turf, is hosting playoff games for the first time this year. Tampa Bay has prospered in the wacky dome, compiling the best home record (57-24) in the majors during the regular season and then winning both home games against Chicago in the first round. A tricky bounce or two could turn the series.
Youkilis provided unexpected punch in the cleanup spot after Ramirez was traded, but the Red Sox don’t rely on homers. They generate offense with tough at-bats and pure speed. Ellsbury, Pedroia and Crisp were the first Boston trio to steal at least 20 bases apiece since 1914. Ellsbury’s total was the third-highest in team history behind Tommy Harper (54) and Tris Speaker (52).
Pena was the AL Comeback Player of the Year in 2007 with 46 homers and 121 RBIs. He got off to a slow start this season but has raised his play since the All-Star break, hitting 17 homers and providing clutch hits. A patient hitter, he drew nine walks with the bases loaded, most in the majors since 1957. After he scratched his cornea at home, slightly blurred vision in his left eye kept Pena out of the lineup early in the first round, but he had five hits in the final two games. The slugger also played 18 games for Boston in 2006.