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October 10, 2008 3:45 PM

ALCS Preview: Red Sox vs. Rays

Season Series: Tampa Bay won, 10-8 (Red Sox outscored the Rays, 87-67 in the 18 games. Boston was 7-2 at Fenway, but just 1-8 in Tampa.)

Television: TBS – Chip Caray, Buck Martinez

Schedule:
Game 1: Friday, October 10, 8:37 p.m. Boston (Matsuzaka) at Tampa Bay (Shields).
Game 2: Saturday, October 11, 8:07 p.m. Boston (Beckett) at Tampa Bay (Kazmir).
Game 3: Monday, October 13, 4:37 p.m. Tampa Bay (Garza) at Boston (Lester).
Game 4 : Tuesday, October 14, 8:07 p.m. Tampa Bay (Sonnanstine) at Boston (Wakefield).
Game 5 (if necessary): Thursday, October 16, 8:07 p.m. Tampa Bay (Shields) at Boston (Matsuzaka).
Game 6 (if necessary): Saturday, October 18, 4:37 p.m. (if NLCS is still being played; 8:07 p.m. if not) Boston (Beckett) at Tampa Bay (Kazmir).
Game 7 (if necessary): Sunday, October 19, 8:07 p.m, Boston (Lester) at Tampa Bay (Garza).

How Each Team Got Here: The Red Sox won the AL Wild Card and then continued their postseason dominance of the Los Angeles Angles of Anaheim with a win in the ALDS in four games (but the Angles are still the better team, right John Lackey?). After never finishing better than 70-91 and fourth-place, the Rays emerged from the cellar in 2008 with a 97-65 mark and captured the AL East division title. In the ALDS, they promptly breezed through the White Sox in four games for their first even postseason series win.

Stadiums: Boston – Fenway Park
Year Opened – 1912
Capacity – 37,400

Tampa Bay – Tropicana Field
Year Opened – 1990
Capacity – 35,041

Roughly the same capacity (and two of the smallest in the league), one has lots of character and history, the other has catwalks in the field of play.

Signature Food Item: Boston – Fenway Frank, a hot dog (eat at your own risk).

Tampa Bay – The Cuban Sandwich, found at the Columbia Restaurant: smoked ham, pork, salami, Swiss cheese, dill pickle and mustard on hot Cuban bread.

Fans: “Red Sox Nation” is annoying, obnoxious and everywhere; Rays fans are few and far between (Tampa is full of older Yankees fans), but they showed up in force during the ALDS. But, both are dumb, and already printing shirts guaranteeing victory.

Hip Hop Battle: Boston’s Gangstarr against Tampa’s "It's Our Season" by Cristol, Bay Boi and Big Gill…I guess.

Story You’ll Be Sick of By The End of This Series: These teams have fought before. We get it: they really don’t like each other, Tampa is scrappy and tired of being pushed around, etc.

How Each Team Wins Games: The Red Sox, are they've been apt to do the past few seasons, hit the ball, a lot. In 2008, they finished third in the majors in runs, total bases, RBI and SLG% (.447) and fourth in hits (1565; that’s nearly 10 hits/game). That’s not to say that the Red Sox don’t have good pitching (they do: ninth in the majors with a 4.01 team ERA), but Tampa just has better pitching: third in team ERA (3.68), allowed the third-fewest earned runs (618; just 3.8/game). As it so often does in the postseason, this series will be decided by the starting rotations.

Predictions:
Jeff Passan, Yahoo! Sports – Rays in 6
Buster Olney, ESPN – Rays in 6
Jayson Stark, ESPN – Red Sox in 6
Ken Rosenthal, FOX Sports – Rays in 6
RCS – Maybe it’s foolish to think, but at some point, the Rays’ inexperience has to play a factor (right?). Red Sox in 7.

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