The Tampa Bay Rays beat the Cleveland Indians, 4-0, on Wednesday to advance to the American League Division Series against the Red Sox.
Game 1 is Friday at 3:07 p.m. at Fenway Park.
The Red Sox were 12-7 against the Rays this season, so it is tempting to think that the Red Sox have the advantage in the series. Given home field advantage and the fact that the Rays have been playing for their lives the last few weeks, that is probably true.
Tampa Bay played Sunday in Toronto, Monday in Texas and Wednesday in Cleveland. They now play Friday in Boston. They have not played at home since Sept. 23. All that travel has to start catching up to them at some point.
Red Sox pitchers dominated against the Rays, posting a 2.93 ERA. Junichi Tazawa and Koji Uejara combined to allow eight hits and one run over 20 innings. They walked three and struck out 24. Clay Buchholz had 13 shutout innings against Tampa. Jon Lester pitched very well against them in three of his four starts.
But a few things to consider:
• The Rays have won 10 of their last 12 games.
• The Sox, while indeed 12-7 against the Rays, won six of those games in the ninth inning or later. That includes three walk-offs at Fenway Park.
• The run differential between the teams was only 14 runs over 19 games.
• The Rays were 24 of 158 (.152) with runners in scoring position against the Sox. Some of that was skill by Red Sox pitchers. But a decent chunk was bad luck, too.
• The Red Sox hit .209 with a .612 OPS against the Rays and averaged 3.7 runs. Outside of David Ortiz and Mike Carp (in 14 at-bats), none of the Sox hit better than .242 against the Rays. That OPS was their lowest against any opponent this season.
Expect a very competitive series with some close, low-scoring games. It'll be Lester against Matt Moore on Friday.
We'll have plenty on the blog Thursday and a full preview section in the paper on Friday.