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Red Sox-Rays prediction roundup

Posted by Eric Wilbur, Boston.com Staff October 10, 2008 08:43 AM

There is an ALCS set to begin tonight at Tropicana Field in Tampa Bay-St. Petersburg.

Or, as Terry Francona has been known to call it, “That @#&*^%$ place.”

Go back to March, and most would have been more apt to predict the Apocalypse before the Rays having home field advantage for the entire 2008 playoffs. “Cute team. Year away maybe. God help us if any deciding game has to be played in that @#&*^%$ place.”

Yet, here we are, the Red Sox and Rays matched up in a terrifically compelling championship series. Not only do we indisputably have the two best teams in the American League (sorry, John Lackey), two franchises that have built as deep a rivalry as can be imagined in just over a decade, we also have the ultimate wild card at play, a dome where fly balls disappear at frequent intervals. Those are ground rules often only found in your average afternoon college Wiffle ball game, sponsored by Natural Light.

Rays fans have begun to take offense to all this criticism, which is ironic seeing as thousands refused to show up because of the park’s location and antiseptic atmosphere in the first place, and that the team’s success this season is seen as a gateway to getting a new park built. Now, they love the Trop. They swoon to “Feel the Heat,” clang their cowbells, and gather by the outfield aquarium to watch the Cownose rays, which, up until this season, were vastly more entertaining than the ones on the diamond.

“What about that stupid left field wall?” one such lifelong dedicated Rays fan wrote in an e-mail recently after criticism of his beloved home ballpark. Fine. The Wall has always been love-hate in Fenway lore, which is why there may be no more fitting way to end this series than to watch someone like Alex Cora Bucky Dent one off the center field cat walk.

The most amazing stat heading into this series: When 30,000 fans or more showed up at Tropicana Field this season, the Rays were 23-3.

Astounding. I never would have thought Tampa drew 30,000 for 26 games.

Who they're picking

Our roundup of pundit predictions for the Red Sox-Rays ALCS.

  • Boston Globe: Dan Shaughnessy, Nick Cafardo, and Amalie Benjamin pick the Sox in seven, while Adam Kilgore and Tony Massarotti like the Rays in six.
  • St. Petersburg Times staff: Marc Topkin and Gary Shelton pick the Rays in six. Joe Smith and Dave Scheiber go with Rays in seven. Brent James and John Romano both like the Sox in a series to go the distance.
  • Joe Capozzi, Palm Beach Post: Red Sox in seven. “There's been no stopping the Rays, but Boston takes it up a notch in October.”
  • ESPN.com staff: Jason Stark and Jerry Crasnick pick the Sox in six, while Steve Phillips goes with Boston in seven. Rob Neyer and Buster Olney both pick the Rays in six.
  • Tim Kurkijan, ESPN: Red Sox in seven "The Rays averaged only 3.7 runs per game in the 18 games against the Red Sox this year. Boston did a really good job on B.J. Upton, who went 5-for-39 (.128). Lester was dominant against the Rays, as were Boston's two primary left-handed relievers, Hideki Okajima and Javier Lopez, who did not allow a run in 15 1/3 innings. The two pitchers the Rays did hit hard were reliever Justin Masterson and starter Tim Wakefield, who combined for four losses and 19 runs allowed in 29 2/3 innings.”
  • CNNSI.com staff: Jon Heyman and Ben Reiter pick the Red Sox, while Tom Verducci, John Donovan, Ted Keith, Albert Chen, Lee Jenkins, and Gennaro Filice all toss their support Tampa Bay’s way.
  • Ken Rosenthal, FOXsports.com: Rays in six." The Rays are more athletic, and their offense is at full strength now that Carl Crawford is back from his finger injury. The Sox's vast edge in experience cannot be dismissed, but the Rays are a more complete team. By the end of this series, Carlos Pena, Evan Longoria and B.J. Upton could be major stars. I can't believe I'm writing this, but everything adds up."
  • Danny Knobler, CBS Sports: Red Sox. “They won't back down against Boston, either, and they won't be intimidated by Fenway Park. They'll run on Red Sox catcher Jason Varitek when they can, and they'll keep coming at the Red Sox all the way through. Still, the prediction here is that they'll fall just short. The young Rays are good enough to win, but the Red Sox are just a little bit more prepared to come out on top when it really counts.”
  • Dan Connolly, Baltimore Sun: Rays in six.
  • Jose Mota, Yahoo! sports: Rays.” The Rays seem like the Team of Destiny, circa 2008, and with the young and talented weapons they possess, the baseball culture is already changed in Florida."
  • Yahoo! sports staff: Steve Henson and Gordon Edes pick the Red Sox in seven, while Tim Brown likes Boston in six. Jeff Passan goes with the Rays in six.
  • Evan Grant, Dallas Morning News: Red Sox in seven. “Tampa Bay has played excellent baseball since the start of the season and stared down the Red Sox and Yankees to win the AL East. They have home-field advantage and won the season series 10-8. But it's impossible to argue against the Red Sox' postseason experience. The bullpen is in better shape. And there is no telling what kind of madness the Rays are going to experience at Fenway Park in October.”
  • Ron Shandler, BaseballHQ.com in USA Today: Red Sox in seven. “The Red Sox need a healthy Beckett, or Lester to pitch every game, to guarantee their third trip to the World Series in five years. Failing that, this is going to be a very close, possibly high scoring series, and may simply come down to experience.”
  • Ryan Fagan, The Sporting News: Red Sox in seven. "Francona's postseason resume with the Red Sox is impressive (two World Series titles), as is his ability to keep his team on an even keel when trouble arises. He kept his team focused when down three games to none to the Yankees in the 2004 ALCS, and again last year when the Sox trailed the Indians 3-1 in the ALCS. Even against the Angels, when Lowell was hurting and Beckett and Matsuzaka delivered subpar efforts, the Red Sox still lost only one game.”
  • Our pick: Red Sox in seven. Say what you want about the rotation being set up the way it is, but ultimately, it’s a sign of respect for the Rays on the part of Terry Francona. You won’t hear anyone complaining when it’s Lester on the hill in Game 7. This is a series that’s set up to be nothing short of fascinating.

19 comments so far...
  1. I am a Red Sox Fan living in Tampa. The fans are pathetic, they treat baseball like its WWF. I've lived here 6 years now, have gone to many games at the Trop, they are lucky to get 12,000 fans to attend. The only time they sell out is when the Red Sox are in town, and that is because all the nasty Yankee fans come out to cheer for the Rays. I don't know about anyone else, I don't trade my colors for anyone.
    Go Sox!!!
    p.s. love the article!!

    Posted by Dee October 10, 08 11:16 AM
  1. Sox in 6, feel that the sox should push beckett back to game 4, and have wakefield for game 2, he dominates in tampa they cant hit the knuckleball for some reason and his numbers r unbelievable

    steve from boston

    Posted by steve October 10, 08 11:36 AM
  1. Enough about the stadium. You've been harping about it for a month now. We get it.

    Posted by J-Bone October 10, 08 12:07 PM
  1. Bee You Ess H. That's Tampa with the cowbells, the catwalks, and the heckler.

    Posted by Giles Farnaby October 10, 08 12:23 PM
  1. I think it will be a very tight series. Got to give the Sox their props, most didn't think they could beat the Angels (the AL West exposed?). I think they will prevail, my biggest concern is that the current Sox best pitcher will only start once through the first 6 games and how likely is a seventh game? I'd rather make sure we've won at least 3 of the first 6 as I'd like our chances in a game seven regardless of who starts. And Wakefield makes me real nervous - he may use his fingernails but I seem to have none left when he pitches.

    Posted by David October 10, 08 12:32 PM
  1. Where as the Angels were big time overrated and over-hyped, the Rays are legit. Amen to these being the 2 best clubs in the AL -- no question. They're about as tightly matched as you can get, so (surprisingly) I'd say there's nothing too crazy about anyone's predictions this time around as compared to last round. Looking forward to this one.

    Posted by JeffR October 10, 08 12:41 PM
  1. TAMPA IN 4..... DICE K STINKS...... LESTER & BECKETT ARE SO OVERRATED......

    Posted by DOE October 10, 08 02:06 PM
  1. Everyone is afraid to be bold it seems. Red Sox in 4. We are the champs until someone beats us when it counts.

    Posted by wcgravy October 10, 08 02:14 PM
  1. Sox of course, but I will say in 4....yes 4. Living in St. Louis in 2004, I called a radio station in Boston and told them the Sox would win it 4. Clearly, I have no crystal ball, just lucky on that one.
    Fact-6 of the Rays wins against the Sox this year were by 1 run
    Fact- the Rays won the season series
    Fact- the Rays won the two series at the end of the season that could have put the Sox in the lead
    Reality - No one can find ways to win like the Sox since 2004 in the post-season. Yes, many of the names have changed, but the ending hasn't. GO SOX!!!!!!!!!

    Posted by Chris Sherwood October 10, 08 02:19 PM
  1. steve...check your stats....errr, get more RECENT stats.....Wake's brilliant numbers agains the rays were when they were the DEVIL rays....i.e. they stunk. Wake has not been good against this current Rays team

    Posted by Chris October 10, 08 03:58 PM
  1. DOE-- there may be reasons why the rays could beat the red sox in this series, but lester and beckett being overrated is not one of them. they are the two biggest reasons the sox will win this series.

    Posted by Ldog October 10, 08 04:10 PM
  1. Sox will sweep! Rays will choke!

    Posted by Bobby Farias October 10, 08 04:40 PM
  1. The Sox are vulnerable, ala 2005. They've got injuries at the wrong time (Lowell), a Manny-less lineup, an Ortiz not functioning on all cylinders (although even minus a cylinder or two, Ortiz is still a force), and aside from Lester...the proverbial box of chocolates for a rotation. Sorry Beckett. You haven't shown us anything CLOSE to what you were last year-- both in the regular season AND post-season.

    I can see the Sox losing this series. I hate to say it, but I can.

    I also hate to say this, but it's true: a healthy Schilling would have come in handy right about this time of year.

    Posted by Matt Talvi October 10, 08 05:28 PM
  1. I never thought the Sox would get past the Angels, but that tells you something about this team's ability to compete. Despite their numbers, the Sox' offense often seemed bogged down this season. But, their defense in the Angels' series was nothing short of spectacular. If Dice-K gets back to form, after a rather poor effort against the Angels, then the Sox win in 7.

    Posted by Richard October 10, 08 05:48 PM
  1. Gordon Eades is a two face punk. On Yahoo sports, he picks the Rays in 7, but when talking to Boston media directly, he chooses the Sox. Every year, same Eades. I'm sure others have made two-faced picks as well, just happened to see Eads and Gwynn predictions. Eades, you are a hack.

    Posted by Kevin October 11, 08 01:37 AM
  1. Boy am I glad Game One proved me wrong! Dice K was phenomenal!

    Now, if Beckett can become the Beckett we all know and NOT the imposter we've seen all year...we might go back to Boston up 2-0, and never come back to that God forsaken, horrid Dome in Tampa.

    Posted by Matt Talvi October 11, 08 07:23 AM
  1. Amazing how little some people understand the game. Why whine about injuries instead of celebrating depth? The only matchup now favoring the Rays is Sonnanstine vs. Wakefield, and not by much. Sox have a rested bullpen with two lefties ready for Pena/Floyd/Crawford bunched in the middle of the Rays lineup. Longoria and Upton do not scare me over the course of a big series. Rays have no closer, and Balfour's arm will be hanging by a thread before this is over. It is the Red Sox who will not change their approach, and who do not have to. The half-wits who criticize Francona should really get a life. He has done a tremendous and consistent job. Sox in 5. Buh bye, cow bells. Bring on the Phillies.

    Posted by kg October 11, 08 11:02 AM
  1. Well well what do we have here lets see: KG you don't know baseball, we already spanked Lester and battered Beckett. It aint over in 5 is it moron Bobby Farias. The only ones choking was thousands leaving/crying in a loss game 3 (9 - 1) so much for a Sox sweep. As for the other moron WCGravy oops no sweep again (while I am at it) your Sox aren't the champs of anything this year, division champs Rays are. Last year is last year so get over it. Oh by the way we play in St. Pete not Tampa and Dee you are not worthy of commenting on,.

    Posted by jazzitt October 14, 08 02:19 AM
  1. I am a new baseball fan, I am trying to watch game 7, but the background noise,roaring chatter, loud tinny music, etc. gives me a very bad headache. I would be able to watch more games if I didn't get a pounding headache while trying to hear what the announcer is saying. NESN is the only station that I watch the game and can enjoy it. I can't be the only fan that would like the background noise put in the background.

    Posted by Judy Bergeron October 19, 08 10:53 PM
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