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Thrice on the brink of elimination, Tampa Bay reminds us why it was one of the AL favorites less than two months ago by pulling an upset over Boston in four games.
Four reasons why:
1) More Moore is bad for Boston
David Ortiz has had some great at-bats against Moore, going 6-for-13 with a home run, one walk and no strikeouts.
The rest of the team hasn't been anywhere near as fortunate. Take Ortiz out of the mix and the Red Sox are 7-for-66 with three doubles, no home runs and 19 strikeouts against the man they could face twice in this series.
2) No relief from Tampa Bay's relievers
Jake McGee, Cesar Ramos, Alex Torres and Fernando Rodney have been four of Tampa Bay's six most used relief pitchers this season, and they have each had success in their careers against Boston.
Combining their stats into one four-headed monster would yield a line of 31-for-198 (.157 average) with 67 strikeouts. Not quite as dominant as Koji Uehara has been against the Rays, but the fact that Joe Maddon can turn to any of four relievers without fear is a huge bonus.
3) James Loney vs. the world
Loney had the highest road batting average during the regular season, checking in at .351. Good news for Tampa Bay in Games 1 and 2 as well as 5 if the series gets there.
Also good news for Tampa Bay is that Loney has done pretty well in his career against Game 4 starter Jake Peavy. In 31 at-bats, he's slashing .323/344/.677 with five doubles and two home runs.
(Where would it rank on the irony meter if the Red Sox were done in by one of the players they received in last season's salary dump trade with the Dodgers? Also, where can I purchase an irony meter?)
4) The oft-mentioned, but forever incalculable momentum factor
In the past four days, the Rays have won three consecutive do-or-die road games in three different cities.
The Red Sox might be the better team, but they lost six of their last 11 games and will enter Friday's game having not played in roughly 100 hours. Then again, Kansas City was 3-7 heading into the All-Star break and responded by winning 19 of its next 24 games, so who cares?
Nevertheless, I think Tampa Bay rides its hot streak into Boston, winning Game 1 after jumping out to an early lead against Jon Lester—whose one start in the past 13 days was a disappointing outing against the Orioles.
Stealing home-field advantage in the opener is enough to send Tampa Bay to the ALCS in four games.