Tampa Bay Rays Prove They Can Win Big on the Road

Joel Reuter@JoelReuterBRFeatured ColumnistOctober 3, 2013

CLEVELAND, OH - OCTOBER 02:  Evan Longoria #3 of the Tampa Bay Rays celebrates with his teammates after defeating the Cleveland Indians in the American League Wild Card game at Progressive Field on October 2, 2013 in Cleveland, Ohio.  (Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)
Jared Wickerham/Getty Images

The Tampa Bay Rays clinched a spot in the ALDS and a date with the division rival Boston Red Sox with their 4-0 victory over the Cleveland Indians on Wednesday, as they came up big on the road yet again.

Over the past four days, the team has played three must-win road games in three different cities and have come out on top each time.

They topped the Blue Jays in their final scheduled game of the regular season on Sunday, then bested the Rangers in a tie-breaking Game 163 to secure the second AL Wild Card spot and finally went into Cleveland and shut out the Indians in front of a spirited sellout crowd.

For a team coming into the postseason as a wild card, they won't have home-field advantage on their side at any point (until the World Series, thanks to the AL's win in the All-Star Game), so the ability to win on the road will be huge for them.

They were just 41-41 away from Tropicana Field during the regular season, but postseason success on the road is nothing new for this Rays team.

In 2010, they were eliminated by the Rangers in the ALDS 3-2, with both of their wins in that series coming on the road. The following season the Rangers knocked them out again, this time in four games, but they managed to split the first two games of the series in Texas.

Even going back to 2008, the Rays were a combined 3-2 on the road between the ALDS (vs. White Sox) and ALCS (vs. Red Sox) to reach the World Series, though they eventually fell to the Phillies 4-1.

So why so much emphasis on their ability to win on the road? Because the Rays now find themselves matched up against a 97-win Red Sox team, and they'll kick off that series on Friday at Fenway Park.

The Rays dropped their season series with the Red Sox 7-12, and that included a 4-6 record at Fenway. Yet they certainly have momentum on their side and a rapidly developing reputation for winning big games on the road.

However, prior to this season, they had enjoyed good success at Fenway Park dating back to 2010, so there is some history to suggest they can make things interesting in Boston.

Looking at things on a more individual basis, the two pitchers expected to take the ball for the Rays in Game 1 and Game 2 of the ALDS are Matt Moore and David Price. Both have enjoyed a good amount of success in Boston this season, despite the team's struggles as a whole.

Moore and Price pitched two huge games on the road prior to Alex Cobb throwing a gem on Wednesday night, and heading to a place where they've already had success this season should put them in an even better position to succeed.

As Cobb stated following Wednesday's win in Cleveland, per the Associated Press (h/t ESPN), "Nobody wants to go home."

Those numbers paint a pretty good picture of two pitchers who prefer to pitch on the road and who are not intimidated by Fenway Park. Moore in particular made the most of his one start there in 2013, throwing the first and so far only complete-game shutout of his career.

Here is a look at the highlights from that game on July 22:

Offensively, the team continues to rely on someone new stepping up each night. Star third baseman Evan Longoria had a huge outing in Game 163 against the Rangers, but it was Delmon Young and Desmond Jennings who delivered the big blows in Wednesday night's game.

This is a team that clearly has momentum on its side, and despite having to play these three games in four days, the Rays are still in a position to come out with their top two starters in the first two games of the upcoming ALDS.

Slowing down Boston's potent lineup will be no small task, but if nothing else the Rays will enter the series knowing they can win a big game on the road. They won't be intimidated by Red Sox Nation in full strength at Fenway Park.