The Boston Red Sox hold a commanding 2-0 series lead over the American League East rival Tampa Bay Rays in the ALDS.
Although the Red Sox have to go on the road for the first time in the series on Monday, they will find a way to close it out with a sweep at Tropicana Field in Game 3.
Rays manager Joe Maddon threw two of his best pitchers at Boston in Matt Moore and 2012 AL Cy Young Award winner David Price in Games 1 and 2, and both of them were lit up for seven earned runs apiece.
FOX Sports' Ken Rosenthal points out the disparity between the two teams' offenses thus far:
Against Price, the Red Sox were especially locked in early in what turned out to be a decisive 7-4 victory:
The Red Sox have only two missed swings on the first 57 pitches from David Price.— Buster Olney (@Buster_ESPN) October 5, 2013
What will be the outcome of the series?
There isn't much optimism for Rays fans to draw from moving forward, either. In four starts against the Red Sox in 2013, Tampa's Game 3 starter, Alex Cobb, posted a 0-1 record with a 5.16 ERA—and that was without yielding any home runs.
The amount of contact Boston's lineup was able to consistently get off of Cobb is discouraging for the Rays' outlook with their postseason hopes on the line.
Then again, the AL pennant winners did have the highest on-base and slugging percentage, scored the most runs and have the No. 2 team batting average in the MLB in the regular season. So this wasn't an unpredictable development.
Cobb's counterpart on Monday, Clay Buchhholz, has dropped just one decision all season in posting a 12-1 record with a ridiculous 1.74 ERA.
When Buchholz returned from a right bursa sac strain on Sept. 10 after an extended absence, he blanked the Rays with five shutout innings and six strikeouts in the Red Sox' 2-0 road win.
For whatever reason, The Trop has been kind to Buchholz over the years:
Clay Buchholz has a career 2.26 ERA at Tropicana Field. Opposing batters have a .189 average and .533 OPS.— Tony Massarotti (@TonyMassarotti) October 7, 2013
It's also worth noting that the Rays, who struggle to get steady offense as it is, haven't gotten enough production out of three marquee contributors.
John Buccigross of ESPN illustrates this point well in noting that Evan Longoria, Wil Myers and Ben Zobrist have gone 2-for-20 in the series:
Red Sox: scored 19 runs on 25 hits in 16 offensive innings.. Wil Myers, Ben Zobrist, Evan Longoria (TB): 2-20, 6 K combined in series— John Buccigross (@Buccigross) October 6, 2013
That isn't a winning formula and, as resilient as the Rays were just to get to the ALDS, it will take a far better performance from that trio to have any chance at extending their season to another game.
Between how prolific the Red Sox have continued to be at the dish and Buchholz's sustained success at this stadium, there is little chance for the Rays to avoid the sweep.
Prediction: Red Sox 6, Rays 3