Red Sox vs Rays

Bryan HealeyCorrespondent IOctober 9, 2008

Well that was a whole lot easier than I thought it was going to be.

No offense, Angels fans, but I'm being serious. The Angels were the major league's best team in 2008. They had 100 wins, stellar pitching, a potent offense, a physics-defying closer, and one of the cutest infielders in history. They were shaping up to be the Perfect Storm of Postseason Baseball.

They ended up being a light rain shower. Sure, they made the sky a little gray and ruined my picnic, but in the end I still got to go to the movies.

Now, I'll give LA some credit. They did manage to finally win a game against the Red Sox in the postseason for the first time since roughly two years after the crust of the Earth cooled. Even that game, though, was a nail-biter to the very end. They barely squeaked by. They never showed the dominance and tenacity that I expected going into the series.

I'm not trying to rub this in any noses (okay, maybe a little), I'm just expressing my utter shock is all.

So now that the ALDS is over, I will prepare you all for the forthcoming ALCS battle between AL East rivals, the Boston Red Sox and the Tampa Bay Rays.

I've said this before, and I'll say it again: This series makes me the most nervous. I heard through the grapevine that Disney has already completed the second draft of the movie version of the 2008 Rays team. They even have a title: "Denzel Does Something Amazing Once Again" (it's a work in progress). This does not bode well for the Sox.

Nonetheless, the teams will still bother going through the motions and playing the games anyway. You never know, maybe Disney will accidentally pay off the wrong umps. Stranger things have happened.

The first game of the 2008 ALCS will take place down in Tampa Bay, where the Rays organization have assured everyone that they will have a full crowd on hand. They haven't guaranteed that the crowd will consist entirely of people, but by george there will be something in every seat in the stadium.

This is good news for the Rays. This team spent 80% of the year playing in front of only their parents and wives. Even the local news were calling them "that team over there in that town" until well into July. Yet somehow this team still managed to find the competitive spirit to win consistently. You can only imagine what a stadium full of cheering humans, monkeys, and dogs will do to motivate them.

I can just imagine the scene when Evan Longoria smashes a deep home run to center, and as he's rounding the bases, the monkeys throw their feces at him! It will be just incredible! I'm sure he'll be crying.

By the way, has anyone pointed out how close his name is to that female Desperate Housewife? I just think someone needs to tell him that. Preferably while he's at the plate in a crucial situation in the ninth inning.

The good news for the Red Sox is they get to come back to Fenway and play three games next week. That means that all they really need to do is win one game down in Tampa this weekend. If they do that, then they will ensure that, no matter what happens, my best friend will be able to go to a game, as he got tickets to Game Five in a lottery last week.

Either way, it is very important for the Sox to win at home in this series. A lot. Both teams were very good at home this year, and both will be counting on that trend continuing.

In the regular season, the Red Sox had a .691 winning percentage at home. That looks really good until you see that Tampa Bay had a .704 winning percentage at home! Clearly, this is going to be a series where home field advantage plays an important role.

Before the ALDS, I broke down the Red Sox offense for my faithful readers. I should have done the Angels offense as well, but I'm lazy. This time, however, I am going to break down the expected pitching matchups for the first two games, and I will include both teams. That's just the kind of journalistic talents I have.

Granted, there won't be any real analysis and there will be some outright lies, but that's not really my problem. So, let's break it down:

Game One: Friday, October 10 @ 8:37 PM

BOS: Daisuke Matsuzaka (18-3, 2.90 ERA, 154 SO, 2 millions walks)

Pros: Seems like he can strike anyone out whenever he wants; Wins a lot even when it seems he shouldn't, such as when he loads the bases every inning he pitches; Can't speak English well, so can't be rattled by "Pitcher's got a big butt!" chants; Doesn't chew tobacco (I'm looking at you Franconca!).

Cons: Walks everyone at least once, just to make it more of a challenge (not good for the heart); Wiggles his butt every time he pitches from the wind-up; Takes a calendar year to throw the ball (could be part of his strategy, though); Has an unnatural obsession with Mountain Dew.

TBR: James Sheilds (14-8, 3.56 ERA, 160 SO)

Pros: Only being paid a million bucks this year; Has won a lot  of tight games this year (check the battery in your pacemakers); Looks amazing in a bathing suit.

Cons: His salary of "only" a million bucks constitutes roughly 78% of the teams overall payroll; Is not left-handed; Has a 50/50 chance of killing Coco Crisp and forcing his team to forfeit.

Game Two: Saturday, October 11 @ 8:07 PM

BOS: Josh Beckett (12-10, 4.03 ERA, 172 SO)

Pros: Looks really mean when pitching; Can still throw really hard; In the past, has proven to be a consistent winner in the postseason; Will probably be the first in the pile when Sheilds breaks the skull of Coco Crisp; Owns a pair of Ray-Bans.

Cons: Chews tobacco (I blame Francona); When you get right down to it, is a raging hick; Has not pitched well this year; Did I mention he chews tobacco?

TBR: Scott Kazmir (12-8, 3.49 ERA, 166 SO)

Pros: Threw four no-hitters in a row in high school (thank you, Wikipedia!); Won 10 out of his last 13 starts this year; Is left-handed; Always tries really hard.

Cons: Got an 892% raise this past winter; Isn't right-handed; Has the lamest nickname in sports (Kazmanian Devil? Really?); Went to high school in Texas; Greatest desire is to someday win an Emmy.

So, there you have it! And who do I expect to win these games? As I've said before, I won't make a real prediction because I'm wildly biased, but I will say this: The Disney people are on stand-by. And they don't look happy. And they're kinda big. And I think they have weapons.

This should definitely be an exciting series! Be sure to wear your Kevlar.