Wait......WHAT? Last time I checked, the Tampa Bay Devil Rays......I mean the Tampa Bay Rays were awful. Didn't they have the worst record in 2007? Oh yeah, a 66-96 record for Tampa which put them in fifth place in the East, 30 games out of first, and worse records than the Pirates and Royals.
Let's fast forward to October 2008.....The Rays absolutely smoked everyone. The reason: no one saw it coming! The Tampa Bay (Devil) Rays had an outstanding 97-65 record, defeating both the Red Sox by two games and the historic Yankees by eight games.
After dismantling the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, the Red Sox advanced to their fourth LCS this decade, and the Rays took care of the White Sox in four as well, to advance to face Boston in the best-of-seven championship series.
It is hard to believe the Rays are just four games away from playing for the World Series title. It will not be easy, because not only is it the post-season, but it is the playoffs, which is a totally different kind of baseball.
In the regular season, Tampa won the overall series with Boston 10-8. Out of the 18 game played between them, Tampa and Boston had five one-run games, two extra-inning games, and in the first half of the season, the home team swept each three-game set. It was not until Sept. 9 that the Rays won at Fenway in a 5-4 game.
A lack of playoff experience could play a factor this late in the season. To be honest, it is no comparison when it deals with which team has more post-season experience. The Boston Red Sox active players have played in a combined 132 games as opposed to Tampa's roster playing in 47 games.
Game one will be an exciting one as the Red Sox send Daisuke Matsuzaka (18-3, 2.9 ERA) to the mound to face Tampa's James Shields (14-8, 3.56 ERA). Daisuke faced Tampa twice in the regular season, receiving ND's in both contests. Shields went 1-2 against the Sox in the season, including a CG shutout on Apr. 27 at Tropicana Field.
This will be a great series, there is no doubt. You have the defending world champs taking on baseball's Cinderella for a shot at the NL Champs. I would love to see the Rays take out the Sox and go to their first world series in their first post-season appearance, but they will need to rely on their home-run hitting, if they have hopes of playing into the end of October and early November.
As a journalist, I see the Sox ending the dream this season and moving on to the World Series after downing the (Devil) Rays in seven games.