Friday, October 10, 2008

Championship Series Preview -- Tampa Bay Rays vs. Boston Red Sox

So the ALCS has the two teams I thought it would have. The Rays and Sox both defeated their opponents in 4 games, which allowed them to set up their rotations to their liking.

The Rays need to get quality starts and INNINGS from Scott Kazmir in his starts, especially in game 2. Kazmir hasn't pitched more than 6 innings since July 21st. If Kazmir is out of the game early, the Rays bullpen is going to suffer. Matt Garza is also a big question mark for me. Garza has been great at times, but has also been awful as well. The Rays desperately need Garza to step up in this series.

The Rays biggest weapon is their bullpen as I mentioned in the divisional round preview. Grant Balfour especially has been a shutdown go to guy for Rays Manager Joe Maddon. One wild card in their pen is rookie David Price. Since being called up in September, he's been pretty lights out.

As for the Sox, they just need to do what they've been doing. If they can win either game one or two at the Trop they return to Fenway for 3 games with a chance to clinch.

I actually like what Francona did with his rotation by slotting Josh Beckett and Jon Lester in games 2 and 3. That allows them to return for games 6 and 7 if needed, and who would you rather have pitching in those games right now? No one.

Manny Delcarmen really stepped up in the ALDS when Masterson started to struggle. I expect Francona to reverse their roles a bit in this series. Dice-K really needs to be on top of him game, especially in the opener. If he puts men on base, the Rays will capitalize, and put him in a hole, and deep pitch count early on.

On the offensive side of things, Dustin Pedroia really needs to get it going, as does David Ortiz. Mark Kotsay has been a nice surprise at the plate (and in the field), and Jed Lowrie has been doing some nice things as well. The Red Sox need to get on base and be aggressive on the base paths, especially Ellsbury and Pedroia.

Red Sox in 6. The Rays have a good team, but the question marks surrounding Kazmir and his effectiveness and ability to go deep into the game saving the bullpen will really come into play here, as will Matt Garza. If the good Garza shows up the Rays will have a chance to steal this series, if the bad Garza shows up however, they have no shot.

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