The Red Sox are Coming, The Red Sox are Coming!
I love it when one of our biggest pesky rivals, the Boston Red Sox heads into Tropicana Field for the beginning of our yearly “Southern” segments fielding a possibility of a few “fights-to-the-death” steel cage matches on our own home Field Turf. This series in 2010 brings a new special glint into my blue eyes to know that the Boston are coming into Tampa Bay Rays in a unusual and foreign position that they had not encountered in a very long, long time.
The Red Sox media has had to hedge their harsh words towards the Rays and endured their own sets of unexpected challenges to find themselves sitting in a unfamiliar position of posting up in fourth place and looking up at the evolving wunderkind Rays. But that fact itself also worries me a lot about the unknown explosive potential of this series from either sides of the coin.
Biologists say that when you first cage an animal taken from the wild, you get to see them at their meanest and also their most vulnerable states. When this wild beast is confronted with obstacles and unexpected actions, their innate reactions are not to curl up, but to regroup for their future attacks. I see this incoming Red Sox team beginning to uncoil and ready to strike right now. This scenario might put the Rays firmly within Boston’s clutches right now and we could see some intensive collateral damage over the next three games by either of these squads.
The Red Sox are coming into this series of games with the heartbeat of a lion after starting the year licking their early wounds and might finally be looking for their own set of baseball redemption for the Rays sweeping them in April on their own hallowed grounds.And with a few of their Boston gunslingers beginning to get their true sight bearing at the plate finally on the sloping sliders might be a prelude whistling loud and clear that the Red Sox are on the verge of a rebound and might be smelling blood in the air.
Boston comes into the Rays series knowing that they have to make a stand now to gain some lost ground and take steps towards moving out of their state of basement darkness and emerge into the sunlight again amongst the top tiers of the American League East.
It is either going to a joyous series at the expense of the Rays, or a prelude to the realization that they need a few more hired guns to make a resurgence towards respectability and whispers of possible Fall hopes. This Rays series might just be the most important series of the next few weeks for Boston because of the implications of falling deeper within the losing well of despair or finally posting some needed wins. That is why the analogy of the caged animal seems to fit the Red Sox right now.
This is not to mean that the Rays will go into uncharted waters here and become totally oblivious to the destructive forces that could surface from the Rays taking for granted the awaking Bostonian giant. The team sitting across from them in the Third Base Visitor’s Dugout is itching to regain some of their glory at the expense of the Rays record. For when you have a active and bitter rivalry like this emerging gem, the little things can mean the sharpened edges between winning and losing.
This does not forecast three straight pitcher’s duels in this series. On the contrary, we are going to see each team’s hitter’s provide a bevy of challenges during this 3-game fandango. We are going to see if the hard hitting Rays, who have either eaten up the base paths, or laid dormant can find a resurgent level of consistency that will be needed to send the legions of Red Sox Nation questioning their path and ending of the year pecking order in the AL East.
Chris O’Meara/ AP
But just as easily, the Boston trio of the wily Leprechaun ( Dustin Pedroia ), the grumpy Orge (Kevin Youkilis ) or the ever present missing enchilada (David Ortiz) each could extract their own hitting consistent barrages and set this unflappable Rays pitching staff on their collective heels. For when you play someone 17 times a year, you even know their pre-game meal.
The Red Sox have begun to showcase a level of consistent hitting and a lethal dose of pitching to rival some of their former glory days. And because of that, the Rays should tread lightly, but also hit the Red Sox like a steaming locomotive to test, pressure and bring about their own style of “Rays Way” into this 3-game battle. The Rays will again try to revive those old base running nightmares over the course of this series to the Red Sox catchers of the Rays putting untold extra pressure on the Boston pitching staff to finish off their pitches. The Rays might just stick to their simple game plan of having an uncanny ability to string together hits, move runners over and push the Red Sox mistake envelope upwards tri-fold.
I think that this series might not come down to the two pitching staffs, but to the accumulation of timely hitting and defensive errors that can be unfashionably forced upon either opponent. When the Rays get their opposition to provide defensive lapses or untimely throws, they tend to be on cruise control towards a eventual victory. For when Boston makes mistakes in the field and at the plate, it gives the upper hand to their opposition. And that is how the Rays took the first three meetings in 2010.
Persistent pressure, and an aggressive running game produced runs, forced errors and put the Red Sox on their heels during the chilly series in Fenway Park. Even if the Rays heed this simple formula, the Red Sox have the mental and physical fortitude to contain, dismantle and crush their opposition by forcing their own will of base running, timely hitting and pitching. In their last series in Philadelphia, the Red Sox left the Phillies a bit flustered after dismantling an old familiar ace ( Roy Halladay ) and brought to life the mystical mystery that is Boston and provided some key victories for Red Sox Nation.
And with the Boston again getting the taste of blood in their mouths, this series could turn on a single play or mistake during each game.And with the Rays countering in Game 2 and 3 with their top two gunslingers ( James Shields and Matt Garza) it might just come down to both team’s 32 ounce bats to decide this series. One thing I love about the Red Sox coming into town is their droves of fans flying in, or the closet Tampa Bay Red Sox ex-patriots who come sporting Red Sox jerseys until after Wednesday night, then they will again don their Rays colors for the Chicago White Sox series.
This is going to be a fun weekday series and hopefully will see 20,000+ hit the Rays stands each night for this Monday through Wednesday series. Even as the red colored sea begin to filter around the Trop like that encircling red hued oil sitting in the Gulf of Mexico, hopefully the Rays have the right solvent to eradicate this latest obstacle to their run at another A L East crown. The winner of this series will have an edge going forward, not in the overall seasonal series wins or losses, but in a push of emotional momentum that could push either team upwards.
Chris O’Meara/ AP
You do not want to think that a divisional rivalry series towards only the end of May could be pivotal, but this series could define the directions of either franchise. One is sitting with an extended lead in the hardest division in baseball, while the other is clawing and trying to climb out of a hole that was not even imagined as a joke on April 1st.
As the Trop’s doors open today and the parting of the seas of red and blue begin to move into the seating bowl to their seats, it is imperative that one of the Rays take control of these games and guide this series. This series currently does not have the intensity of a Yankees/Red Sox skirmish, but as the underlying pressures and the overall motivation grows this once lowly Rays rivalry will begin to escalate and again cause shock and awe to the supposed hierarchy of the baseball world.
And with a hard fought series, the Rays could garner more of the National spotlight for their talents for the game, and not the media propaganda machine that hides their Major League best record, but dwells on their current 20th spot in Major League attendance.