10/3/2013 7:00 P.M. ET
Rays prepare for another pitchers' duel in ALDS
By Adam Berry / MLB.com
BOSTON -- For all of Boston's offensive firepower, it was the Red Sox pitching staff that gave the Rays the most trouble this season.
Tampa Bay's staff held the Majors' highest-scoring offense to a .208 team batting average and 71 runs (3.7 per game) in 19 meetings this season. That's even more impressive, considering the Red Sox hit .292 and scored 5.5 runs per game against the rest of the league. And yet the Red Sox won the season series, 12-7, Tampa Bay's first losing season against Boston since 2007.
More often than not, the Rays will win with that kind of run prevention. The problem for them this season against the Red Sox was that they couldn't muster enough offense to support their strong pitching. Consider that Tampa Bay scored only seven runs and batted .166, including .054 with runners in scoring position, in six losses at Fenway Park.
Rays manager Joe Maddon believes his club is more than capable of righting the ship offensively in the American League Division Series, starting Friday at Fenway Park (3 p.m. ET on TBS).
"If you look at the history of this season, it's been primarily their pitching has really been tough on us," Maddon said. "Having said all that, we'll do a little bit better offensively. ... I think a lot of times when your offense struggles a bit, there's a lot of tension among the offensive players. We've had that, based on our inabilities to drive in runs and runners in [scoring] position, etc.
"I want to believe the journey we've just gone through [over the last week] is going to hopefully relax our hitters a bit, so you might see a better offensive ballclub to go along with pitching and defense."
Though the Red Sox handily won the season series, it's not as if they stomped all over the Rays. Boston outscored Tampa Bay by 14 runs this year, and the Rays lost six games to the Red Sox in the ninth inning or later, including three walk-offs at Fenway Park.
"We certainly felt like we could've switched roles," second baseman Ben Zobrist said. "We could've been the team that was clinching the AL East at the time they were, and they could have been in our position, with the way our season series went against them. They just came out on the better end of it. So now, we're hoping to reverse the roles here in the postseason."
Rays ride extended road trip against well-rested Sox
BOSTON -- Alex Cobb couldn't even remember on Thursday afternoon where the Rays' long, wild road trip started. Was it really New York? Was it only 10 days ago?
When he woke up after winning Wednesday night's American League Wild Card Game and arriving in Boston around 5 a.m. ET, Cobb caught himself wondering which city he was in. The giveaway: the can of Budweiser sitting on his nightstand.
"That said 'Indians' on it, from the postgame celebration. It started sinking in, and I just had a smile on my face," Cobb said. "Waking up in Boston, it's a great feeling."
The Rays arrived at Fenway Park for an off-day workout -- and a much-needed chance to catch their breath -- after winning three games in three different cities over the last four days, facing elimination each time. The trip has been so lengthy, and so emotional, that it was hard for them to believe it had only been 10 days since they set out for New York. Remember that series, when Mariano Rivera pitched at Yankee Stadium for the final time in his storied career?
"It feels like it was three weeks ago," second baseman Ben Zobrist said. "And it was only a week and a half ago."
"It's been not only a long road. It's been taxing mentally and physically. We're up for it," Cobb said. "It's that time of year where everything in the tank needs to be left out on the field. The day off [Thursday], you kind of get a second to breathe. The off-day in Cleveland didn't really feel like one. … But right now, I feel like I'm finally able to take a step back and breathe."
There has been some debate regarding which club is better prepared for the upcoming AL Division Series. Is it the Rays, battle-tested and riding an emotional high? Or is it the Red Sox, well-rested and eager to play?
Though manager Joe Maddon is eternally optimistic and obviously biased toward his club, he's hopeful that what they've been through the past week and a half will help them come on afternoon.
"I want to believe it's going to create some kind of different form of momentum going into this series, because we've been playing," Maddon said. "We've been playing under duress, and we're not tired. Don't be deceived: we're not tired. I might look bad right now, but I'm not that tired. I'll be fine by tomorrow, and I think our players will feel the same way."
Maddon, Friedman mull roster for AL Division Series
BOSTON -- The Rays must reveal their 25-man American League Division Series roster by 10 a.m. ET on Friday, and expect it to look a bit different than the group they carried into the AL Wild Card Game on Wednesday.
Manager Joe Maddon said he had to talk through some roster decisions with executive vice president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman on Thursday evening before making anything official, "primarily the fourth game starter and how you're going to construct the bullpen." Maddon said plainly that the bench is "going to be different" since they're setting up for a long series, not another win-or-go-home affair.
"We've been playing these 'seventh games' for three games in a row, and now you're going back to a regular series of five," Maddon said. "So the thought process is going to be a little different. ... I honestly don't have any concrete thoughts yet."
The Rays have not announced their ALDS rotation past left-handers Matt Moore and David Price in Games 1 and 2, respectively, but Alex Cobb is on track to get the ball in Game 3.
Maddon said it was "possible" that the Rays would put three catchers on their roster: Jose Molina, Jose Lobaton and Chris Gimenez. But doing so would take a pitcher out of Tampa Bay's bullpen, putting the Rays in a tight spot if a starter is knocked out early.
• Third baseman Evan Longoria has played every inning of all 26 postseason games in Rays history, the only player to do so.
• The Rays' victory Wednesday night was their second time snapping a 10-game winning streak this season, as they also broke up the Blue Jays' 10-game streak on June 24. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, the Rays are the first team to snap two 10-game (or longer) winning streaks in one season since the 2006 Rockies.
• Zobrist has an eight-game postseason hitting streak, the second longest in Rays history behind a nine-game stretch by B.J. Upton.
• In the Tampa-St. Petersburg market, Wednesday night's Rays-Indians game recorded a 32.2 percent share of viewers at 11 p.m. and averaged a 25 percent share throughout the game, beating out the combined network prime average for ABC, NBC and CBS.