Boston (87-62) at Rays (62-88)
7:15; Tropicana Field
Well, that feels good. Camden Yards had been Rays-proofed, as the team had not won a game there prior to this series. But not anymore. After avenging a hard-to-take, gut-wrenching loss on Saturday, the Rays used some timely hitting to stay one step ahead of the O' for much of the game, and Alex Gonzalez finally had an MVP-worthy game as the Rays won 6-5. What should happen if the Rays were to win this next series at the Trop to end the year? Why, they'd take the season set from the orange and black. It might be a couple weeks from now, but apprently, if you can make it in Baltimore, you can make it anywhere.
BEHIND ENEMY LINES: BOSTON-Boston comes into this series with a 1.5 game lead on New York atop the division, and has dominated the season series. This will be the final meeting between the two teams this year, though we should see more of these Red Sox on the national scene, especially at season's end, when they close out against New York. Boston is, argubly, the best offensive team in the majors, coming in leading MLB in batting average, hits, walks and OBP. The Sox come off a split of a four game set against the playoff-contending A's, though they averaged just 2.5 runs per game in the series. The Sox have already clinched one of the top two spots in the East, and David Ortiz has had a hand in it, batting .379 in 29 ABs with five homers, 10 RBI, and eight runs scored. In his last 21 starts, he has hit 12 home runs. On the other hand, Trot Nixon (16-74) has struggled since coming back from the DL on August 23rd. The season series is rather lopsided, with the Sox having a 12-4 advantage. But the series is even at Tropicana Field, 3-3.
BOS-LH David "Half-Drunk" Wells (13-7, 4.35)
Rays-LH Mark "Lurch" Hendrickson (9-7, 6.04)
BREAKDOWN: It is a matchup of two southpaws today, though putting them both on the same plateau would be a crime. Boston send out David Wells, one of, if not thee, best control pitchers in baseball. Aside from Carlos Silva, whose walk rate is historicly low, Wells takes th cake in the best K:BB category. His problem has been hits, as opponents are hitting .294 off of the burly lefty on the road. Speaking of road woes, this one puzzles many. Half-Drunk is much better at Fenway Park, a hitters' haven, then he is on the road, where he is putting up a 5.44 ERA. In any case, Wells' K:BB is awesome anywhere you put him, a remarkable rate of almost 6:1. That being said, he doesn't strike out many, and leaves the ball in play waaaay too much. But Wells will go down as one of the best control pitchers ever, no doubt. Last time out against his former Jays team, Wells went seven innings, giving up three runs on seven hits. Shockingly, and for the first time this year, Wells gave up more walks than strikeouts, with one more free pass. But last time out against these very same Rays at Tropicana Field in July, Wells went 6.1 innings, giving up three runs on five hits while walking none and sitting down five. So the Rays are acquaninted with his control. Hopefully Wells leaves the ball in play too much today, and that is the only way I can see us winning.
Taking the mound for the Rays is lefty Mark Hendrickson, and if you may remember, we used to dread when his turn in the rotation came up. Not anymore, and despite a shaky outing last time out against New York, Lurch has still not lost a game since July 20th. Sadly for him, that was against the Sox in Boston, in a game where he did not retire a batter. Lurch has been on a roll since then, and is looking to become the first Ray to pick up ten wins this season. Last time out against New York, Lurch's mediocre outing was overshadowed by the sucktacular outing by Doug Waechter the day before, but he still gave up four runs (three earned) on eight hits in 5 innings, as he walked three and struck out four. Lurch is the Rays' version of David Wells. Like Wells, his control is his upside, like Wells, he doesn't strike out many, and like Wells, he gives up too many hits. But as I said, Wells is a much better pitcher, but Lurch is from his mold. Last time out against Boston, in his last struggling start, really, Lurch went only three innings at home, giving up five runs on seven hits in the middle game of the set, the Rays eentually lost in extras. Let's hope he can do a little bit better this time.
THE BOTTOM LINE: The bottom line is, don't go out to the ballpark unless you really must. Subjecting yourself to Red Sox fans is cruel and unusual punishment, and though the reward of hearing them all shut up when we start winning is great, you cannot be assured of the stated happening. You want 10 free wings? Well you will leave empty handed, as the two pitchers combined will be lucky to reach five. I personally, if I had to go, would go when Curt "Jackass" Schilling heads to the mound later in the series. No more obnoxious Sox fans than usual, and seeing Schilling get a Shelling is ever the more delightful. But this game is pretty much a toss up because the game will be dominated by hits. I am a firm believer in DIPS, so I believe hits are mostly luck. So whatever team puts the right balls in the right places will win. For any Devil Ray fan attending the game, I sure hope it is us.