BOSTON RED SOX (99-65)
at TAMPA BAY RAYS (93-73)
American League Division Series, Game 3 - Boston leads series 2-0
First pitch: Monday, 6:05 p.m. ET
Line: Boston -105, Tampa Bay -105, Total: 7
The Rays attempt to keep their season alive Monday night when they host an elimination Game 3 of the ALDS against their division foes, the Red Sox.
The 2013 season has been an unexpected one for Boston. Many publications and analysts predicted the Sox to be at the bottom of the AL East for the second straight season, not at the top of the American League. Now the Sox are showing why they had an AL leading 97 wins over the year, as they have dominated this series, winning both of the first two games by a total score of 19 to 6. In Monday's must-win game for Tampa Bay, it will send RHP Alex Cobb (11-3, 2.76 ERA, 1.15 WHIP in regular season) to the mound, who helped the Rays make it into the ALDS with a win in the Wild Card game against the Indians on Wednesday. Opposing Cobb will be Bostonís 29-year-old righty, Clay Buchholz (12-1, 1.74 ERA, 1.03 WHIP in regular season), who has looked just as good after his return from injury as he did at the beginning of the season. On the year, the Red Sox are now 14-7 against Tampa Bay and are 29-28 against them over the last three seasons after their Saturday night win. Boston is 6-3 at Tropicana Field this year, which is surprising because the Rays have gone 51-30 (.630) at home. However, they will need to combat a Red Sox team that is one of the best on the road with a 44-37 record (.543) outside of Fenway Park. Boston DH David Ortiz will look to continue his solid playoff performances after hitting two homers in Game 2 of the series. In his career, he has had 72 hits in 298 postseason plate appearances (.286 BA) with 14 HR, 49 RBI and 42 walks (.389 OBP). On the other hand, the Rays top offensive weapon, 3B Evan Longoria, has produced only 21 hits in 117 postseason plate appearances (.198 BA) with six of his eight homers coming way back in 2008. Tampa Bay will need to get a solid performance from Cobb and a mistake-free defensive game to keep its season alive.
Bostonís Clay Buchholz has been spectacular this year, leading his team to a 14-2 record, and not slowing down since his return from a shoulder injury that took him out of the lineup for more than three months. Since coming off the DL, Buchholz is 3-1 with a 1.88 ERA in four starts. In his first start back on Sept. 10 at Tampa Bay, the right-hander pitched five shutout innings, giving up only three hits while striking out six batters. He was limited to 74 pitches in that game due to this being his first game back from his injury. His other start against the Rays this year came back on April 14 when he pitched eight shutout innings, allowing only two hits and striking out 11 in a 5-0 Boston win. That makes him 7-5 with a 2.41 ERA and 1.08 WHIP in 16 career starts versus Tampa Bay. Rays 3B Evan Longoria may have trouble getting off of his postseason cold streak, as he has always struggled against Buchholz, going 7-for-34 (.206 BA) with 13 Kís. 2B Ben Zobrist had a miserable Game 2 (0-for-3, 2 K's, 1 error), and he is a pathetic 4-of-36 (.111 BA) with 6 K's off the right-hander. OF David DeJesus (4-for-11, three walks) has had some success against Buchholz and will look to jump-start the Rays struggling offense. On the season, the Red Sox bullpen has a decent 3.68 ERA and 1.31 WHIP, but has blown 23 saves. In the first two games of the ALDS, Boston relievers have looked impressive, throwing five shutout innings (2 H, 1 BB, 4 K's) including a save from closer Koji Uehara in Game 2 of the series. Uehara (21 SV, 1.09 ERA, 0.57 WHIP in regular season) has been spectacular since taking over the closer's role, converting 88% of his save opportunities.
Rays starter Alex Cobb, who celebrates his 26th birthday on Monday, has already had to pitch his team to a victory in one do-or-die game in 2013, and will now be looked upon to extend the season. In that Wild Card victory, Cobb threw 6.2 scoreless innings, allowing eight hits and one walk while fanning five. Like Buchholz, Cobb missed a large chunk of the season due to injury (head), but also like Buchholz had been just as good or better after his return, going 5-1 with a 2.41 ERA and 1.14 WHIP in his final nine starts of the regular season. On the season, Cobb has not fared well against Boston, tallying a 5.16 ERA and 1.50 WHIP, with the Rays losing all four contests. For his brief career, Cobb is 2-2 with a 4.19 ERA and 1.35 ERA in seven starts versus his AL East foe. OF Shane Victorino (4-for-11, 3 doubles) has had success against Cobb, but fellow OF Jacoby Ellsbury (3-for-13, 3 K's) will struggle to continue his success in this yearís postseason where he is 5-for-9 with four runs, 2 RBI and two steals. The Rays bullpen has been very strong over the 2013 campaign with a 3.60 ERA and 1.21 WHIP, with numbers that are even better at home (2.79 ERA, 1.02 WHIP). In the postseason, Tampa Bay relievers have been roughed up a bit, allowing four runs on nine hits nine hits over seven innings. However, veteran relief pitcher Jamey Wright gave up all four of the Rays runs in one inning pitched during Fridayís 12-2 loss. Closer Fernando Rodney (37 saves, 3.38 ERA, 1.34 WHIP in regular season) last pitched against the Indians in a non-save situation on Wednesday and has converted 82% of his save opportunities during the regular season.