The 2008 American League Championship Series between the upstart Tampa Bay Rays and defending World Series champion Boston Red Sox starts on Friday at 8:37pm EST. While the Rays won the season series 10-8, the Red Sox have experience on their side. Who will win out? We'll find out shortly.
The Rays made quick work of the Chicago White Sox, beating 3-1 in the first playoff series in Rays franchise history. This year was not only the first year that they made the playoffs, it was the first time that the team had ever even finished about .500.
The Red Sox similarly dominated the Angels in their ALDS series. The Angels had won the regular season series 8 games to 1, but the Red Sox stepped it up in the playoffs, and were able to move on. Jon Lester and Jason Bay were the stars for the Sox. Lester pitched 14 innings, gave up no earned runs, and struck out 11, while allowing only 13 total base runners. Bay, in his first career postseason series, hit for a .417 batting average with 2 HR and 5 RBI in only 4 games. His OPS was a ridiculous 1.356 in the series against the Angels, who have some of the best pitching in the league.
The Red Sox and Rays have quite the history, considering the brevity of the Rays' existence. Back in 2000, Sox pitcher Pedro Martinez hit Rays' leadoff hitter Gerald Williams in the elbow with a pitch. Since then, there has always been some hostility between the two teams. It has continuted even to this season, as a brawl broke out in June after an incident involving Coco Crisp and James Shields.
This series should be incredibly exciting. The Rays and Red Sox are arguably the two best teams in baseball, and both teams have lots of you, passionate players.
The edge in pitching goes to the Rays. Their staff had an ERA of 3.82 in the regular season. That was 3rd best in all of baseball, and well ahead of the Red Sox (4.02). However, the Red Sox hitters were the 3rd best in baseball, scoring about half a run per game more than the Rays.
The old adage "pitching wins championships" still applies, but the Red Sox' rotation and lineup are far more battle-tested than the Rays. While the Rays beat up on the White Sox, it wasn't nearly as impressive as the Red Sox manhandling the Angels. The Angels were the best team in baseball during the regular season, and the Red Sox simply shut down their offense, while finding a way to manufacture runs against their outstanding pitching. The Whtie Sox had the 2nd worst record out of all the playoff teams, and were worn out after basically playing 3 elimination games before the ALDS even started. Their team lacked the talent level of most of the other playoff teams, and it was apparent in their series with the Rays.
The Red Sox have no such shortage of talent, and are the most experienced playoff team in baseball. They have many players who were on last year's championship team, and a few who were on the team when they won back in 2004, as well.
Prediction: Red Sox in 6.
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