The Boston Red Sox hope to take a commanding 2-0 in their best-of-five American League Divisional Series Saturday night at 5:30 (TV/Radio/Twitter: TBS, ESPN Radio and WEEI-FM, @redsox_101) at Fenway Park as they face the Tampa Bay Rays.
The Rays, however, will send their staff ace David Price (10-8 W/L, 3.33 ERA) out on the hill to try to steal home field advantage. Price is pitching on full rest after his outstanding complete game victory over the Texas Rangers in the tiebreaker game Monday.
In that effort, Price scattered two runs, seven hits, three walks and four strikeouts over 118 pitches.
Saturday will be Price’s sixth start against the Sox this year. Price dominated Boston. In 32 innings, he allowed 19 hits, nine runs, walked three and fanned 30. Even with those numbers, he went 2-2.
Saturday will be the first time since 2011 that Lackey has faced Tampa at Fenway. In his two starts at Tropicana field, the Rays hammered him for nine earned runs over 10 innings.
Lackey is going on 11 days rest as he has not pitched since a disappointing loss on September 24 in Colorado against the Rockies.
His last home start was five days earlier against the Baltimore Orioles. He went the distance that night allowing a single run.
Run support was not a problem Friday for the Sox as they pounded Matt Moore and Tampa in a 12-2 romp in the series opener.
A misplay in right field on a David Ortiz fly ball by Wil Myers changed the momentum of the game and saw Boston score nine times in the fourth and fifth innings.
Manager Joe Maddon and the rest of the Rays have to put Game 1 behind them. Before things crashed, Tampa was leading two-nothing and Matt Moore held Sox hitters hitless through three innings.
They can level the series by being patient, as they were early, and wait for Lackey to make mistakes in the strike zone.
Watch what Myers does his first at-bat. If he gets a hit, that momentum can carry through. If he struggles making contact, Price will need to carry the team on his back from the mound.
They cannot afford to make the volume of mental mistakes they made in Game 1. Tampa does not beat themselves often, but Friday was an exception.
After the success Boston had at the plate, every player scored, whatever butterflies the team might have had are gone.
The Sox need to pounce on every mistake Tampa makes. They went eight-for-17 with runners in scoring position Friday, a devastating number.
Boston will also have a fresh Craig Breslow and Koji Uehara ready. They were not needed in Friday’s game and Sunday is a travel day. If Lackey can give seven innings, he will have done his job.
The only error manager John Farrell made was leaving in a tiring Jon Lester in a batter too long in the eighth. From the seventh forward, someone needs to be up and throwing in the pen as the Sox will not have the luxury of a big lead again Saturday.
Hang in there as it could get bumpy.
*All statistics courtesy of Baseball Reference.
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