Thursday, October 16, 2008

The Rays Will Take the ALCS...But When?

As the Rays are poised to take the ALCS from the Red Sox, the question is not will they, but when? Ahead 3 games to 1, the Red Sox are again in a familiar tough spot, facing elimination. The Red Sox came roaring back against the Indians last year, but don't even think that the Rays will let this get away from them. They certainly have shown the killer instinct that my beloved Indians so desperately lack (not "lacked"...still present tense).

Has Joe Maddon positioned his team to win it all tonight in Boston or has he made a blunder? He has opted to go with lefty starter Scott Kazmir over James Shields for game #5 tonight. Maddon likes Kazmir's chances in Fenway Park better than he does Shields. Shields is 0-3 with a 10.13 ERA lifetime at Fenway. Kazmir is 4-4 with a 3.02 ERA lifetime at Fenway.

Hmm, but there may be more. Let's dig a bit deeper.

On June 11, Kazmir had a run-in with plate umpire Derryl Cousins in a 4-2 loss to the Angels. Kazmir and Cousins criticized each other to reporters after the game. Cousins is scheduled to be behind the plate Saturday for Game 6, which originally would have been Kazmir's start.

Well, that's why Maddon is the manager, to make these decisions and take calculated risks.

It reminds me of Sparky Anderson's decision in game 6 of the 1975 World Series, ahead 3 games to 2, he opted to start Gary Nolan over Don Gullett. Anderson was criticized for not going for the win in game 6 by holding back the ace of his staff. Game 6 had been rain delayed for 72 hours. Everyone knows the outcome, after utilizing Nolan and 6 relievers, 7th reliever Pat Darcy gave up one of the all-time most famous home runs to Carlton Fisk in the bottom of the 12th inning.

The difference here is that Maddon appears to be going for the win based on the two pitchers' probabilities, but he also is no fool because memories are long, at least back to June 11th and he could lose the effectiveness of his starter on Saturday if Shields couldn't win it all tonight. Then where would they be, staring at a game 7 that could certainly change momentum.

I like the gamble. I look for the Rays to finish this tonight, in Boston, sticking the fork in these guys in their home town.

The Rays have fought too hard to let up for one minute now on the Red Sox.

The keys to victory are clear;

Figure out Dice-K and get to him early and often.

If the game is close, they must finally get to Papelbon.

(Don't let us ever suffer through another Papelbon victory dance!)

Get 'er done tonight!

Congratulations to the Phillies on defeating the Dodgers to advance to the World Series. Although I was pulling for Joe Torre's Dodgers, it is good to see ex-Indians' manager Charlie Manuel finally get to the level he just couldn't bring the Indians to.

After the Rays dispose of the Red Sox, the 2008 World Series should be a dandy!

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