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The upcoming Division Series featuring the Red Sox and the Rays has plenty of storylines, but the biggest could very well be the Tampa Bay starting pitching staff. The group was touted by many to be the most dangerous in baseball coming into the season, and they have done a fantastic job backing up those claims; especially in the process of shrugging off three elimination games over the past week. In those three games, Matt Moore, David Price, and Alex Cobb have combined for 21 innings of work while surrendering just five earned runs to opponents.
A Rays rotation in rhythm could be an unfriendly sight for the Fenway Faithful in the upcoming division series, but it’s important to remember that this is the same Rays rotation that the Red Sox have handled throughout all of 2013.
Tampa Bay starting pitching maintained an impressive ERA of 3.44 against the Red Sox throughout the regular season and looked extra sharp doing so as they struck out 104 batters through 115 innings. In addition, 11 of the 19 starts recorded by Tampa Bay were quality starts. However, the Red Sox managed to come away with a 12-7 record against their division rival. Despite the Tampa Bay starters bringing their A-game consistently against Boston, Boston has still consistently come out on top.
The first time these two teams met in April really seems to have been a microcosm of how the rest of the season would play out.
The first game featured a pitcher’s duel between Jon Lester and David Price. The game ended up going into extra innings tied at 1-1 until Shane Victorino ended it with a walk-off infield single in the bottom of the tenth to get Boston the 2-1 victory.
The next game, Alex Cobb put in 6.2 solid innings for Tampa allowing just three earned runs while striking out six. However, his effort was spoiled by his opponent, Clay Buchholz, who carried a no-hitter into the eighth inning and guided Boston to the 5-0 win.
In the third game, Jeremy Hellickson went seven strong innings for Tampa Bay allowing just two earned runs on three hits. After Ryan Dempster managed seven strong innings of his own allowing just one earned run, Andrew Bailey blew a save in the ninth allowing Tampa to tie the game 2-2. When it seemed like the Rays’ consistent effort would finally pay off, Mike Napoli ended the game in the bottom of the inning with a walk-off double that completed the three game sweep. While the Rays pitched and played well throughout, Boston managed to find a way to win all three games.
Boston’s success against David Price further illustrates the Red Sox offensive success in the face of strong pitching. Price is a guy who almost always rose to the occasion and brought his best stuff when the Rays played Boston. Through five starts against the Sox, the lefty recorded a 2.48 ERA while striking out 30. However, the Red Sox still managed to come away with a win three out of the five times he was on the hill.
Boston’s success in spite solid efforts by Rays pitching has seemed magical at times, but has also been a constant throughout the entire season.