The Red Sox begin a 3 game series with the Tampa Bay Rays tonight which is arguably their biggest series of the 2009 season. As each series comes and goes we'll probably say that another 4-5 times, but that doesn't make it any less true today.
The Sox have a 4 game lead in the Wild Card over the Rangers and they are up 5 on the Rays. This series gives them the opportunity to knock the Rays out, or let them right back in the race. Winning 2 out of 3 in
The Sox will start on the right foot with lefty stud Jon Lester on the mound tonight, the Rays counter with Andy Sonnanstine. Sonnanstine has had good success against the Sox in the past, same for tomorrow nights' starter Matt Garza. Ok Garza pretty much owns the Sox, but Beckett did beat him (not sure if Garza took the L in that game) earlier this season on Sunday night baseball.
Thursday night will feature what both teams hope is an aces of the future match up as Buchholz squares off against David Price. Neither of these guys have lived up to the expectations as the next big thing, but they are still young. Buchholz looked great against the Blue Jays, and I am very curious to see how he deals with the noise at the Trop if he gets into some trouble. Buchholz seems like he either cruises through a game with very little trouble, or the wheels shoot off in 4 different directions and he lights the bullpen on fire before leaving in the 5th inning after getting rocked.
In the beginning of the season I picked the Sox to win the division and the Rays to win the Wild Card, today it doesn't look like either of those outcomes are likely. The Ray's never really seem to hit their stride this year. We asked RaysAllDay blogger Devon Rogers about this years Rays and he offered the following:
"As for the fire, IMO, the Rays do not have the same fire. They lost some key guys in the clubhouse like Cliff Floyd, Jonny Gomes, and Eric Hinske, who didn't necessarily provide much on the field, but were great for the clubhouse. The Rays did not bring in anyone that has lit that fire from last year. They thought Pat Burrell would be that guy in the clubhouse and produce big numbers, but it hasn't worked out that way."
The Rays always have the fire when they play the Sox, but it's interesting that they haven't been able to replicate last year’s success. Sox fans can attest to this, no team will ever be like the 2004 team championship team (see the 2005 edition of the Sox).
After trading long time ace Scott Kazmir to the Angels we'll see what kind of fire the Rays play with. Kazmir was a well liked teammate and apparently that deal was not a popular one in the clubhouse. Although the Rays received two young and highly valued prospects, the move was largely seen as a way to cut Salary; Carl Crawford and Akinori Iwamura are free agents after the season.
The dog days of August are behind us, it's now September. There is one month of baseball left to decide who plays this fall and who his the links. Game on!