Monday, October 6, 2008

Rays & Red Sox Advance to ALCS

The Tampa Bay Rays and the Boston Red Sox both clinched their ALDS match ups against the Chicago White Sox and the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, respectively.

After losing yesterday, the Rays beat the Chisox 6-2 in Game 4 of the ALDS this afternoon. B.J. Upton hit two home runs to pace the Rays. Ken Griffey, Jr struck out to end the game in what might be his final at bat in his storied two decade major league career. "The Kid" hit 611 home runs, won multiple Gold Gloves, a perennial All Star and won the American League MVP in 1997. But he will most likely never play in a World Series.

The one up side of not having either Chicago team get a chance not to play in the World Series is that we won't be seeing Barack Obama throwing out the first pitch at either Wrigley or U.S. Cellular Field. That would have been unbearably annoying. Of course, if he's truly a South Sider he would not be seen fratenizing with the Cubs.

The Rays will host the Boston Red Sox beginning Friday for the American League Championship Series. After losing a 12 inning marathon last night, the Sox rebounded and won Game 4 of the ALDS in dramatic fashion. Jon Lester pitched seven innings of solid shutout ball. The Sox carried a 2-0 lead into the 8th inning. But the bullpen would stumble. After retiring the first two hitters, Hideki Okajima walked Mark Teixeira. Terry Francona brought in Justin Masterson to face Vladimir Guerrero. Despite getting two quick strikes on Vlady, Masterson walked the free swinging Guerrero. Masterson then uncorked a wild pitch before giving up a two run single to Torii Hunter to tie the game.

The Angels had G-d on their side going into the 9th. Or did they? The Sox received some divine intervention. With pinch runner Reggie Willits on third, Erick Aybar was attempting a squeeze play but Willits ran too far down the line and Sox catcher Jason Varitek chased Willits back to the third base bag and tagged him out. Angels manager Mike Scioscia was incensed because Varitek dropped the ball after he had tagged Willits. But the umpire was not heaven sent for the Halos.

With one out in the bottom of the 9th, Jason Bay hit a ball that went past Willits in right field but it bounced up in the stands which made it a ground rule double. Mark Kotsay hit a wicked line drive down the first base line which would have won the game had Teixeira not made an amazing catch. But Red Sox rookie shortstop Jed Lowrie singled in Bay who made a mad dash for home and a date with the Rays in St. Pete. For the third time in five years the Sox eliminated the Angels in the ALDS. The Sox will also play their fourth ALCS in the last six seasons.

While I thought the Rays would dispatch with the Chisox I also thought (as did many in Red Sox Nation) the Red Sox would not get past the Angels. However, I do not think the Sox will get past the Rays. Now one can attribute this to the power of negative thinking and New England pessimism that comes with falling leaves. But I see the Rays as a hungrier team. Not that much hungrier but just enough. The Red Sox will be competitive but the Tampa Bay Rays are to baseball what the New York Giants were to the NFL last season. They are a team of destiny and they will not be denied. The Rays in six.

Thus I foresee a Rays-Dodgers World Series. Even though Manny Ramirez is intimately familar with Tampa pitching they are also familiar with him. The Rays in five.

No comments: