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Keys to the Weekend Series in Boston

At first glance, it may seem that the Tampa Bay Rays are off to the hot start necessary to win in 2010.

Not so fast.

The Baltimore Orioles are mostly to thank for the team’s success so far, and if it weren’t for some shoddy defense and blown saves, the Rays could easily be sitting on a 4-5 record. An ugly series against the Yankees which included a near no-hitter from C.C. Sabathia also showed that this team is not nearly in midseason form.

But when the bats woke up late Tuesday and Wednesday, I became optimistic. If the Rays go into Boston swinging hot bats, there is no doubt they can win the series. Here are some more keys to the series.

Get on Beckett early. Tonight’s game will set the tone for the series. Naturally, Boston’s ace will be on the mound. But Josh Beckett isn’t the type to come out in shut-down mode right away. Historically, the 1st and the 7th are his worst innings. If the Rays can take advantage, they’ll rattle him and get him out early. If not, it will be a long night. Especially with Wade Davis on the mound (which doesn’t make a whole lot of sense**), it is important that the Rays establish a lead early instead of making the youngster match Beckett pitch-for-pitch.

RUN! Through the first 9 games of 2009, the Rays had 12 stolen bases. This year, they only have 8. That’s still a lot, but it seems like that aspect of their game has been somewhat absent. While the Red Sox have greatly improved on their defensive side of the ball, they have one of the worst defensive catchers in baseball in Victor Martinez. The Rays must take advantage with the amount of speed they have.

Starters must eat innings. Against the Red Sox, this may be a tall task. But the Rays need to avoid pitching Randy Choate and Mike Ekstrom AT ALL COSTS. Bullpen woes have been no secret, and stretching an already thin staff will be disastrous. Rays Starters need to bare down and get as many outs as possible against one of the weaker Sox lineups in recent memory.

Zobrist needs to start looking like a No. 3 hitter. As much as I like Zorilla, I have been against him hitting third since day 1. He has yet to hit for any power, he’s striking out more and his 2 RBI show his lack of run production. After the breakout year he had last year, it’s no secret that he is facing tougher pitching. It’s time he starts getting on base and stop making Evan Longoria lead off innings.

All of these things need to come together for the Rays this weekend. After they failed their first test against the Yankees at home, they will get a second chance to prove they are for real this weekend.

**Why starting Davis tonight is a mistake. The Red Sox have their best four starters scheduled to pitch against the Rays this weekend. This is no accident.

Typically, teams skip their 5th starters in April because of the amount of days off. With that said, Why not start Shields tomorrow and skip Davis? The day off yesterday gives our rotation the four days rest they need.

Nothing against Wade Davis, but starting him the first game causes two problems. First, it creates a mismatch. Instead of ace vs. ace to start the series, we will have ace vs. No. 5. Second, Starting Davis tonight will mean that David Price will not get a start against the Sox. Let me remind you that Price was the only Rays pitcher to handle the Yankees last weekend.

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Categories: Rays Talk
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