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Tampa Bay Rays (92-71) vs Boston Red Sox (97-65)
Boston rebounded from AL East worst in 2012 to baseball's best record in 2013. What a difference one year and one competent manager can make. Boston is a team on a mission. Solid hitting, solid pitching, solid base runners, solid defense = 97 wins. Gutsy Tampa Bay does it all with a limited budget and fairweather fans (dead last in home attendance). Yet, this teams plays fundamental baseball behind a talented manager and strong pitching staff.
Boston rotation - Lester (15-8), Lackey (10-13), Buchholz (12-1) & Peavy (4-1). Tampa rotation - Moore (17-4), Price (10-8), Cobb (11-3) & Hellickson (12-10). Red Sox won season series (12-7). Rays facing a powerful top to bottom Red Sox attack. Sox feature strong starters and lights out bullpen. Edge: Boston.
Red Sox stocked lineup will give Rays pitchers fits. Ellsbury, Victorino, Pedroia, Ortiz, Napoli, Gomes, Saltalamacchia, Drew & Middlebrooks form one of baseball's best lineups. Speed, power, timely hitting & playoff experience can score in bunches. Red Sox hitters will not be denied in this series.
Rays weaker lineup manages to get the job done but is no match for a slugfest -CF Jennings, 2B Zobrist, RF Myers, 3B Longoria, DH Young, LF Rodriguez, SS Escobar, 1B Loney, C Lobaton/Molina. Rays manufacture runs. Heart of the order is clutch but will have a tough time keeping up with Red Sox attack.
Prediction: Red Sox dominated in regular season. Rays clawed and scratched their way into playoffs. Red Sox are the better team. Sox in 4.