A look at the best-of-five American League division series between the Tampa Bay Rays and Boston Red Sox:
(All times EDT) Game 1, Friday, at Boston (3:07 p.m.); Game 2, Saturday, at Boston (5:37 p.m.); Game 3, Monday, Oct. 7, at Tampa Bay (TBA); x-Game 4, Tuesday, Oct. 8, at Tampa Bay (TBA); x-Game 5, Thursday, Oct. 10, at Boston (TBA). (All games on TBS or MLB Network).
Season Series: Red Sox won 12-7.
Rays: CF Desmond Jennings (.252, 14 HRs, 54 RBIs, 20 SBs), RF Wil Myers (.293, 13, 53, 50 runs in 88 games), 2B Ben Zobrist (.275, 12, 71), 3B Evan Longoria (.269, 32, 88, 39 doubles), DH Delmon Young (.260, 11, 38 with Phillies and Rays) or Matt Joyce (.235, 18, 47), 1B James Loney (.299, 13, 75), LF David DeJesus (.251, 8, 38 with Cubs, Nationals and Rays) or Sean Rodriguez (.246, 5, 23), SS Yunel Escobar (.256, 9, 56), Jose Molina (.233, 2, 18) or C Jose Lobaton (.249, 7, 32 in 100 games).
Red Sox: CF Jacoby Ellsbury (.298, 9 HRs, 53 RBIs, 92 runs, MLB-best 52/56 SBs), RF Shane Victorino (.294, 15, 61), 2B Dustin Pedroia (.301, 9, 84, 42 doubles, 17 SBs), DH David Ortiz (.309, 30, 103, .959 OPS), 1B Mike Napoli (.259, 23, 92), LF Daniel Nava (.303, 12, 66), C Jarrod Saltalamacchia (.273, 14, 65), SS Stephen Drew (.253, 13, 67, 8 errors), 3B Will Middlebrooks (.227, 17, 49).
Red Sox: LH Jon Lester (15-8, 2.75 ERA, 213 1-3 IP), RH John Lackey (10-13, 3.52, 2 CG), RH Clay Buchholz (12-1, 1.74), RH Jake Peavy (12-5, 4.17 with White Sox and Red Sox).
Rays: RH Fernando Rodney (5-4, 3.38 ERA, 37/45 saves), RH Joel Peralta (3-8, 3.41, 1 save, 80 games), LH Alex Torres (4-2, 1.71, 62 Ks in 58 innings), LH Jake McGee (5-3, 4.02, 1 save), LH Cesar Ramos (2-2, 4.14, 1 save), RH Jamey Wright (2-2, 3.09), RH Roberto Hernandez (6-13, 4.89, 32 games, 24 starts), RH Jeremy Hellickson (12-10, 5.17, 32 games, 31 starts), RH Brandon Gomes (3-1, 6.52).
Red Sox: RH Koji Uehara (4-1, 1.09 ERA, 21/24 saves, 101 Ks, 9 BBs, 73 games), RH Junichi Tazawa (5-4, 3.16, 71 games), LH Craig Breslow (5-2, 1.81), LH Matt Thornton (0-4, 3.74 in 60 games with White Sox and Red Sox), LH Franklin Morales (2-2, 4.62), RH Ryan Dempster (8-9, 4.57 in 32 games, 29 starts), RH Brandon Workman (6-3, 4.97 in 20 games, 3 starts).
These teams met in the playoffs one other time, in the 2008 AL championship series. Tampa Bay won despite blowing a 7-0, seventh-inning lead in Game 5 and then losing Game 6 to force a decisive seventh game. ... In 2011, when the Red Sox went 7-20 in September to blow a nine-game lead in the AL wild-card race, the Rays reached the playoffs on the final night of the season by coming back from a 7-0, eighth-inning deficit to beat the New York Yankees 8-7 on Longoria's homer in the 12th inning. ... The Red Sox won nine of the first 11 matchups between the teams this season, but Tampa Bay has won five of eight since getting swept in a doubleheader June 18. ... The Rays are in the playoffs for the fourth time in six seasons, joining the Yankees, Cardinals and Phillies as the only teams to make it at least four times since 2008. Tampa Bay, also a wild card in 2011, earned berths as AL East champion in 2008 and 2010. ... Since making a surprising run to the World Series in its first postseason appearance, Tampa Bay's last two Octobers ended with losses to Texas in the division series. This time, the Rays dispatched the Rangers in a wild-card tiebreaker before beating Cleveland in the wild-card game. ... Boston outscored Tampa Bay this season 71-59 but the Rays outhit the Red Sox 149-130. The Red Sox batted .208 in 19 games vs. the Rays, who hit .232 in the season series. The teams had a benches-clearing scuffle in June after Lackey hit Joyce with a pitch. ... Longoria has four homers in 55 career at-bats against Lester. ... Desmond Jennings is 9 for 25 (.360) against Lester. ... Moore pitched a two-hitter at Boston on July 22. Ortiz had one of those hits. Big Papi is 6 for 13 (.462) against Moore with a homer and four RBIs. Ortiz has also homered twice in 13 at-bats against Rodney. ... Rays Game 2 starter Price had a 2.48 ERA in five starts against Boston this season. ... David Ross could get the start behind the plate against Price. He has two homers in five at-bats against the lefty. Saltalamcchia is 1 for 14 against Price.
Rays: Longoria is the face of the Rays (92-71), but Myers had a huge impact as a rookie. Tampa Bay went 56-38 after Myers was promoted from Triple-A Durham on June 18. The key acquisition in an offseason trade that sent pitcher James Shields to Kansas City, Myers has led the team in RBIs (53), runs (50) and doubles (23) since being called up. He was second in hits (98) and homers (13). ... Myers and Zobrist led the Rays with .294 batting averages after the All-Star break. ... Price, the reigning AL Cy Young Award winner, pitched the Rays into the playoffs with a 5-2, complete-game victory at Texas in the wild-card tiebreaker. Cobb followed that up two nights later with 6 2-3 gritty innings in a 4-0 win at Cleveland in the wild-card game. ... Cobb missed nearly two months with a concussion after being hit in the head by a line drive. He beat the Rangers, Yankees and Orioles in his final three regular-season starts, pitching to a 1.16 ERA. That made him 18-4 with a 2.87 ERA in 33 starts since Aug. 1, 2012. Detroit ace Max Scherzer is the only pitcher with a better record during that stretch at 27-4. ... Moore, an All-Star this season, had 143 strikeouts in 150 1-3 innings. ... The Rays are 12-14 in postseason games, 5-8 at home and 7-6 on the road. Longoria is the only player on the roster who has appeared in all 26 games. ... With one of baseball's deepest rotations leading the way, the Rays won 14 of their last 19 regular-season games to rebound from a 4-13 stretch that knocked them out of contention for a third division title in six years. Since the wild card was added to the playoff format in 1995, only four other teams have pulled out of 4-13 slumps in the closing weeks of a season to earn a postseason berth. The Yankees did it in 1995 and 2000. The 2000 Mariners and 2008 Braves were the others. ... The Rays finished with 90-plus wins for the fourth straight season, the longest active streak in the majors.
Red Sox: Boston (97-65) returned to the postseason for the first time since 2009 after one of the most tumultuous periods in franchise history. Following an unprecedented collapse in September 2011, the Red Sox brought in manager Bobby Valentine to restore order to a clubhouse that had grown complacent under two-time World Series champion Terry Francona. Players rebelled against Valentine and the team won just 69 games - its worst finish in almost half a century. The rebuilding began with the August 2012 trade of Josh Beckett, Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford to the Los Angeles Dodgers. ... The Red Sox finished with the best record in the AL, earning home-field advantage throughout the postseason. The AL's victory in the All-Star game gives the American League champion the extra home game in the World Series. ... The Red Sox are the second AL team in the three-division era to go from worst to first. ... This is Boston's first AL East title since 2007 and just the second since 1995. ... Ortiz is the only player remaining from the 2004 World Series team. Pedroia, Lester and Ellsbury were also on the 2007 champions. ... The Red Sox never lost more than three games in a row, the first major league team to do that since the 2005 Cardinals. Boston dropped three straight only twice since May. ... The Red Sox led the majors with 853 runs. They were successful on 86.6 percent of stolen base attempts, the best in AL history since baseball started keeping track of caught stealings in the 1920s. Boston was successful on its final 39 tries this season. ... This is the fourth time Jonny Gomes has been a part of a big turnaround. The 2008 Rays won 31 more games than the year before; the 2010 Reds won 13 more, the 2012 Athletics won 20 more and this year's Red Sox won 28 more than the previous season.
- Glove Work. The Rays are built on pitching and defense. They committed 59 errors, second-fewest to Baltimore's major league-record 54. Tampa Bay also would have broken the old mark of 65 by the 2003 Mariners. Zobrist led AL second basemen with a .9928 fielding percentage, .0001 ahead of Pedroia. Escobar, meanwhile, led all major league shortstops with a .989 fielding percentage after being acquired in an offseason trade. The pitching staff set a club record with 17 shutouts. The Rays have 32 over the past two seasons, tied with the Dodgers for most in the majors.
- Quick Turnaround. Ellsbury, who spent most of September on the disabled list with a broken right foot, had only three regular-season games to get back into playing shape. Boston's leadoff hitter was successful on 52 of 56 stolen base attempts, including his last 12 of the season, and his speed could be a key in the playoffs.
- Glad To Be Here. Wright is an 18-year veteran now with his 10th team, but this is his first postseason appearance. No active player has gone longer without appearing in the playoffs. DeJesus was obtained in a trade on Aug. 23 and is in the playoffs for the first time in his 11-year career. His streak of 1,277 regular-season games without a postseason appearance was fifth among active players.
- Thumbs Up. Pedroia has reportedly been playing the whole season with a torn ligament in his left thumb, and his power numbers have dropped accordingly. Pedroia, who averaged 17 homers in his four previous full seasons, had just nine this year, and his slugging percentage of .415 was his worst since he was a call-up at the end of 2006. But he has adjusted by hitting for a better average (.301), and his 160 games were a career high.
- Lights Out? Uehara inherited the closer's job in Boston when former All-Stars Joel Hanrahan and then Andrew Bailey were injured. The 38-year-old right-hander took over the ninth inning at the end of June, and from July 9 until Sept. 17 he had 27 scoreless outings, including a streak in which he retired 37 batters in a row. He made four playoff appearances as a middle reliever for Texas from 2011-12, facing 14 batters and getting seven outs, with an ERA of 19.29.
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