A capsule look at the Red Sox-Rays playoff series

MLB

A capsule look at the best-of-five American League Division Series between the Boston Red Sox and Tampa Bay Rays:

Schedule: (All times EDT) Game 1, Thursday, at St. Petersburg, Fla., 8:07 p.m. (FS1); Game 2, Friday, at St. Petersburg, Fla., 7:02 p.m. (FS1); Game 3, Sunday, at Boston, 4:07 p.m. (MLB); x-Game 4, Monday, Oct. 11, at Boston, TBD (FS1 or MLB); x-Game 5, Wednesday, Oct. 13, at St. Petersburg, Fla., TBD (FS1).

x-if necessary.

Season Series: Rays won 11-8.

BOSTON RED SOX

Record: 92-70.

Playoff Entry: AL wild card.

Manager: Alex Cora (third season; two stints).

Projected Rotation: LHP Eduardo Rodriguez (13-8, 4.74 ERA), LHP Chris Sale (5-1, 3.16, 52 Ks, 42 2/3 IP in 9 starts after return from Tommy John surgery), RHP Nathan Eovaldi (11-9, 3.75, 195 Ks in 182 1/3 IP), RHP Nick Pivetta (9-8, 4.53).

Top Hitters: 3B Rafael Devers (.279, 38 HRs, 113 RBIs), SS Xander Bogaerts (.295, 23, 79), RF Hunter Renfroe (.259, 31, 96).

Top Relievers: RHP Matt Barnes (6-5, 3.79 ERA, 24/30 saves), RHP Garrett Whitlock (8-4, 1.96, 2 saves), RHP Tanner Houck (1-5, 3.52, 87 Ks, 21 BBs, 69 IP in 18 games, 13 starts), RHP Hansel Robles (3-5, 4.43, 14 saves with Minnesota and Boston), RHP Adam Ottavino (7-3, 4.21, 11 saves).

October Glance: Red Sox are back in the playoffs for first time since winning the 2018 World Series. They advanced by beating the rival New York Yankees 6-2 at home in AL wild-card game behind Eovaldi, with Bogaerts and Kyle Schwarber hitting early homers off Gerrit Cole at Fenway Park. Alex Verdugo had three RBIs. … Boston and Tampa Bay have split two previous postseason matchups. Rays took 2008 AL Championship Series in seven games to reach World Series for first time. Red Sox won 3-1 in 2013 ALDS on way to World Series title … Boston finished fifth in AL East during the pandemic-shortened 2020 season, making this the third time team has rebounded from a last-place finish to make the postseason. … It is the first wild-card berth for the Red Sox since 2009, before the current one-game playoff was instituted in 2012. … Boston led the division from April 8 to May 23, from June 19-23 and June 27 to July 30, a total of 84 days. … Swept at home by Yankees from Sept. 24-26 to fall into third place but swept the Nationals in final three games of season to clinch top wild card. Finished eight games behind first-place Rays. … Scored 334 of their 829 runs this season with two outs, most in the majors. … Led the majors with 330 doubles. … Six players had at least 20 homers, including J.D. Martinez (28), Bobby Dalbec (25) and Kike Hernandez (20). … Martinez was left off the wild-card roster following a freak injury at Washington in the season-finale Sunday, when he stumbled over second base while jogging out to his right-field position between innings and twisted his ankle. Usually the Red Sox designated hitter, Martinez batted .286 with 99 RBIs this season and his continued absence would be a huge blow to Boston’s lineup. But the Red Sox hope to have him back for this series. … Eovaldi pitched six scoreless innings in his last regular-season start, against Baltimore on Sept. 29. Then he allowed just one run and four hits with eight Ks and no walks in the wild-card win over Yankees. The Red Sox have won eight of his past nine starts, including the playoff game. He led all AL qualified pitchers during regular season with 1.79 walks per nine innings, ranked second with 5.57 K/BB and seventh with 195 strikeouts.

TAMPA BAY RAYS

Record: 100-62.

Playoff Entry: AL East champion.

Manager: Kevin Cash (seventh season).

Projected Rotation: LHP Shane McClanahan (10-6, 3.43 ERA, 141 Ks), RHP Shane Baz (2-0, 2.03, 18 Ks in 13 2/3 IP), RHP Drew Rasmussen (4-1, 2.84, 73 Ks), RHP Michael Wacha (3-5, 5.05, 121 Ks).

Top Hitters: 2B Brandon Lowe (.247, 39 HRs, 99 RBIs, .863 OPS), C Mike Zunino (.216, 33, 62), LF Austin Meadows (.234, 27, 106), DH Nelson Cruz (.265, 32, 86 with Twins and Rays; .226, 13, 36 in 55 games with Rays), LF Randy Arozarena (.274, 20, 69).

Top Relievers: RHP Andrew Kittredge (9-3, 1.88 ERA, 8 saves, 77 Ks in 71 2/3 IP), RHP Collin McHugh (6-1, 1.55, 1 save), LHP Josh Fleming (10-8, 5.09, 1 save).

October Glance: The defending AL champion Rays, who lost to the Dodgers in last year’s World Series, are in the playoffs for a franchise-best third straight season after winning a club-record 100 games. They’ve claimed consecutive AL East titles for the first time and are making their seventh appearance in the ALDS since 2008. … With the addition of prized rookie shortstop Wander Franco and trade-deadline acquisition Cruz, the budget-conscious Rays are a better team offensively than previous Tampa Bay clubs that thrived mainly on pitching and defense. Those elements are still an integral part of the squad’s success, but a versatile lineup now features five players who hit 20 or more homers. Cruz had 13 homers and 36 RBIs in 55 games with the Rays after arriving from Minnesota. He has 17 home runs, 37 RBIs and a .288 batting average in 46 career postseason games. … Arozarena burst onto the scene in last year’s playoffs, setting postseason records for home runs (10) and hits (29) and winning MVP honors in the ALCS. … Injuries wrecked a season-opening pitching rotation that included Tyler Glasnow and Chris Archer. But losing the veterans also presented opportunities for a bevy of young pitchers to fill the void. The Rays used 18 rookies this year, including 12 pitchers. Cash finished with a six-man rotation featuring three rookies: McClanahan, Baz and Rasmussen. With that trio, Tampa Bay is poised to become the first team to start three rookies in the first three games of a Division Series. … The bullpen has been outstanding, too, leading the majors with 58 wins. … The team’s 47-25 record after the All-Star break was third-best in baseball behind the Dodgers and Giants. … Rays went 51-25 vs. AL East rivals, 25-8 after July 28.

More AP MLB: https://apnews.com/hub/MLB and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports

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