The Boston Red Sox fly down to Tampa Bay with brooms in their hands in hopes of sweeping away the pesky Rays and moving on to the American League Championship Series in style. Boston calls on its ace Clay Buchholz to oppose one of the hottest pitchers in baseball: right-hander Alex Cobb. The game opens as a virtual pick with a total of 7.0.
Expect Monday evening to be one of the more entertaining Divisional round games of 2013 with Tampa Bay going back home fighting for its playoff life against a Red Sox team that has looked rather unstoppable this year. Clay Buchholz has returned from injury to pick right back up where he left off months before. Buchholz finished the 2013 regular season campaign 12-1 with a 1.74 ERA in 16 starts for the best team in baseball. He last pitched September 27 against Baltimore and will go on the road where he had a 1.40 ERA in 45 innings in 2013. Buchholz stymied the Rays in the regular season – tossing 13 shutout innings against Tampa and only allowing five hits. In fact, he’s pretty much owned the entire Tampa Bay lineup over his career. In 234 career at-bats against Buchholz, the Tampa Bay roster has managed just a .209 batting average with a slugging just over .300. In a relatively pressure-free situation, up two games to none and on the road, look for Buchholz to come out and trust his stuff against a Tampa Bay team with its back against the wall.
Speaking of aces, Alex Cobb has been the Rays’ ace over the past few weeks of the regulars season and into the playoffs. The 25-year-old Boston native will get a chance to beat the team he grew up watching and extend the series to a game four. Cobb has been sensational over his last four outings where he has squandered just three runs in 30 innings of work. Cobb logged over 20 innings of work against the Boston lineup this year and has been mildly effective. That said, Cobb has had up’s and down’s throughout the year and will come into this game throwing the ball extremely well. He’ll also give the Red Sox the first right-handed look in the series as far as the starting pitcher is concerned. The Red Sox lineup is lethal but Cobb’s pure ability can’t be overlooked here. A WHIP just over 1.00 and an ERA of 2.76 is pretty darn impressive. Considering he’s been in the zone lately it’s tough to think Boston roughs up Cobb like it did Moore and Price.
These two starters are simply way too talented to think that a lot of runs get put up in this one. I think it comes down to the bullpens, where both teams are somewhat vulnerable. We won’t let it get to that point and play the first five innings.