The best team in baseball battles the hottest team in baseball in one of the best Divisional Series matchups in 2013. The white hot Tampa Bay Rays bring a head full of steam into Fenway Park Friday afternoon to take on Jon Lester and the top-seeded Red Sox. Matt Moore starts for Tampa who will play a non-elimination game for the first time since Sunday. Boston opens as a small favorite at home with a total fluctuating between 7.5 and 8.0.
The Boston Red Sox’s offensive was prolific all year despite questions that there wasn’t enough power in the middle of the lineup. A combination of patience, baseball IQ and analytics helped the Red Sox top the Major’s in runs scored. That being said, there may have not been a better game thrown against Boston all year than when Matt Moore threw nine shutout innings on July 22 in a two hit, complete game victory over the Sox. Moore dominated Boston with that filthy change-up that he can throw relatively straight from the left-handed side that just tumbles down at the most inopportune time for opposing hitters. The outing was certainly Moore’s best of the season and he enters this game on the heels of a 17 win season but also with very moderate effectiveness as of late. Moore came back in September after missing all of August with arm trouble and he has been good but less than impressive since the return. Moore has thrown more than six innings in just one of his starts since returning from the Disabled List even though he posted an ERA under 3.00 in the month of September. He managed just 5.1 after giving up three runs to Toronto in game 162 when Tampa Bay had to win to get a chance to come out of the American League Wildcard. Moore has great numbers against the Sox in two regular season starts and Boston will look to jump on him early and shake the demons. I don’t particularly like Moore in this spot against a rested Red Sox lineup that will look to come out flying at Fenway Park.
The possibility of Jon Lester shutting down a confident Tampa Bay lineup doesn’t exactly thrill me either. Lester was good down the stretch and has been much more effective at home than on the road this season but the big lefty has been rather average against Tampa Bay this season – giving up 28 hits in 25 inning pitched. I’ve never been behind the movement to make Jon Lester Boston’s ace this season and Tampa Bay’s offense is still somehow a bit undervalued in the market. Joe Maddon is a matchup genius and he will have plenty of right-handed bats in there today. I love Tampa versus left-handers with Jennings, Zobrist, Myers and Longoria at the top and then capable role players throughout the lineup.
This is a very important game for Tampa Bay to win if it wants a chance to move on. I’m not sure Moore will give them quite enough innings to hold off the potent Boston lineup but don’t sleep on Tampa Bay to put up three or four at least on Lester. If there’s a 7.5 out there, scoop it up.
Free Pick: Tampa Bay/Boston Over 7.5 (-115)