Welcome to “Troptober Rays fans!! Troptober is a phenomena that occurs every October when the Rays make the playoffs.
It was 2019, the last time the Rays hosted a playoff game at Tropicana Field, and Kevin Keirmaier recalls the experience quite well. “This place was electric back in 2019. I think it’s going to be just that and then some on Thursday, and we’re all going to be very excited about it. For us to have the first two games at home is going to be huge for us.”
Ray’s game one starter Shane McClanahan wants it be loud. “I want it to be loud. We call it ‘Trop-tober.’ It’s a different breed. It’s awesome. It’s so cool. As a fan, it was awesome. To look around and see the entire stadium packed with yellow flags waving everywhere, it was awesome. And so I know everybody, including myself, is really excited for Thursday to see that atmosphere.”
McClanahan is 1-1 with a 2.81 ERA in three starts against Boston this season.
That is the environment that the Boston Red Sox will try to win a game or two in before going back to Boston for game three.
Rays Manager Kevin Cash talked about the home field advantage he expects the fans to give the Rays starting Thursday afternoon. “Hopefully, it’s a huge benefit. Players appreciate that, and I’m confident our fans are going to show up.”
The Rays are expecting crowds of 30,000 plus for games one and two. However, there are still tickets available for the first two home games.
The Rays and Red Sox played 19 times this season, with the Rays going 11- 8 against the Red Sox. Good news for Rays fans though, the Rays won 11 of the last 15 games against Boston this season. That could give the Rays a bit of an edge. The Rays outscored the Red Sox 106-104 in those 19 games.
Boston finished third in the American League in offense hitting .261 with 219 home runs. The Red Sox were led offensively by Rafael Denver’s who hit 38 home runs and drove in 113 runs.
Final rosters are due Thursday at 10 AM, and the only question mark for Boston is J.D. Martinez, who missed the wild card game with an ankle issue.
The Red Sox also have three players on their roster that should be familiar to Ray’s fans. Outfielder HunterRenfore, pitcher Nathan Eovaldi, and Hernando High product Christian Arroyo.
The Rays enter the postseason with the seventh best offense in the League hitting .242 with 222 home runs. They ended the season with the best pitching in the American League and the fourth-best pitching in the Majors with a 3.67 ERA.
The Rays had 23 pitchers that recorded at least one win and had a record-breaking 14 pitchers record a save. The team used a league-leading 61 pitchers this season, which helped propel them to the best record in the American League for the second consecutive season.
The Rays will be the second team since 2012 to start two rookies in the first two games of a playoff series. The Oakland A’s were the last team to do it, and they promptly lost the first two games of their playoff series to the Detroit Tigers.
Ray’s outfielder Kevin Keirmaier talked about the series against the Red Sox. “You’ve got to shut down that offense from top to bottom, They are dangerous in many, many ways, and they don’t have a weak spot. They truly don’t. Our pitchers are definitely going to have their work cut out for them.
“On the flip side, too, they’ve got a ton of quality arms over there. Some guys who can, you know, just go up and down the batting lineup and get out after out.”
Offensively, the Rays had four players hit 20 or more home runs. Brandon Lowe led the Rays with 39 homers, followed by Mike Zunino with 33, Austin Meadows with 27, and last year’s playoff sensation Randy Arozarena with 20. Arozarena also led the Rays with a .274 batting average this season.
Although the Rays may have cooled off a bit in September, they seemed to regain some of their mojo in the final weekend series against the Yankees.
Boston, although their offense is one of the best in theLeague, their pitching ranks seventh with a 4.28 ERA.
This Rays roster however,is much better the the team across the diamond. They match up very well against lefties or righties, and the bullpen is one of the best in baseball. No lead is safe against the Rays. They led the Majors in come-from-behind wins, and also in most runs scored after the seventh inning.
I like the Rays in this ALDS series. The Rays will beat Boston in four games and move to the ALCS for the second consecutive season.