After another great year, TB welcomes Boston

ST. PETERSBURG, Florida, USA – The Rays have won more games than any other American League team in the past two seasons. And they have done it with such discretion and confidence that they have caught the attention of other clubs, including the Red Sox.

Both teams, rivals in the East of the American League, meet in the divisional series to a maximum of five games, the first of which will take place this Thursday at Tropicana Field.

The defending American League champion Rays are looking to take the first step back to the World Series, in which they lost last year to the Los Angeles Dodgers.

With one of the most modest payrolls in the majors and devoid of big names, Tampa Bay bases its success on a young squad, devoid of selfishness and combining good defense, effective pitching and timely hitting.

That formula has put the Rays in the playoffs for three years in a row.

After losing four in a row to Boston at the start of the season, Tampa Bay has won 11 of the last 15 meetings, to clinch its second straight East Division crown, holding an eight-game lead over the Red Sox and Los Angeles. New York Yankees, two teams with big budgets.

The Red Sox beat the Yankees 6-2 in the wild card game on Tuesday night. His prize will be facing the Rays.

“We have some experience,” center fielder Kevin Kiermaier said Wednesday, before turning his attention to a group of talented rookies who helped Tampa Bay overcome a series of injuries and record 100 victories, a league record. franchise.

Rookie shortstop Wander Franco has responded to his status as one of the top prospects in the majors. The Dominican hit a home run during his major league debut against the Red Sox themselves in June, and has shown enviable consistency with the wood.

Young pitchers Shane McClanahan and Shane Baz will handle the first two starts of the series. Baz has been in the majors for just a few weeks.

“I feel like the majority of our roster is made up of guys who get minimum wages in the league, but here we develop people differently, I swear to you,” Kiermaier said. “I mean, we have guys like Wander Franco and our starters … They are people who can play.”

The Rays displayed that ability since last year, when Cuban rookie Randy Arozarena set playoff records. Tampa Bay had the best record in the AL during the regular season shortened to 60 games by the pandemic.

The Red Sox, who haven’t advanced to the playoffs since 2018 when they won the World Series, know their opponents well.

“We know they won the series of games against us in the season, but if you analyze those games, there was a 1-0 game with a wild pitch in the ninth inning and another at Fenway, where we won 7-1 and lost. a ball, dazzled by the sun, “recalled Boston’s Puerto Rican manager Alex Cora.

“I know they are really good, they have a great team. Before the season, many thought that they have the best team in the Major Leagues, but we feel that we are also a good team, and here we are. We will show it. We will play and see. where did we go “.