CLEVELAND — After 19 regular-season meetings, it comes down to the Red Sox and Rays in the American League Division Series.
The Rays beating the Indians Wednesday night, 4-0, at Progressive Field, has created a familiar matchup. Tampa Bay’s Matt Moore and David Price will pitch Games 1 and 2 at Fenway Park against the Red Sox’ Jon Lester and John Lackey.
“[The Red Sox] have really pitched well against us,” said Rays manager Joe Maddon in explaining his club’s 7-12 record against Boston. “We just didn’t swing the bats well, and it speaks to their pitching. They have a great starting staff and they have a tremendous bullpen.”
Maddon said he has no magic potion for turning things around other than playing their game and pitching well.
“I do anticipate a lot of the same as the playoffs continue,” Maddon said. “We feel very confident about our pitchers pitching against anybody, and we’ve done well. Part of that is . . . that our guys are used to pitching in that venue, whether it’s Yankee Stadium and it’s packed or Fenway Park, packed, we kind of dig it.”
Maddon pointed to Alex Cobb, who acknowledged he had some anxiety at the start of Wednesday night’s win, as an example. “Look at him tonight. He loves it. We’re playing here in Cleveland and it was packed,’’ Maddon said. “We’re able to perform relatively well there. But by the same token, so do [the Red Sox].’’
The Rays have played well in hostile environments in Texas and Cleveland and now move on to Boston.
“I expect the same thing up in Boston, maybe a little bit more,” said the Boston-born Cobb. “Those fans are extremely intense. I grew up going to those games and witnessed it firsthand. But this team, nobody wants to go home. We’ve battled through some big time, extreme ups and downs.
“We’ve been facing elimination games, our backs were against the wall in Games 161, 162, and 163. We wouldn’t have it any other way. I think it’s making us bear down, and we really have enjoyed the pressure.’’
Tampa is on a roll
Including their wild-card victory, the Rays have won nine consecutive games against teams over .500. The Rays have played 98 games against teams .500 or better and are now 49-49 . . . One of the great stories for Tampa Bay was that reliever Jamey Wright was named to his first postseason roster. Wright had played more seasons (18) than any other active player without appearing in a postseason. Wright has three more seasons than Vernon Wells and Bruce Chen. Rays outfielder David DeJesus had gone 1,277 regular-season games without playing in the postseason . . . The Rays have won 90-plus games in four straight seasons and five of the last six . . . When the Rays walked seven times Monday vs. Texas, they surpassed Cincinnati for the major league lead in walks with 589. Since 2,007 the Rays have walked a major league high 4,216 times . . . By virtue of their 4-13 record from Aug. 25-Sept. 11, the Rays are just the fifth team to have endured a streak of 4-13 or worse in the final six weeks and make the playoffs. The others were the 2008 Brewers, the 2000 Yankees, the 2000 Mariners, and the 1995 Yankees . . . Former Indians great Andre Thornton threw out the first pitch.Nick Cafardo can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @nickcafardo.