The Red Sox took two of three games from the Tampa Bay Rays in mid-September, a series that essentially ended the American League East race.
The Rays would have to make the postseason through a crowd of teams seeking a wild-card berth. But manager Joe Maddon predicted then that his team would face the Red Sox again.
“We’re really looking forward to playing them in the playoffs,” he said at the time.
Maddon arrived at Fenway Park on Thursday, the latest stop on a wild journey that has the Rays in the Division Series against the Sox. The Rays survived, just as he said they would.
“I felt pretty confident and strongly about that because I thought we could right ourselves, and we did,” Maddon said. “Had to do it against some pretty difficult moments.”
The Rays ended the regular season with a six-game trip to New York and Toronto. They won four of those games, then flew to Texas to play a wild-card tiebreaker game on Monday.
After beating the Rangers, 5-2, the Rays continued on to Cleveland and won the wild-card playoff game, 4-0, on Wednesday. Now they’re in Boston. In all, Tampa Bay has won 10 of its last 12 games.
The Rays left home the evening of Sept. 23. Thursday was their 11th day on the road, and they have traveled 5,631 miles, hitting now five cities.
“It’s quite an accomplishment,” said Maddon. “I really believe our players deserve a lot of credit. Moving forward, I want to believe it’s going to create some kind of different form of momentum going into this series.
“We’ve been playing under duress, and we’re not tired. Don’t be deceived; we’re not tired. I might look bad right now, but I’m not that tired.”
For all the schedule challenges, the Rays are in good shape with their rotation. Matt Moore (17-4, 3.29 ERA) will start Game 1 against the Red Sox, and David Price (10-8, 3.33) goes in Game 2.
Moore was 10-1 with a 2.74 ERA in 16 road starts this season and has a career 3.86 ERA in five appearances against the Sox.
The 24-year-old Moore threw 10 innings in the postseason as a rookie in 2011 and allowed one earned run.
“I have to prove I’m going to throw some strikes,” he said. “Be aggressive in the strike zone with my pitches, and show that I’m going to throw off-speed pitches for strikes, as well.”
The Rays held only an informal workout at Fenway Park Thursday. A handful of players attended.
Price posted on Twitter that he rented a Hubway bicycle near Fenway to get back to the team hotel.
Doubront on roster
The Red Sox will not reveal their roster until Friday at the 10 a.m. deadline. But Felix Doubront confirmed he was the choice for the bullpen instead of Matt Thornton.
Doubront nodded when asked if he would be in uniform Friday.
“I’m excited to be there and help the team,” he said. “We talked about being in the bullpen, what I have to do. It’s fine.”
Doubront had a 3.87 ERA in 27 starts this season but allowed 11 earned runs in 6⅔ innings of relief.
Manager John Farrell indicated in recent days that he preferred the final spot on the staff be a pitcher who could cover the Red Sox in case of emergency. Given that Doubront could pitch six or seven innings, he fills that need.
Doubront being on the roster also would allow the Red Sox to use righthander Ryan Dempster as needed and not just in long relief.
The Red Sox informed outfielder Jackie Bradley Jr., infielder Brandon Snyder, lefthander Drake Britton, and righthander Rubby De La Rosa that they would be assigned to Fort Myers to continue working out.
Thornton and John McDonald will stay with the team.
Ross getting a start
Farrell indicated that with the Rays starting lefthanders in the first two games, righthanded-hitting backup catcher David Ross would get a start. Ross has never faced Moore but is 2 for 5 against Price with two home runs. Jarrod Saltalamacchia is 1 for 14 against Price . . . The Red Sox are now favored to win the World Series, according to Bovada. They’re 15-4 and the Dodgers are 9-2 . . . The Red Sox were 12-7 against the Rays this season but that is a little deceiving. The Sox won six of those games in the ninth inning or later. That includes three walkoffs at Fenway Park. The scoring differential between the teams was only 14 runs over 19 games. The Rays were 24 of 158 (.152) with runners in scoring position against the Sox. The Red Sox hit .209 with a .612 OPS against the Rays (their lowest against any opponent this season) and averaged 3.7 runs.
The Red Sox have been taking a lot of batting practice in recent days, so David Ortiz decided to have some fun. He grabbed an aluminum bat and tried to launch a ball at the red seat in right field, the spot once reached by Ted Williams. Big Papi put on a show but fell short. “I almost broke my back,” he said . . . The Red Sox will wear red uniform tops, their usual Friday look, for Game 1 . . . Third baseman Evan Longoria has played every inning of all 26 postseason games in Tampa Bay history . . . NESN broadcaster Jerry Remy, who has been away from the Red Sox since August following the arrest of his son for murder, posted a message on Twitter Thursday. “I hope tomorrow begins a great postseason for the Red Sox,” Remy wrote. “They’re a bunch of real good guys. I’ll be pulling for them the whole way.”