Rays learned about themselves in three games at Fenway
BOSTON -- When you're part of the Boston Red Sox, sinewy and, for the past four years, almost completely unburdened, challenges such as the one posed by the fresh-faced, untested Tampa Bay Rays over the past three games have often been a welcome affirmation of your hard-won elevation from the old days (a talented club constantly on the verge of a nervous breakdown) to the new (iron-edged champions famous for breaking the will of the club in the other dugout).It is a psychological advantage that the Red Sox have perfected, a weapon upon which Boston relies nearly as much as Beckett or Ortiz or Papelbon. Take, for example, the opener of the American League Championship Series between the Red Sox and Cleveland Indians a year ago, when an hour before the series began, David Ortiz, the fearsome slugger, grew weary of hearing about how the Red Sox would be swallowed whole by the twin scourges of Indians starters CC Sabathia and Fausto Carmona. With a swagger, Ortiz called on that psychology in between taking his hacks in the batting cage, offering a withering prediction: Sabathia and Carmona were great pitchers. Both were talented and both were hungry, certainly, but neither had been where they now stood, at Fenway Park, in the arena, facing not only a championship-level Red Sox club but also their own nerves. "Wait," Ortiz said, pointing to the filling stands with two large hands, "until they see this, with 35,000 crazy [expletives] raining down on them." Ortiz & Co. were vindicated as Cleveland folded under Boston's weight, as did Colorado in the World Series. The Rays, in their own way, are this year's version of Cleveland, a rising, talented club on the foreign soil of playoff-charged baseball, supposedly way over their heads, measured by how they perform at the most Olympian of levels, against Boston, a team that has long been better-financed, better-equipped and more familiar with the September stage. After 5 hours and 2 minutes of baseball Wednesday night capped three games between the first-place Rays and the surging Red Sox, the Rays' equipment truck roared to a stop in front of the visitors clubhouse. In the final two games, the Rays were a combined 0-for-27 with runners in scoring position. They faced Josh Beckett on Wednesday night and the 16-2 Daisuke Matsuzaka on Tuesday and did not beat either of them.
I know everyone's been waiting for us to trip but we know we can win here and they know we can win here.