BOSTON – The Rays entered Friday afternoon’s ALDS Game 1 coming off a string of win-or-go-home games. They also continued a road trip that enters its fifth city and 11th full day on Friday.
Will that kind of a grind eventually show its effects?
“I think they're [feeling] pretty good, honestly,” said Rays manager Joe Maddon. “It's just been an extraordinarily different with the Toronto, Texas, Cleveland trilogy we just went through. But there's also energy to be derived from that, too. As you're physically tired, I mean, mentally if you could find some energy, that's a good thing to counteract that. When you win games like that the group benefit is incredible. As a group you feel like you could do anything. You could beat anybody.
“So you have to balance all that out. Yeah, it would be nice not to be on the road this long, but it is kind of cool we did. And I think that we should gain some strength from that. We'll how it plays out today. I think everybody got a good night's rest last night, had a good meal in. The clubhouse they seem to be in good order right now. I understand why people would say these things, but there's energy to be derived from these moments, too.”
· Maddon was asked his thoughts on Red Sox Game 1 and 2 starters Jon Lester and John Lackey, before Friday's Game 1.
“Well, I know Lack for a long time,” said Maddon, who was the bench coach for the Angels during Lackey’s time there. “ John Lackey, we were teammates back with the Angels. And he helped pay for my daughter's wedding in 2002. So I was always grateful to John. Great teammate, great competitor. He and I used to go out for beers after the games. The biggest difference I see is obviously was hurt. I knew something was wrong when he wasn't pitching well. He was definitely better than that.
“Now you're seeing him at full force, where he's well, because he's got all the weapons, plus the makeup to be as good as you're seeing right now. So it does not surprise me in the least that he's well, pitching this good.
"Lester on the other hand, the biggest thing I'm seeing differently with him is his command of the fastball. When he was not going as well, the fastball just wasn't where he wanted it to be, thus the other pitches weren't as effective. So I think what you're seeing now, I don't know what they've done, if something John or the pitching coach Juan has said to him, it's different. The whole pitching world revolves around fastball command normally. And I'm seeing that with Lester right now.”
· The Red Sox and Rays played 19 regular season games, along with six spring training games, entering the ALDS this season. Maddon was asked how that familiarity affects his approach to this series.
“Take this the right way: easier in a sense, only because you know them,” Maddon said. “I hate playing teams that you don't know, where you don't really know the guy. You read that, look at video, that's all good stuff. But I like to combine that with what I actually see in order to make up my mind about things. Obviously they have their tons of data and so do we. But now you have the advantage of knowing them personally what they're about and what they look like, and I think that helps also.
“So there's no advantage here. They do the same things that we do. And they're excellent at it as we are. The preparation is somewhat easier, I guess that's the right way to put it, but the actual game is very difficult because they're good. And you've got to be on your toes with everything with these guys. John does a great job on the other side on the dugout. And there is a lot of versatility with their bench, the matchups coming later in the game. And their bullpen is outstanding. You know that, but the prep is easier in that regard, but the game itself is more difficult.”