Sox' hitters turning the heat on Rays

Sox' hitters turning the heat on Rays
October 6, 2013, 7:00 pm

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- On paper, it seems a mystery.

During the regular season, the Red Sox hit just .208 as a team against the Tampa Bay Rays, and in 12 of the 19 games between the teams this season, were held to three runs or fewer.

Yet two games into the ALDS, matched against arguably the Rays' two best starters, the Red Sox have hit .351 and pushed 19 runs across the plate.

At a time when pitching is supposed to become more dominant and offense more scarce, the Red Sox are scoring runs at will.

What gives?

"It's just two games," cautioned John Farrell, noting that small sample size to date. "They're a very talent pitching staff. You can't take away from what they did in the 19 games previous. And we had struggles against them, particularly the two guys (Matt Moore and David Price) we just faced. And I don't think [Monday] night is going to be any different. [Game 3 starter Alex] Cobb is a heck of a pitcher and he's been throwing well in the last six weeks.

"But we were eager to get on the field and we played with a lot of confidence through the last six weeks of the season, more so than the remainder of the season. And we're comfortable at home."

At times, too, the Red Sox offensive outburst has been due more to the Rays' suspect defense rather than any failings on the part of the pitching staff.

Moore was shutting out the Sox for the first three innings without allowing a hit before Wil Myers misplayed a routine fly ball by David Ortiz in the fourth in Game 1, opening the way for the Sox to score five runs. Additional misplays by Sean Rodriguez and a passed ball by Jose Molina didn't help matters.

It was more of the same in Game 2 when the Rays committed two more errors -- one by Ben Zobrist, whose errant throw led to a run, and an error by catcher Jose Lobaton, who threw wildly on a stolen-base attempt by Jacoby Ellsbury.

"I don't know - it just happens, I guess," said Mike Napoli of the team's scoring binge. "We're going out there and we all have a plan and we've been able to score some runs. We took advantage of some opportunities that we got and capitalized on them."

Other than focusing on swinging at strikes early in the count from Price in Game 2 -- so as to avoid getting into negative pitcher's counts -- the Sox haven't made any obvious adjustments, said Napoli.

"We've seen these guys a lot," he said. "[During the season] we faced some of their guys who were going really well at the time, really in a groove and felt good with their stuff. It's just the way it is sometimes."

One thing's clear: the Sox aren't expecting to be easy against Cobb.

"I watched him late in the season," said Napoli, "and his stuff is still there. He's still pitching well. I watched in the [playoff game] against Cleveland. But when we get a mistake, you've got to pounce on it and not miss and get it done while you can. I think the first two games, we had opportunities to get jobs done and we executed."