Red Sox ready for Tropicana Field quirks

Red Sox ready for Tropicana Field quirks
October 7, 2013, 1:30 pm
Share This Post

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- The Red Sox stressed the importance of gaining home field advantage in the playoffs, and worked hard in September to achieve it.
      
In the first two games of the American League Division Series with the Tampa Bay Rays, that looked like a smart investment: While the Rays fumbled and stumbled around Fenway -- battling the sun in right field and The Wall in left -- the Red Sox took full advantage of their comfortable surroundings, winning the first two games by a lopsided score of 19-6.
      
Tampa Bay manager Joe Maddon, noting the difficulty his team had at times with the quirks of the ballpark, said his team was "out-Fenwayed" in Games 1 and 2.
      
Now, as the series shifts to St. Petersburg, it's the Rays turn to use Tropicana Field for their own edge.
      
It helps that the Rays will have Alex Cobb, who was 7-0 with a 2.81 ERA at Tropicana Field this season, starting Game 3.
      
"I'm not taking anything from the 19 runs that they got," said Cobb. "But there's definitely a different game to be played outside of Fenway Park."
      
But in nine games between the two teams at the Trop this season, the Red Sox were 6-3, so it's not as if they're intimidated by the surroundings.
      
Still, it's not Fenway. It's less familiar, if nothing else.
      
Fenway helped the Sox immensely -- not just in the first two games of the series, but also during the season when the team built the best home record in the American League, winning almost two-thirds of its home games.
      
"Our lefthanders have the ability to go the other way quite frequently," said John Farrell, "and they can take advantage of that wall, which I think played out in the first two games. But regardless of where balls landed, it comes back to the base-running side of it. Our guys get good reads because of the familiarity and the number of games played there and we can be much aggressive running the bases after a ball caroms off the wall."
      
On Monday night, the Red Sox will facing a rare sell-out at the Trop -- just the third this season -- and the cowbells that go with it. There's also the curious ground rules involving the overhead catwalks and the difficulty that comes from seeing a ball with the light roof as a backdrop.
      
The Sox only need to go back to earlier this season for further evidence.
      
On May 14, the Sox led 3-0 in the fourth inning when first baseman Mike Napoli couldn't track a pop-up because of the roof. The ball fell in, and not unlike the fourth inning in Game 1 of the ALDS when Wil Myers' misplay in right opened the door for a big inning, Napoli's misplay led to five runs for the Rays, and eventually, a win for Tampa.
      
Now, the Sox must deal with the Trop the way the Rays had to battle Fenway.
      
"We'll run through the nuances of every ballpark," vowed John Farrell, "as we do regardless of where we're playing. So that's not going to be anything different as far as how we align ourselves for cutoffs and relays, any outfield coverage or just the fact that it's a different surface. Our guys have got enough repetition and familiarity with the Trop here, so there's not going to be a huge change here."