Braun: Believe it: Rays are for real

first_imgFirst, the Rays were lucky.Then, they were hot.Face it people: They’re just flat-out good.After watching last night’s playoff game between the Boston Red Sox and the Tampa Bay Rays, all I can say is, “Wow.”Really? The Rays?Bingo. The same Rays that had not made a playoff appearance in their 11-year existence and the same squad from Tampa Bay that served as a farm system for the entire major leagues — until now that is.In case you missed it, last night the Rays pounded the Sox for nine runs, including four home runs, two of which came off of Sox starter Jon Lester, who had been nearly unhittable in the playoffs.To give a little perspective, in Lester’s other two starts this postseason against the Angels — who had the best record in baseball entering the postseason — he went seven innings apiece without giving up a single run.Sorry, Jon. Not this time. After giving up four earned runs in 5.2 innings, Lester watched the Rays take a 2-1 series lead.With what the Red Sox organization has put together over the past four years — two world championships and four consecutive playoff appearances — nearly every analyst and fan in the country picked them to win the ALCS, while giving them a pretty good shot at winning the World Series, too.But don’t tell that to the Rays; they’re ready to prove everyone wrong.In fact, they already have.After getting shut out in Game 1, the Rays have come back to take the next two and have done so by destroying Boston pitching.So before you count the Rays out for being too young or too inexperienced, remember who they’re beating.That’s right, the most experienced team in the playoffs and the best one on paper is now down in a series to the youngest, most questioned team in the American League going into October.Who would have thought that the Rays, without adding much in the offseason, would be as successful as they have been throughout the entire season?That answer is simple: Nobody could have predicted a run like this. How could anyone have foreseen a surge like the one the Rays have continued over the past seven months?Well, the way Tampa Bay is playing right now, it seems like they’re unstoppable. That is, unless the Red Sox can find a way to cool off the Tampa bats.Four different Rays players homered last night, including Evan Longoria, who is batting .308 during the series.But he’s not the only one; seven of the eight Rays starters are batting above .285 during the series against Red Sox pitching, which entering the series had among the best staffs in the American League.What have the Red Sox done against Rays pitching?Jacoby Ellsbury, David Ortiz and Jason Varitek have yet to get a hit against the Devil-less Rays.So what does this mean exactly?First, it means that the Red Sox should be worried. By giving up so many runs, the Red Sox have put too much pressure on their offense, much of which has been struggling against Rays pitching.It also means that the Rays will be a force to be reckoned with for years to come. Even if they don’t beat the Red Sox, it still means that they have one of the most talented, youngest teams in baseball.It’s that mix of veteran presence and youthful energy that is giving the Rays the ability to make this postseason run. Everything that was missing in years past is no longer valid.Frankly, Tampa Bay is playing like the best team in the league. And it doesn’t look like it can be stopped anytime soon.Jonah is a sophomore hoping to major in journalism. Think the hype over the Rays is not deserved? Is Tampa Bay a fluke that won’t pan out in the coming years? Jonah can be contacted at [email protected]last_img

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