In order for the Rays to erase Thursday night's historic collapse they must continue playing the way they have been the entire postseason prior to the 7th inning of Game 5. That means continue the solid pitching, continue the power surge in the beginning innings and stay aggressive early on and don't let up. If Tampa can respond with these things in tact then they might be poppin' bottles at the end of the night.
It's going to be a tough task as Boston will have Josh Beckett going in Game 6 against James Sheilds. Beckett isn't the dominant ace he was last season in October and the Rays got to him and roughed him up in Game 2. He's given up 12 runs and 18 hits in just 9 1/3 innings this postseason. Another factor going into Game 6 will be if David Ortiz can keep the momentum going after his 3-run HR in the 7th inning in Game 5. If his bat awakens for tonight's game then the Rays might be in for a long weekend. If the game comes down to a late inning matchup where Tampa manager Joe Maddon needs to get Big Papi out, does he go with Grant Balfour, whom which he went with in Game 5 and served up the HR or does he go with the lefties David Price or Trevor Miller? It'll be interesting to see what Maddon does tonight after seeing his bullpen implode on Thursday night.
BJ Upton and Evan Longoria hit back to back HRs in both Games 4 and 5, is it possible for them to do it again tonight? Both men are having great postseasons (6 HRs each) and they both need to continue to play up to their potential if the Rays are to advance to the World Series. The Sox are 8-0 in ALCS elimination games under manager Terry Francona. That goes back to Game 4 of the 2004 ALCS against the Yankees, a game where they were one out away from being swept. Tampa Bay is still the favorite in the series for obvious reasons, being up 3-2 at home is a lot better than being down 3-2 on the road. I predicted the Rays to win in 7 but if they lose tonight I DO NOT like their chances of winning Game 7 tomorrow night because if it gets to that point, you would have to think the baseball gods are members of Red Sox Nation. Oh man, can you imagine if Boston won this series and went on to win the World Series? It can't happen a 3rd time can it?