The Rays will have the tough task Monday night of beating the Red Sox to avoid a sweep in the ALDS. The Rays will be at home, giving them a slight advantage, but they will have to face Clay Buchholz. Buchholz has been lights out in half a seasons work this year, pitching to a 1.76 ERA. If Buchholz had avoided injury (and kept pitching anywhere near that level), he would undoubtedly be in the conversation for the Cy Young award. Not only will the Rays have to beat Buchholz, but they will also have to get past the poor pitching and defensive performances of Games one and two. The Rays will need someone to step up in game three in order to extend the season at least one more game. Who will this player be?
Alex Cobb is the first name that pops up. Cobb was very good in the wild card game against the Cleveland Indians, throwing 6.2 innings and giving up no runs. The Rays will obviously need a good performance from Cobb after giving up 12 runs in Game 1 and 7 runs in Game 2. Despite sub-par numbers against the Red Sox in his career, Cobb certainly can be the player to step up tonight. The Rays will need a good performance from many players, but it all starts with Cobb keeping them in the game.
After being a key cog to the Rays offense in 2013, James Loney could step up for the Rays in game three and provide an offensive spark. Loney has posted a .899 OPS in the three postseason games so far this year, and could continue to hit well tonight against Buchholz. Loney’s reputation as a righty masher could cause Joe Maddon to put him high in the lineup tonight against the right-handed Buchholz. Loney’s defense will be solid as always, and he could provide enough offense in this game for the Rays to win. Loney could be the key to the Rays offense in game three.
David DeJesus could also provide the Rays with an offensive spark Monday night. DeJesus has been hitting leadoff for the Rays against right-handers since being acquired from the Washington Nationals in August, and will likely continue that trend in game three. DeJesus has a good .772 ops against right handers this year. In his career against Buchholz, DeJesus is 3-9, which is solid despite being a small sample. Look for DeJesus to use his on base-skills and success against right-handers tonight to provide the Rays with some offensive out of the lead off spot.
One more player that could be a key to the offense tonight is Matt Joyce. Joe Maddon could use Joyce in the DH role instead of Delmon Young, who has started at DH so far during the post season. Despite a sub-par year, Joyce still has a good reputation for hitting right-handed pitching, while Young is more of a lefty-masher. Joyce also has a .333 career average in 18 at-bats against Buchholz with 2 runs driven in. This career success against Buchholz could cause Joyce to be the hero in Game 3 if Maddon decides he is worthy of the starting DH role.
In ALDS game three, the Rays need someone to step up after poor performances in game one and two. If nobody is able to step up, the Rays season will end on a sour note. However, there are many Rays players who could step up and extend the Rays’ season one more game. Starter Alex Cobb will need to keep the Rays in the game, which he certainly has the ability to do. There are many players who could spark the Rays offense against the stellar Clay Buchholz. It will take a big effort, but the Rays have the ability to pull it out.