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Friday, May 21, 2010

HippeauxNotes: Rays on the verge of burying Red Sox?

We're smack in the middle of a great week of baseball.  With every team playing every day this week, we've got access to 105 games in seven days.  It's also an odd week because each team will face three different competitors, thanks to the two-game sets featured from Monday through Thursday.  I can understand why the players wouldn't be thrilled by the proposition of so much travel on so little rest, but for the fans, it's a kind of baseball heaven.

This afternoon we begin the first interleague series of the season; the most interesting matchups being Boston at Philadelphia, the Yankees at the Mets, the Angels in St. Louis, and two of the hottest teams in baseball, the Dodgers and Tigers, squaring off in L.A.  It's seems as good a time as any to register some thoughts about the season so far, beginning with best team in the league.

The Tampa Bay Rays looked primed to make a major statement this week.  They pulled off a two-game sweep of the Yankees in New York and have won six straight and eight of their last nine, giving them a five-game lead heading into their weekend series in Houston.  That's the largest lead of any first-place team in baseball.  And, while the Rays are taking on the lowly Astros, the Red Sox will have to face the powerful Phillies on the road and the Yankees will "travel" to Citi Field to face the Mets, who have a 14-8 record at home this season.  The real opportunity for the Rays comes early next week, when the Red Sox come to Tampa for a three-game set.  Depending on what happens this weekend, it's very possible that a sweep could raise the Red Sox deficit to double digits, perhaps putting even the Wild Card out of reach.  ESPN2 will broadcast the series opener, which pits Wade Davis (4-3, 3.35 ERA) against Clay Buchholz (5-3, 3.26 ERA) in a battle of promising young righthanders.  The Aces take the hill in game two, as James Shields (5-1, 3.08 ERA) matches up with Jon Lester (4-2, 3.47 ERA).  And on Wednesday the quiet Cy Young candidate, Matt Garza (5-1, 2.38 ERA), looks to prolong the misery of the Red Sox big free agent acquisition, John Lackey (4-2, 4.86 ERA), who has surrendered eleven earned runs in his last thirteen innings.

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