Remember when the Rays were the best team in the American League? Remember when they matched good starting pitching, with a strong bullpen, and a lineup that could hurt you in a bunch of different ways to win 96 times?
Well. Apparently. They remembered too and sent this thing home for a do-or-die game 5 against … gulp … Cliff Lee.
Rather than re-live a pretty prototypical Rays win in Texas, let’s look ahead and think along with the skipper who has almost assuredly grabbed a stat pack and retired to the fortress of solitude with a nice Malbec.
Who faces Cliff Lee? Do you go with the righty-heavy lineup from game 1 that fanned 10 times against Lee? Or, do you let your lefties like John Jason, Matt Joyce, and the re-surgent Carlos Pena* — who struggle against good lefties but are better hitters than their right-handed replacements — start despite Lee?
Joe loves the matchups but, for some reason my gut says that he takes the King Solomon route and tries to split the baby. I think Jaso and Pena start, with Rodriguez at second, Zobrist in right, and Aybar the DH. That gives the Rays some favorable matchups without betting the farm on them.
*Pena started in Game 1 but is also bad against lefties.