It is perhaps a clear indication that I drink a bit more than I should that, when I saw that the Rays and the Red Sox had both clinched on the same night, I thought, "Whew, good. Now one team won't be more hungover than the other one in Game 1." Hey, sometimes these things matter. I have to speak on a lunch panel the day after Election Night, which will surely go deep into the morning. I'll be fortunate not to vomit on someone's shoes. And no one wants to see Rocco Baldelli vomiting. He'll surely lose part of his small intestine. Oh, Cardinals won two out of three from both these teams this year. Let me have that. Series Schedule Game 1: Friday, October 10, 8:30 p.m. Boston at Tampa Bay. Game 2: Saturday, October 11, 8:30 p.m. Boston at Tampa Bay. Game 3: Monday, October 13, 4:30 p.m. Tampa Bay at Boston. Game 4 : Tuesday, October 14, 8 p.m. Tampa Bay at Boston. Game 5 (if necessary): Thursday, October 16, 8 p.m. Tampa Bay at Boston. Game 6 (if necessary): Saturday, October 18, 4:30 p.m. Boston at Tampa Bay. Game 7 (if necessary): Sunday, October 19, 8 p.m, Boston at Tampa Bay. SEVEN THINGS YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT THE RAYS-RED SOX SERIES 1. Boy Fights! Yeah, yeah, everyone on TBS — which, surprisingly, is the network broadcasting this series; Red Sox fans are finally spared Tim McCarver — will be hyping these teams' "intense" fight back in June. But it's still pretty cool that in the American League Championship Series, there's a palpable sense that people will start punching each other. (This certainly would have jazzed up last year's dull NLCS.) Let's just hope that if a big fight does break out, we don't get pundits tsk-tsking These Darned Athletes Today. Come on! Fights are fun! They're not punching us!
2. Don't Expect Cowboys-At-Buzzsaw-Esque Crowd Proportions. Amusingly, Kurt Warner and Ken Whisenhunt are actively begging Buzzsaw fans not to sell their tickets to well-oiled Cowboys fans. This sort of dynamic has led several Red Sox friends think they're going to have some sort of home-field advantage at the Trop. Don't count on it. The Rays easily sold out the first two games of the ALDS, and the Trop was louder than anyone who has ever seen one of their 8,000-fans specials might suspect. This is not going to be Fenway South.
3. Grant Balfour Is &#;*@ing Awesome. One of the biggest fear any sports fan has is that they care more about the outcome of a particular game than an individual player. This is not an issue with Rays reliever Grant Balfour, who violently curses himself out any time he so much as throws a pitch a couple of inches outside. Do not watch this man pitch with someone who is deaf and overly sensitive to torrents of profanity.
4. Where The Hell Did This J.D. Drew Come From? Before coming to the Red Sox, J.D. Drew had appeared in postseasons for the Cardinals, the Braves and the Dodgers. He went .246 (albeit with his fair share of walks) and generally looked like the same dispassionate, "I'd Rather Be Preaching Somewhere Oh Jeez I Think I Hurt My Hammy Again" vacant stare fans of those teams (and the Phillies, of course) had come to know and loathe. And then the guy goes to Boston and turns into Mr. Clutch. Infuriating.
5. Start Coming Up With Excuses For Your Boss Right Now. Game Three of this series will be played at 4:30 Eastern Time at Fenway Park on Monday. (Sussman, to the live blog!) This is happening Friday with the NLCS Game Two, but it's still worth noting that if the stock market explodes again next Monday, there will be no one manning the store.
6. Two In A Row. If the Red Sox can end up winning the World Series, they will become the first team to win consecutive World Series since the Yankees won three in a row from 1998-2000. The Blue Jays won in 1992-93, and the Yankees in 1977-78. The last National League team to win two World Series in a row? The Reds, in 1975-76. This is Jayson Stark, for ESPN.
7. All Together Now: Holy Crap, Tampa Bay Is Four Games Away From The World Series! Back in 2007, I asked RJ Anderson of D-Rays Bay to preview the Devil Rays' season. He wrote: "So what does being a Devil Rays fan mean? Well, your team is constantly under attack by most naive media members who paint the team as hopeless and talentless, the management as "clueless," and the fans as "none" ... and that's just from some local media members. The Rays may call Tampa home, though they play in neighboring St. Petersburg, but really there are a larger majority of New York Yankee and Boston Red Sox fans here than for the local Rays." This is probably still true, but, man, Rays diehards like Anderson really have earned this, haven't they? Here's the D-Rays Bay post from the other evening: "Fiddle me this, fiddle me that, thank you Rays for this appearance of Monsieur J. Fiddle Cat. I hope this day never ends." Congratulations. Let's see how long this can keep going.
PREDICTION This hurts me more than it hurts you. Red Sox in five.