The Boston Red Sox took care of business in Tuesday’s AL Wild Card Game, beating the New York Yankees 6-2 to stay alive in the postseason. They’ll now head to Tropicana Field to face the Tampa Bay Rays in Game 1 of the ALDS on Thursday night in a matchup of AL East rivals.
Tampa Bay won 11 of its 19 meetings with Boston this season, including 11 of the final 15 games between the two clubs.
Rookies starting first two games for Rays
The Rays find themselves in the playoffs for the third straight year. In the shortened 2020 season, Tampa Bay made it all the way through to the World Series before falling to the Dodgers. The club set a new franchise record for wins in 2021, going 100-62 on its way to its second straight AL East title.
All that makes Tampa Bay one of the top picks to win the American League pennant this year. While FanDuel Sportsbook rates the Houston Astros as the +200 favorites to represent the AL in the World Series, Tampa Bay sits right behind them at +210.
The Rays utilize a deep roster that now features plenty of young talent. 24-year-old rookie lefthander Shane McClanahan will start Game 1 for Tampa Bay, a year after he made his MLB debut in the 2020 playoffs. McClanahan put up a 10-6 record with a 3.43 ERA this season, and appeared to get better as the year went on.
“I think Shane McClanahan has certainly earned it with his overall body of work,” Tampa Bay manager Kevin Cash told reporters. “And for me personally, I think that pitching a young pitcher in a hometown environment is probably a little bit better.”
Fellow rookie Shane Baz will likely take the mound for the Rays in Game 2, and 26-year-old Drew Rasmussen should follow in Game 3. The Rays are young in the field too, with 20-year-old shortstop Wander Franco ready to make his postseason debut.
“I’m already looking forward to the game starting so that I can experience that feeling of being in the playoffs,” Franco told reporters via his interpreter.
Rodriguez earns Game 1 start for Boston
The Red Sox will start Eduardo Rodriguez in Game 1. Rodriguez missed the 2020 season after developing myocarditis, a result of his COVID-19 infection. Rodriguez bounced back to go 13-8 with a 4.74 ERA in 2021.
“It means a lot because of everything that I went through last year and I have the opportunity to throw the first inning in the ALDS,” Rodriguez told reporters. “I feel like it’s really special for me to have the opportunity to start a game like that.”
Boston started the season as a +2000 afterthought to win the AL East, according to DraftKings Sportsbook. But they stayed in the race all year long, finishing second in what was expected to be a three-way race between the Yankees, Rays, and Toronto Blue Jays.
The Red Sox still come into this series as an underdog, however. FanDuel rates Tampa Bay as a -158 favorite to win Game 1 over Boston (+134). The Rays also stand as the -160 pick to win the series outright, with Boston fetching +136 odds.