Opening Day Lineups, Red Sox vs. Rays

April 07, 2009 - 6:09 am
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The Rays and Red Sox pick up where they left off...kind of. The last two teams standing in the American League last year are hoping that the environment cooperates and permits the two teams that seemed punch drunk by the end of a seven-game ALCS last year to recommence their budding rivalry. Of course, as eager as the Sox are to get the season underway, the Rays might be even more antsy about starting anew at Fenway Park in 2009. The last time that the two teams met in Boston, after all, witnessed the Sox' historic comeback from a 7-0 deficit in Game 5 of the American League Championship Series. During the offseason, Rays outfielder Fernando Perez offered a vivid account of what it was like to be a member of the Rays at Fenway Park while watching his team's touchdown lead crumble. "After Game 4 of the ALCS, there was a man standing next to the dugout," recalled Perez. "He noticed that we were smiling a little bit, having a little bit of a good time. He looked over at us and said, '€˜Soon you will know what it feels like to lose three games in a row.'€™ '€œI'€™ll never forget the moment, because he seemed so serious and so sincere. It really looked like it hurt that (the Sox) were losing'€¦ '€œThe next day was Game 5, which, to me, was the most horrific sporting experience of my whole life. I went from thinking what I was going to do with the rest of the week off before the World Series to thinking you guys were going to do it all again. '€œI didn'€™t play, but I was getting ready to pinch-run. I remember stretching, being sick to my stomach while (the Sox) just got hit after hit after hit. The contagion around the stadium started to spread. It was very, very sickening. It was all very impressive." Despite that stunning defeat, Rays skipper Joe Maddon showed little discomfort while standing in the visitor's dugout at Fenway on Monday. Had the Rays not won Game 7 of the ALCS to advance to the World Series, a return to Boston might have seemed like a miserable proposition. But because Tampa Bay did get to taste champagne after dispatching the Sox, the upstart Rays can now look back on their Game 5 collapse with some detachment. "It looked pretty good for a while and then it didn'€™t look so good. In the back of my mind, (I was) never feeling comfortable with the Red Sox, especially here," said Maddon. "It wasn'€™t a lock, even though the score was very outrageous in our favor. I was not 100 percent comfortable until we got the last out. We never got it. "I knew it was going to be hard to bounce back from it, but I knew that our guys were resilient enough to do it based on some things we had done during the year," he continued. "In a very difficult way, we taught ourselves a lesson, that we can come back from that kind of adversity. "I really don'€™t like to be on that side of history if that'€™s possible. ... But we were a part of that. For me, it was a lesson learned in a positive way. You can have something like that happen and be able to bounce back right after that. Quite frankly, I don'€™t even think about losing that 7-0 lead. For me, it'€™s more about that ground ball to Aki." The grounder in question, of course, was the one hit by Jed Lowrie in the ninth inning of Game 7 in St. Petersburg. The ball deflected off the mound and into the glove of Rays second baseman Akinori Iwamura, who sprinted to second for a game-ending force out that commenced the Rays' celebrations and officially rendered the Game 5 loss a lesson learned, rather than a source of devastation. There is now some symmetry in store for Opening Day, as Iwamura will step in the batter's box to start the year against Sox starter Josh Beckett at 4:06 PM today. Here are the anticipated lineups for the two teams, along with the regular-season histories of Tampa Bay's hitters against Beckett and Boston's batters against Rays starter James Shields. Rays vs. Josh Beckett Akinori Iwamura (24 regular-season plate appearances), 2B - .318 / .375 / .500 / .875 Carl Crawford (23), LF - .261 / .261 / .261 / .522 Evan Longoria (12), 3B - .333 / .333 / .667 / 1.000 Carlos Pena (19), 1B - .176 / .263 / .412 / .675 Pat Burrell (40), DH - .171 / .275 / .171 / .446 Matt Joyce (3), CF - .000 / .000 / .000 / .000 Gabe Gross (14), RF - .077 / .143 / .308 / .451 Dioner Navarro (20), C - .158 / .200 / .158 / .358 Jason Bartlett (18), SS - .333 / .333 / .444 / .777 Red Sox vs. James Shields Jacoby Ellsbury (11 regular-season plate appearances), CF - .100 / .182 / .100 / .282 Dustin Pedroia (11), 2B - .500 / .545 / .600 / 1.145 David Ortiz (15), DH - .500 / .533 / 1.214 / 1.747 Kevin Youkilis (20), 1B - .000 / .150 / .000 / .150 J.D. Drew (15), RF - .333 / .333 / .667 / 1.000 Jason Bay (0), LF '€“ N/A Mike Lowell (0), 3B '€“ N/A Jed Lowrie (3), SS - .000 / .000 / .000 / .000 Jason Varitek (10), C - .100 / .100 / .100 / .200