Tidbits from the pre-game scene of Game 1 of the American League Championship Series at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg:
–Red Sox manager Terry Francona agrees with Christina Kahrl’s prescient analysis of the Boston bullpen in her ALCS preview http://www.baseballprospectus.com/article.php?articleid=8188. Francona, too, believes right-hander Manny Delcarmen can play a major role for the Red Sox in this series against the Rays, probably more so than rookie right-hander Justin Masterson.
“Both those guys are going to have to a big hand in this if we’re going to be successful,” Francona said. “You’ll more likely see a Manny Delcarmen come in during the middle of an inning just because of the left-handers.”
Delcarmen held left-handerd hitters to a .190/.275/.270 line in 142 plate appearances in the regular season while right-handers hit him at a .218/.292./366clip in 165 plate appearances. Masterson’s splits were .196/.274/.298 to right-handers in 187 plate appearances and .238/.365/.422 to left-handers in 178 plate appearances.
–Mark Kotsay was in the Red Sox’s lineup at first base for Game 1 as first baseman Kevin Youkilis shifted to third base to replace the injured Mike Lowell as Sean Casey continued to be marginalized in the postseason. Francona said he might start utility infielder Alex Cora at shortstop at some point in the series with shortstop Jed Lowrie moving to third and Youkilis going back to first.
–The “Rayhawk” has become all the rage in the Tampa/St. Petersburg area as the fans, taking a cue from the Rays’ players, are wearing Mohawk-style haircuts. A St. Petersburg salon is also offering Rayhawks for women _ in an area of the body where only significant others and close friends would be able to see the handiwork.
–The AL East is the only division to send two teams to the ALCS since Major League Baseball instituted the wild-card system 13 years ago. The Rays and Red Sox represent the fifth meeting between East teams after the Yankees beat the Orioles in 1996, the Yankees beat the Red Sox in 1999 and 2003 and the Red Sox beat the Yankees in 2004.
–The Red Sox are making their ninth ALCS appearance, third-most behind the Yankees (12) and Athletics (11). The Red Sox are also the eighth wild card to get to the ALCS.
–The Rays are the second team to go from last place to the ALCS from one season to the next, joining the 1991 Twins, since MLB went to divisional play in 1969.
–The Rays’ 57-24 home record in the regular season was the best in the major leagues and they also beat the White Sox twice in the ALDS at Tropicana Field. The Red Sox were 1-8 at Tropicana during the regular season and 4-16 in games played indoors.