Red Sox grab early lead over Rays in Game 3 of ALDS

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The Red Sox could finish off a three-game sweep of the Rays tonight. They are off to a quick start on that end.

After Jacoby Ellsbury singled to lead off Game 3, Alex Cobb hit Shane Victorino with a pitch. Dustin Pedroia followed with a ground ball to third base, but Victorino’s take-out slide at second base caused a wild throw from Ben Zobrist which allowed Ellsbury to score the game’s first run. Cobb then walked David Ortiz, but was able to avoid any further damage by retiring Mike Napoli and Daniel Nava.

The Red Sox lead the Rays 1-0 as we move to the bottom of the first inning at Tropicana Field. Clay Buchholz is on the mound for Boston.

Mike Napoli and Rays have “mutual interest” in a deal

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Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times unloaded a lot of interesting news items about the Rays last night, including a report that the Rays might have “mutual interest” in a deal with free agent first baseman/DH Mike Napoli. The Rangers declined Napoli’s $11 million option earlier this month and owe the veteran infielder a $2.5 million buyout.

Napoli, 36, had a strange year in Texas. He turned in 29 home runs, good for 11th-most among AL hitters, but finished the year batting just .193/.285/.428 over 485 plate appearances. According to FanGraphs, his -0.5 fWAR was the worst mark of his career to date, but on the bright side, he should come cheap for a team looking to swap out their veterans come spring.

Of course, the specifics of the Rays’ offseason plan have yet to be divulged — or, by all accounts from Topkin, even decided on. The club could go the refurbishment route, changing out some of their higher-paid veterans for a mix of prospects and cheaper aging players; or they could opt for a full rebuild, which Topkin cautions against as it could have a negative effect on the financing of a new ballpark. Either way, the Rays figure to offload some of their bigger contracts this winter, and will need to decide if they want to retain Alex Colome, Chris Archer, Wilson Ramos, Evan Longoria and others before pursuing any other major free agents.