Looking ahead to ALDS Game 2: Rays-Red Sox

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Behind a solid start from Jon Lester and a whole lot of offense, the Red Sox blew out the Rays in Game 1 of the ALDS yesterday by the score of 12-2. The two teams will meet again today at Fenway Park at 5:30 p.m. ET. The game will be broadcast on TBS.

Here’s a quick look at the pitching matchup and some random notes:

John Lackey will get the ball for the Red Sox following a resurgent season in which he posted a 3.52 ERA and 161/40 K/BB ratio over 189 1/3 innings. The 34-year-old has been especially effective at home this season, compiling a 2.78 ERA in 16 starts at Fenway Park compared to a 4.35 ERA in 13 starts on the road. Lackey made two starts against the Rays during the regular season and was knocked around pretty good, allowing nine runs on 19 hits (including two home runs) and two walks over nine innings.

Coming off a complete game victory in Monday’s tiebreaker game against the Rangers, David Price will start for the Rays. The southpaw finished the regular season with a 3.33 ERA and 151/27 K/BB ratio in 186 2/3 innings. He has thrived at Fenway Park during his career, including a 1.21 ERA and 20/2 K/BB ratio in 22 1/3 innings across three starts this season.

As for Boston’s lineup, the big change for Game 2 is that David Ross will start behind the plate and catch Lackey while Jarrod Saltalamacchia will take a seat. Meanwhile, Jonny Gomes is expected to remain in left field with another left-hander on the mound for Tampa Bay.

Not surprisingly, Rays manager Joe Maddon figures to tinker with his lineup a bit more. Jose Molina caught most of Price’s starts during the regular season, so look for him to play rather than Game 1 catcher Jose Lobaton. We’ll also likely see David DeJesus in left field (and possibly in the leadoff spot) while Sean Rodriguez figures to take a seat with a right-hander on the mound for Boston. With Maddon’s penchant for mixing-and-matching, other changes are possible.

Zack Cozart thinks the way the Rays have been using Sergio Romo is bad for baseball

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The Rays started Sergio Romo on back-to-back days and if that sounds weird to you, you’re not alone. Romo, of course, was the star closer for the Giants for a while, helping them win the World Series in 2012 and ’14. He’s been a full-time reliever dating back to 2006, when he was at Single-A.

In an effort to prevent lefty Ryan Yarbrough from facing the righty-heavy top of the Angels’ lineup (Zack Cozart, Mike Trout, Justin Upton), Romo started Saturday’s game, pitching the first inning before giving way to Yarbrough in the second. Romo struck out the side, in fact. The Rays went on to win 5-3.

The Rays did it again on Sunday afternoon, starting Romo. This time, he got four outs before giving way to Matt Andriese. Romo walked two without giving up a hit while striking out three. The Angels managed to win 5-2 however.

Despite Sunday’s win, Cozart wasn’t a happy camper with the way the Rays used Romo. Via Fabian Ardaya of The Athletic, Cozart said, “It was weird … It’s bad for baseball, in my opinion … It’s spring training. That’s the best way to explain it.”

It’s difficult to see merit in Cozart’s argument. It’s not like the Rays were making excessive amounts of pitching changes; they used five on Saturday and four on Sunday. The games lasted three hours and three hours, 15 minutes, respectively. The average game time is exactly three hours so far this season. I’m having trouble wondering how else Cozart might mean the strategy is bad for baseball.

It seems like the real issue is that Cozart is afraid of the sport changing around him. The Rays, like most small market teams, have to find their edges in slight ways. The Rays aren’t doing this blindly; the strategy makes sense based on their opponents’ starting lineup. The idea of valuing on-base percentage was scoffed at. Shifting was scoffed at and now every team employs them to some degree. Who knows if starting a reliever for the first three or four outs will become a trend, but it’s shortsighted to write it off at first glance.