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Thursday, October 9, 2008
Updated: October 11, 11:46 PM ET
Something's gotta give in ALCS Game 1

ESPN.com

Daisuke Matsuzaka struggled in his ALDS start, while James Shields picked up a win against Chicago.

ALCS GAME 1: DAISUKE MATSUZAKA VS. JAMES SHIELDS

By Chris Singleton, Baseball Tonight analyst

Both the Red Sox and the Rays have shown what they can do at home this season. Rays right-hander James Shields was 8-2 at Tropicana Field this season, including 2-0 against Boston. Daisuke Matsuzaka is 9-0 on the road this season. So something's got to give. With the Rays' speed, Matsuzaka must minimize the walks -- and not to just B.J. Upton and Carl Crawford, but to almost everyone outside of catcher Dioner Navarro. Keeping guys off the base paths and not giving any free passes will be important.

Rays pitching coach Jim Hickey recently said Shields can get a little too fancy early on. Instead of putting away hitters like he's supposed to, Shields may try to do something tricky like throwing a back-door breaking pitch the first time or two around the lineup. Shields has great stuff, specifically a really good changeup. He needs to stay ahead in the count because that will allow him to throw his changeup more often. Shields can throw it in 2-2 counts or 3-2 counts, too, but it can be really effective when he's ahead 0-1 or 0-2.

If Shields can keep it simple, he should be successful with his stuff. He has a great defense behind him, and he's aware of that. If the ball is hit in the air, the Rays have the outfielders who can run it down, especially with Crawford back in left field. You've got Upton and Crawford covering a lot of ground, and Gabe Gross does a nice job in right field. The Rays also pick it nicely in the infield. If Shields pitches to contact, he can trust that they'll make the plays behind him. That's been the case all year, so he doesn't need to change anything.

NLCS GAME 2: MYERS OWNS MANNY; ALCS GAME 1: WILL LONGORIA BREAK OUT?

By Mark Simon, ESPN Research

Here's perhaps the most interesting matchup of NLCS Game 2: Brett Myers versus Manny Ramirez. The two are quite familiar with each other, with 19 prior matchups, and Myers has had the upper hand. After what Ramirez did in the first inning of Game 1, it'll be interesting to see how Myers will approach him.

Manny Ramirez: Worst BA vs. active right-handers
Pitcher Batting avg. PA
Brett Myers .158 24
Pedro Martinez .167 31
James Shields .167 22
minimum 20 plate appearances

One of the keys for the Rays in Game 1 will be whether Evan Longoria can shake his mini-slump. Longoria made a great first impression against the White Sox in the ALDS but struggled big-time the last three games. Longoria has the potential to be a difference-maker, especially against a team like the Red Sox. His presence will be needed against Matsuzaka.

Rays' record in 2008 when Longoria …
  W-L
Gets a hit 52-32
Gets an RBI 37-12
Doesn't get an RBI 36-37
Gets 2 or more hits 19-9
Hits a home run 18-5

Past Baseball Tonight Clubhouses: Oct. 8 | Oct. 7 | Oct. 6 | Oct. 5 | Oct. 4 | Oct. 3 | Oct. 2

BBTN ON THE AIR: FRIDAY

TIME WHO'S ON?
10 p.m. ET
ESPN
Host: Mike Hill
Analysts: Buster Olney,
Fernando Vina, Chris Singleton
12 a.m. ET
ESPN
Host: Mike Hill
Analysts: Buster Olney,
Fernando Vina, Chris Singleton

BBTN MINUTE: LCS PREVIEWS

STAT OF THE DAY

Inside EdgeThe NLCS features the two best hitters against right-handed pitchers in the National League: the Dodgers' Manny Ramirez and the Phillies' Chase Utley. They ranked first and second among NL batters in terms of well-hit average (hard-hit balls per at-bat) against right-handed pitchers, and were two of only five NL hitters with a well-hit average. over .300 against right-handers this season.



Well-hit average vs. right-handers
Manny Ramirez .377
Chase Utley .324
Carlos Lee .321
Lance Berkman .321
Bengie Molina .309

THIS DATE IN POSTSEASON HISTORY: OCT. 10

1982: The Brewers become the first team to overcome an 0-2 start in a best-of-five LCS and take the American League pennant by winning the remaining three games against Angels.