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Hart grad Shields to start Game 1

First pitch in Tampa Bay postseason history to be thrown

Posted: October 1, 2008 8:11 p.m.
Updated: December 3, 2008 5:00 a.m.
 

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. - Fresh legs and arms on one side, experience and momentum on the other.

The Tampa Bay Rays rested while the Chicago White Sox worked overtime to secure a playoff berth. No one can be sure what that will mean when their AL division series begins Thursday at Tropicana Field.

"I don't think there's any advantage to the way they got here," Rays manager Joe Maddon said Wednesday. "I think they are who they are. They are a bunch of veterans. They are going to approach the day pretty much the same way. I don't see them riding emotional waves."

The White Sox beat the Minnesota Twins 1-0 in a tiebreaker that decided the AL Central championship on Tuesday night.

They also won potential elimination games on Sunday and Monday to remain on course to give the Windy City two teams in the postseason for the first time since 1906.

"I don't want them to be happy just to be here," Chicago manager Ozzie Guillen said. "If we don't make it to the next round, I'll be disappointed the same way if way if we didn't make (the playoffs). I'm not the type of guy, ‘Oh, we made it here, everybody rah-rah, good job, great job.' ... You have to go to the World Series to get the thing done for the year."

James Shields (14-8) will throw the first pitch in Tampa Bay postseason history. The teams bring contrasting styles to the best-of-5 matchup that both managers agree will be decided by pitching.

Javier Vazquez (12-16) will start Game 1 for Chicago.

The Rays like to use their youth and speed to their advantage, especially on the artificial turf at home, and the White Sox led the majors in home runs.

"They don't try to manufacture things. Almost 50 percent of their runs came via the home run, so you have to keep that in the back of your mind," Maddon said. "They occasionally will do something on the bases, but primarily they like to hit the ball out of the ball park."

Maddon doesn't expect Chicago's approach to change now. And, his team certainly has no intentions of switching gears, especially after winning a franchise-record 97 games and capturing the AL East just a year removed from finishing with the worst record in baseball.

"I want to play our game, the way we've been doing it all year, taking the same kinds of risks and providing the same kind of pressure to the other team. Period. Nothing new," Maddon said.

Jim Thome, whose seventh-inning homer was the difference for Chicago on Tuesday night, likes the way White Sox are playing.

"Momentum is big. If you look at throughout the postseason, the wild-card teams that get in do very well because they've had to play good, tight games. They've had to play close games to get to this point," he said.
"It's a new season now. Anything can happen once you get into the playoffs," outfielder Jermaine Dye added. "Hopefully our momentum from playing the last three games carries over. We'll have the advantage just to go right into another game and hopefully keep the momentum going."

The Rays, who had the best home record in the majors this year, insisted they didn't have a preference for facing the White Sox or Twins, another team that plays in a dome.
Chicago went 4-16 indoors, including 3-4 at Tampa Bay.

The Rays won the season series 6-4.

"It really turns in our favor now that we're not playing the Twins because they're not used to the dome," Rays rookie All-Star third baseman Evan Longoria said.

"It's going to be the way it should be. It's going to be home-field advantage for us. We've really got to take advantage of it because they've proven they're good at home also."

Tampa Bay still hasn't announced its playoff roster. Maddon made it official Wednesday that left fielder Carl Crawford, a four-time AL stolen base champion, will return for Game 1 after being out seven weeks with a finger injury that required surgery.

"It's just a matter of him being able to get back up to speed as quickly as possible. Instructional league games are not major league games, and they're definitely not major league playoff games," Maddon said. "But I don't want to put any pressure on him to be all that. I just want to go out, relax and play."

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