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Familiar foe awaits Red Sox in ALDS

After winning 12 out of 19, Boston to face Tampa Bay at Fenway

BOSTON -- The Red Sox handled the Rays quite nicely en route to the American League East title, defeating their top competitor in 12 out of 19 meetings.

But that didn't vanquish manager Joe Maddon's dangerous team.

The Rays will be right back at Fenway Park for Game 1 of a best-of-five AL Division Series on Friday at 3 p.m. ET on TBS.

Tampa Bay punched that ticket to Boston by defeating manager Terry Francona's Indians in the AL Wild Card Game on Wednesday night in Cleveland. To get to the Wild Card showdown, the Rays had to upend the Rangers in Game No. 163 on Monday.

You certainly don't have to tell the Red Sox how formidable an opponent the Rays are.

"Well with Tampa Bay, we have the benefit of 19 games under our belt with them this year," said Red Sox manager John Farrell prior to the Indians-Rays Wild Card Game. "We know they're going to pitch well, we're likely to be involved in a low-scoring game.

"To control their left-handed hitters is critical from our standpoint, and that's not to say that [Evan] Longoria, [Wil] Myers and other right-handers in that lineup can't do damage. But when they've scored a number of runs, it's what their left-handed hitters have done."

The biggest hurdle the Red Sox will have to overcome in this series is ace lefty David Price, who was dominant at times against Boston this season, posting a 2.48 ERA in five starts.

Price lifted his Rays over the Rangers with a complete-game gem on Monday, and he figures to start Game 2 at Fenway Park on Saturday.

If the Rays can push the series to a winner-take-all Game 5 back in Boston on Oct. 10, Price could take the ball with four days of rest.

The Red Sox have their ace Jon Lester lined up for Games 1 and 5.

When the Rays and Red Sox completed their season series on Sept. 12 at Tropicana Field, Maddon proved to be prophetic.

"This series, this whole season, is lopsided in regards to wins and losses [against the Red Sox]," said Maddon, "but it's been a lot closer than that. We're really looking forward to playing them in the playoffs."

And now Maddon and the Rays will get that chance.

This will be a rematch of the 2008 AL Championship Series, which the Rays won in seven games. Jacoby Ellsbury, Dustin Pedroia, David Ortiz, Lester and Clay Buchholz all remember the sting of walking down the visitor's dugout at Tropicana Field, knowing they had just come one game short of getting back to the World Series.

Unlike that series five years ago, the Red Sox have home-field advantage this time around.

"We feel comfortable playing here in Fenway," said Farrell. "Our record bears that out. You can probably say that for any team in the playoffs. Our home record [53-28] indicates that home field is that. We thrive on the environment, the atmosphere and the energy that's created here. To secure that for as long as we're in this, we feel is a definite positive."

Ian Browne is a reporter for Read his blog, Brownie Points, and follow him on Twitter @IanMBrowne.
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