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Road-tested Rays ready to open ALDS in Boston

Tampa Bay's journey continues after must-win games in Toronto, Texas, Cleveland

CLEVELAND -- After winning three straight must-win games, the Rays are ready for anything.

With their playoff hopes at stake, they prevailed in Toronto against the Blue Jays on Sunday and again in Arlington against the Rangers on Monday in Game 163 tiebreaker. On Wednesday night, they kept their momentum going with a 4-0 win over the Indians in Cleveland in the American League Wild Card Game.

Those three victories have the Rays more than prepared to open their best-of-five AL Division Series showdown against the rival Red Sox at Fenway Park on Friday, airing on TBS at 3 p.m. ET.

"They were nerve-wracking, but it's going to be no different in Boston," Rays third baseman Evan Longoria said on Wednesday night. "The environment there is just as tough, or better. There's a little comfort knowing it's a series, but we have to play every game like we did this one."

The Rays will turn to Matt Moore -- the winning pitcher on Sunday in Toronto -- for Game 1 before handing the ball to fellow left-hander David Price -- the hero in Game 163 -- on Saturday.

The deep Tampa Bay rotation will also have right-handers Chris Archer and Alex Cobb available in the ALDS.

"We feel like our pitching is good," Rays outfielder Desmond Jennings said. "They [Red Sox] have good pitching, too, so you know it's always going to be a battle playing those guys, especially in Fenway."

The Rays went only 7-12 against the Red Sox this season en route to Boston winning the AL East by 5 1/2 games, but they did win five of their final eight games against the division champs.

"It was a tough year against them early, but we played good against them late," catcher Jose Molina said. "I think we're ready for them. Our guys are never going to quit and want to be a part of this series. I think we'll get wins in Boston and then at home."

The Rays know they'll have their hands full against a strong Red Sox pitching staff that's set to start Jon Lester, John Lackey, Clay Buchholz and Jake Peavy. And as Rays manager Joe Maddon pointed out, the Rays hit just .232 in their 19 meetings against the Red Sox.

"They really pitched well against us," Maddon said. "We just did not swing the bats well, and that speaks to their pitching. They have a really good pitching staff. They have a great starting staff. They have a tremendous bullpen."

But given the way the Rays performed in their three do-or-die victories, they have plenty of confidence heading into Boston.

"We could've rolled over in the last game of the season against Toronto because they were putting it on us, but we won that game," designated hitter Delmon Young said. "And we could've rolled over in Texas because history suggested Texas would beat Price, and he ended up shoving it. So coming here we were hot and I think it was good for us to play on Monday so we didn't have two days off."

Rhett Bollinger is a reporter for Read his blog, Bollinger Beat, and follow him on Twitter @RhettBollinger.
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