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October 4, 2013

Bring on the Rays ... and rivalry

Tampa Bay has replaced Yankees as Sox 'bitter' foe

BOSTON — The last time the Boston Red Sox won a postseason game at Fenway Park feels like a lifetime ago.

The actual date was Oct. 16, 2008. Boston was a bloodied team, trailing the series 3-1 to the Tampa Bay Rays in their best-of-seven American League Championship Series, and trailing 7-0 in the seventh inning of Game 5.

Then came some magic: four runs in the seventh; three runs in the eighth. A J.D. Drew walk-off RBI single to right field in the ninth. Just like that, the Red Sox were 8-7 victors — and they and the Rays were headed to Tampa Bay for Game 6.

The Red Sox won Game 6 to even the series 3-3, but lost Game 7 when Matt Garza outdueled Jon Lester and Boston in an intense 3-1 outcome.

Here we go again, back here at Fenway Park, five years later, and bitter — yes, bitter! — AL East rivals Boston and Tampa finally meet again in the postseason. They collide at Fenway Park for Game 1 of the American League Division Series today at 3:07 p.m. Boston southpaw starter Jon Lester faces Tampa lefty Matt Moore.

It could be argued that the Red Sox “Dynasty” a lot of people expected after that 2007 World Series title came to an abrupt halt after the Game 7 loss to Tampa Bay.

Over the next four years, everything seemed to unravel for the Red Sox through a combination of injuries, bad free agent signings, disappointing starting pitching, character issues and one egomaniac manager.

Meanwhile, after knocking off the Red Sox, the Tampa Bay Rays headed to the World Series and, well, haven’t gone away since.

The once laughingstock of baseball, from their inaugural season in 1998 as the Devil Rays until Opening Day 2008, have averaged 91.7 wins per season over the past six years and won two AL East titles and made the postseason four times.

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