ALDS breakdown: White Sox vs. Rays
Tampa Bay's scratch-and-claw attack vs. Chicago's bashers
Rays at bat: The Rays do not have abundant power and only Carlos Pena has more than 100 RBIs. But they wear opposing pitchers down with plenty of traffic (six players with an OBP of .346 or better), speed (three players with 20 or more steals), smart baserunning and above-average situational hitting. Even without Carl Crawford, the Rays have found ways to keep the pressure on with an offense that is more typical of the National League. That kind of attack could create problems for some of the White Sox pitchers who lean more on their defense than the strikeout, such as lefty Mark Buehrle (1.36 WHIP).
White Sox at bat: While key contributors Carlos Quentin -- who's trying to recover from a fractured right wrist -- and Jermaine Dye struggled against the Rays, several White Sox hitters hit Tampa Bay hard this year, including Jim Thome (.375, 3 HR, 9 RBI), Alexei Ramirez (.333/2/6), A.J. Pierzynski (.324) and Ken Griffey Jr. (.333 this season and .296 lifetime at the Trop). The Go-Go Sox this club ain't. The White Sox bash the ball. And when they don't, they can look stagnant. The Rays' pitching staff and ballpark limit the long ball, so it will be imperative for the White Sox sluggers to keep the power on.
Key late-game matchups:
1. Chicago's Griffey and Thome vs. Tampa Bay's Trever Miller. Griffey is hitting over .400 with two outs and runners in scoring position since joining the White Sox and figures to get more opportunities in the postseason. Thome is another dangerous left-handed bat with power. Miller, who has faced Griffey and Thome a few times during their years together in the National League, is the likely candidate to get the call against either in key late-inning situations.
2. Chicago's Bobby Jenks vs. Tampa Bay's Evan Longoria. Power on power. The hard-throwing right-hander against the hard-hitting rookie. Longoria's emergence has been instrumental in Tampa Bay's rise and a force opposing pitchers have discovered can give them more problems than the left-handed-hitting Carlos Pena.
Secret weapon: Fernando Perez, Rays. The 25-year-old switch-hitter was recalled from Triple-A Durham on Aug. 31 and has made a noticeable impact in 20 games with the Rays. Recently named the fastest baserunner in the International League by Baseball America, Perez brings more than additional speed to the Rays offense. His penchant for hitting in the clutch (.333 with runners in scoring position) could make Perez a difference-maker.
Achilles' Heel: Only three bullpens in all of baseball have worked fewer innings than Chicago's, yet despite the light load, the relievers' ERA since July 1 is over 5.00. That kind of performance won't get it done against a Rays team that has come from behind to win from two or more runs down 27 times, the most in the Major Leagues.
The Rays will win if ... the offense continues to manufacture runs at its recent pace and the pitching staff keeps the ball in the yard. Only three American League teams have allowed more home runs than Tampa Bay. The Rays will face a Chicago offense that led the Major Leagues in home runs this year and was one of just three teams to hit 200 or more homers.
The White Sox will win if ... Buehrle, Javier Vazquez, John Danks (2-0, 0.69 at the Trop this year) and Gavin Floyd come up big and the Sox offense can get to the Rays' rotation early. The Sox do not want to go into the late innings against Tampa Bay tied, especially at Tropicana Field, where the Rays are 57-24 (.703), the best home record in baseball. The Sox must also figure out a way to turn around their problems on artificial turf, where they have lost 15 of their last 19 games and hit just .227 this season.
Jim Molony is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.