With ALDS set, Rays ready for White Sox
AL East champs respect veteran, power-laden Chicago club
ST. PETERSBURG -- Finally, the Rays know which team they will play in the American League Division Series beginning Thursday afternoon at 2:30 p.m. ET at Tropicana Field.
The White Sox defeated the Twins, 1-0, in a tiebreaker Tuesday night to win the AL Central crown, meaning the Rays will play a team they went 6-4 against in 2008, including a two-out-of-three series win in Chicago in late August.
"The White Sox are a quality baseball team with veteran leadership," Rays left-hander Trever Miller said. "Those guys have been to the postseason before. They've gone all the way and won a World Series. They know what it takes. The manager has been there before."
The White Sox lost Carlos Quentin to injury since the Rays last played them in Chicago, but Miller pointed out that the they still have a strong home run tandem in Ken Griffy, Jr. and Jim Thome.
"They have good left-handed hitters -- two guys on their team with 1,100 home runs in their career," Miller said.
Rays manager Joe Maddon also pointed to the White Sox's power.
"The White Sox to me, offensively, are similar to the Tigers in the sense that they want to hit the ball over the wall all the time," Maddon said. "Plus, the White Sox ballpark is a homer park. Pitching-staff wise, they always have good starting pitching. Bobby Jenks is still one of the best closers in the game."
Rays Rookie of the Year candidate Evan Longoria said he would have rather played the Twins.
"The White Sox are much more of a veteran club, much more of an experienced postseason club," Longoria said. "And they have patient big league hitters. Jim Thome, Jermaine Dye, I don't think Carlos Quentin is coming back, but Ken Griffey, Jr. You go up and down their lineup -- guys who have played a lot of years in the big leagues and know how to handle the pressure."
Ben Zobrist, who split American League Player of the Week honors with Hank Blalock of the Rangers for the final week of the season, noted the White Sox could be tough with their starting pitching. He also cited how the White Sox were erratic over the course of the 2008 season.
"With the White Sox, you are not really sure which team you are going to get," Zobrist said. "If they are on, the White Sox can be a dangerous team."
Zobrist felt like surviving the tiebreaker could build momentum for the White Sox.
"You never know," Zobrist said. "... Sometimes one team comes out of that feeling better or feeling a little bit hotter than they might have been at the end of their season."
One thing is for certain. With Ozzie Guillen managing the White Sox the games will always be interesting.
"It's going to be a really fun series to play," Rays catcher Dioner Navarro said. "Having Ozzie Guillen on the other side. ... He keeps it fun, which is good."
Miller concluded that the White Sox are going to be a challenge, yet he likes the Rays' chances at Tropicana Field, where they cobbled together the Major Leagues best home mark in 2008 at 57-24.
"We know going in they are not going to be easy to beat," Miller said. "But they also know that coming in here's not going to be easy. I love the fact we have home field advantage against these guys to maybe get two up on them before we go to Chicago. That would be nice."
Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.