ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – The old adage about baseball and the simplicity of batting goes like this:
See the ball, hit the ball.
Tampa Bay Rays Manager Joe Maddon would like his team to add a line:
Do it better.
The Rays are down two games to none to the Boston Red Sox, in the best-of-five American League Division Series. Game 3 is Monday night at 6 p.m.
While much has been made of Boston scoring 19 runs in two games, Maddon is more concerned with his team’s output of six runs.
“We have just not scored runs on these guys,” Maddon said. “Part of it is because they’re so good on the mound.
“But at some point we have to figure it out. We’re running out of time.”
Figuring it out Monday night will be extra challenging since Boston sends Clay Buchholz to the mound. His 2.26 ERA at Tropicana Park is the best of any opposing pitcher.
“I don’t know if there’s any rhyme or reason,” Buchholz said.
Maddon admitted that Buchholz “has really pitched well against us and he’s really good.
“However, at some point we’re looking for that turnaround.”
The Rays are also looking to hold down Boston’s offense, although Maddon and some of his players downplayed the 19-run total because they were scored in Fenway Park, with its quirky dimensions.
“I felt like we pitched a lot better than what the box score looked like,” said Alex Cobb, the Rays starter Monday.
“They played to their advantages at their home ballpark. There’s a lot of balls hit off that (left field) wall that were typical outs. A lot of balls finding holes for them, a couple 90-feet doubles.
“There’s definitely a different game to be played outside of Fenway Park. But the game is played differently in Tropicana.”
But it should be noted that when the Rays beat Boston in the 2008 ALCS, they won two of the three games in Fenway.
Third baseman Evan Longoria said that Fenway may have been an advantage for Boston last weekend, but “we just didn’t play well. They swung the bats better. They pitched better.
“You have to be able to admit that and turn the page.”
Longoria hopes his team can bank on its experience of playing must-win games. Last week, the Rays played three games, in Toronto, Texas and Cleveland. They needed to win each one to advance this far. “We’re battle-tested in elimination games,” Longoria said. “We continue to stay positive.
“We cannot get caught up in being down two games. You can’t have that thought lingering in the back of your mind.
“If we use the same mindset we did in the other must-win games: ‘It’s just one game.’ You don’t think about the two games you already lost.”
Tampa Bay has rallied from two games down before. In 2010, the Rays trailed the Rangers 2-0 in a best-of-five division series. Tampa Bay won the next two to tie the series, only to see Texas win the deciding Game 5.
Interesting note: The visiting team won every game in that series.
The Red Sox are not taking anything for granted.
“We’re up 2-0 but we still have a job to do,” shortstop Stephen Drew said. “Hopefully we can play like we’ve been playing.”
If they do, the Red Sox may be flying back to Boston tonight, smelling of champagne.
Kevin Thomas can be contacted at 791-6411 or at: