Friday October 04, 2013 | 05:43 AM

Game 1 of the American League Division Series between the Red Sox and Rays is almost here (thanks to a 3 p.m. start time at Fenway Park).

Here are 10 keys to the game:

(But first a commercial. Here are today's links: The Rays are a pesky opponent according to today's preview. Jon Lester Lester has enjoyed a "rebound season." In today's column we ask about a "rebound post-season"?)

And now back to the blog:

1. Matt Moore's pitch count. Moore can be wild. If the Red Sox chase, they will be walking back to the dugout, bat in hand. If they can work counts and drive up the pitch count, then Moore could be in for an early day.

2. Jon Lester. See the link above.

3. Bullpen. Neither group of relievers inspires confidence, leading up to the closer. Once the starters are gone, both managers are likely to go with match-ups instead of one reliever for very long.

4. Getting a lead. The Red Sox are tough to beat once closer Koji Uehara (1.09 ERA) is in the game. Tampa Bay manager Joe Maddon said, "you try to approach him by having the lead late in the game and then you don't see him." The Rays closer, Fernando Rodney, can be good. He has also blown eight saves.

5. Right-handed power. When asked about Will Middlebrooks, Boston manager John Farrell said, "He's shown the ability to be streaky." That can be said about a few of the right-handed power hitters in the lineup. In a low-scoring game, a couple of big hits by Mike Napoli, Middlebrooks and/or Jonny Gomes can be the difference.

6. Boston's bench. Farrell will have three solid bats on the bench to use: left-hander Mike Carp, switch-hitter Daniel Nava and right-handed rookie Xander Bogaerts. Carp is proven in the clutch; Nava is having a breakout year; and Bogaerts is seemingly immune to pressure.

7. Pinch-runner Quintin Berry. He is perfect in 24 stole-base attempts.

8. Jennings and Longoria. Desmond Jennings is batting .462 against Lester this season with a home run. Evan Longoria is batting only .182 against Lester in 2013, but with two home runs.

9. James Loney. He is another former Red Sox first baseman who is playing a key role for the Rays, batting .299. (Remember Carlos Pena).

10. Papi. David Ortiz loves the big moment.

About this Blog

Kevin Thomas covers baseball and basketball for the Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram. He wisely moved to Maine in 1994 after working for the St. Petersburg Times. He is married to Nancy and they have nine children.

Follow his thoughts on the Boston Red Sox and Portland Sea Dogs on Clearing the Bases

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