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Can The Rays Close the Deal?

Dave, nice comparisons on the Red Sox starters when they're backs were against the wall in '04 and '07 versus their rotation this year. The current Red Sox starters certainly look more vulnerable.

But the Rays have a worry, too. Dan Wheeler is about as unimpressive a closer as any team ever takes this deep into the post-season. And that's before he had to throw 48 pitches in GameTwo. He saved the ALCS for the Rays. But will he be effective in the rest of the series? The Rays have other relievers with good stuff __J.P. Howell and Balfour. But they have seven caeer saves between them. Chad Bradford isn't Dan Quisenberry.

Can the Rays really close the deal in the 9th with these guys? The 7th and 8th, yes. It's the 9th that worries me. I keep seeing Jeff Reardon fail for the Braves. There's probably a story on the Weak Link Closers of the last 30 years of playoffs. Very few teams survive a closer who's viewed as suspect before the fact. But I hope the Rays can.

As for the Sox fans, they should worry. Beckett is pitching hurt. Don't know it, but certainly assume it. He has to say he's not. Nothing wrong with toughing it out for the money he's making. But there's no reason to think he'll get better for a Game Six. Still, anybody with his heart who's still throwing 90 might patch together a quality start. Lester seems healthy. Just a slightly 'off' game. Odds are he'll be himself again in Game Seven.

Whether there is a Game Seven may depend on old Tim Wakefield who had a typical useful Wakefield season, 10-11 with a 4.13 ERA. This may be a lucky time for the Red Sox to throw a knuckleballer at the Rays who just got hot with nine runs in back-to-back games. Wake can mess with a young team's timing. He had a 6.62 ERA in September. Arm dead for this year? Or will 16 days between starts actually freshen himup?

Who thought the world champion Red Sox most pivotal game of the season might come down to Wakefield vs. Andy Sonnanstine. And that whether a Rays trip to the Series might hinge on whether Dan Wheeler can hold a 9th inning lead in Fenway Park!

By Thomas Boswell  |  October 14, 2008; 11:07 AM ET
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