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Wednesday, Apr 23, 2014

Rays notes: Trailing 2-0, team faces long odds


ST. PETERSBURG — What kind of task are the Rays facing in rebounding from a 2-0 deficit against the Boston Red Sox?

It’s difficult, but not impossible.

In the history of the American League Division Series (1995-2012), not including this season, 22 teams have fallen behind 2-0. Four of those clubs came back to win the best-of-five series — the 2003 Red Sox (against the Athletics), 2001 Yankees (Athletics), 1999 Red Sox (Indians) and 1995 Mariners (Yankees).

The Rays can equalize with a potential two games at home.

“The Red Sox played to their advantages of their home ballpark,’’ said Rays RHP Alex Cobb, who starts tonight’s Game 3 at Tropicana Field. “There were a lot of balls hit off that wall that were typical outs here. A lot of balls found holes for them, a couple of 90-foot doubles they hit.

“I felt like we pitched a lot better than what the box score looked like. There’s definitely a different game to be played outside of Fenway. I realize that. The pitching staff realizes that.’’

Dating to the 1916 World Series, this is the ninth time the Red Sox have taken a 2-0 lead in a postseason series. Five of them were sweeps. The only time Boston didn’t emerge was the 1986 World Series, when the New York Mets won in seven games.

Overall in postseason history, teams that have taken a 2-0 series lead won 121 out of 143 times. That includes a 59-8 record in best-of-five series.

In the 2010 ALDS against the Rangers, the Rays fell behind 2-0, then won two road games to force Game 5 at Tropicana Field, but the Rangers prevailed.

Red-hot Loney

Rays 1B James Loney, who was 2-for-3 in Game 2, improved his postseason batting average to .347 (25-for-72), the fourth-highest among active players (minimum 50 at-bats).

He’s second only to Cardinals OF Carlos Beltran (.353) among players currently in the postseason.

Other active players with a higher postseason average are Milwaukee’s Ryan Braun (.379) and Toronto’s Mark DeRosa (.358).

The homecoming

The Rays, who landed Sunday morning at Tampa International Airport at 1:49 a.m., just concluded a five-city, 10-game, 12-day, 5,631-mile road trip, in which they won six of 10 games (3-0 at Yankees, 1-2 at Blue Jays, 1-0 at Rangers, 1-0 at Indians, 0-2 at Red Sox).

The trip covered 14 days on the calendar. The Rays are at Tropicana Field for the first time in two weeks — a 5-4 win against the Baltimore Orioles on Sept. 23, clinched on Loney’s ninth-inning, walk-off home run.

“It’s kind of weird to be here again,’’ Rays OF Kelly Johnson said. “There aren’t too many teams that can say they’ve been to five cities in one road trip. But it’s nice to get your feet on the ground and be on familiar turf.’’

Big Papi’s exhibition

Red Sox DH David Ortiz, using an aluminum bat, put on a powerful display during Boston’s batting practice, launching several balls to the Trop’s back wall in right field. While teammates wore practice gear, Ortiz wore black tights and a black top.

“Like I’m going to yoga,’’ Ortiz said.

In 94 regular-season games at Tropicana Field, Ortiz has 28 homers, topped only by the 32 he has clubbed at Toronto’s Rogers Centre for an opposing ballpark.

“How do I hit in this park? Do I hit well here?’’ Ortiz said playfully. “I enjoy hitting everywhere. That’s what I do.’’

Rays bits

Cobb will celebrate his 26th birthday today. It’s the 13th time in major-league history for a pitcher to start a postseason game on his birthday. Meanwhile, today is the 28th birthday for Rays 3B Evan Longoria. … Julianna Zobrist, wife of Ben Zobrist, will sing tonight’s national anthem. … Tonight’s Game 3 is a sellout, but some tickets remain for a potential Game 4 on Tuesday night (check Tropicana Field will remain at a capacity of 34,078 after some consideration was given to removing the third-level tarps to uncover more seats. … Red Sox RHP Clay Buchholz, tonight’s starter, has a 2.26 ERA in nine starts at Tropicana Field, the best mark among active starters. “I don’t know if there’s any rhyme or reason. Once you start throwing good at one place, you get more comfortable throwing in that ballpark and that’s all there is to it,’’ he said.

Joey Johnston