The Rays ALDS opponent is.....the White Sox
Update: 11 pm The Rays finally have an opponent for the AL Division Series Thursday: the White Sox.
The White Sox, having squandered an AL Central lead in the last two weeks, staved off elimination for the third straight day, winning a 1-0 one-game playoff with the Twins on Tuesday night to clinch the division title and a date with Tampa Bay.
Sox manager Ozzie Guillen said that veteran righthander Javier Vazquez will start Game 1 (Thursday at 2:30 pm at the Trop), going up against Rays righthander James Shields.
The White Sox had a relatively subdued celebration in their clubhouse - more cigars than champagne - and took a been-there-done-that kind of approach to their upcoming series. They praised the Rays - ex-Ray Guillen said he was "proud" to manage against them - and expect a tough series, but DH Jim Thome said, "We like our chances."
"I'd rather face them than Boston right now in the first round," Chicago left-hander Mark Buehrle said. "They kind of remind me of this team here, they go out there get on base, they steal, they hit and run. They do everything they're supposed to do."
Said Thome of the Rays: "They've got a tremendous team. Credit Joe Maddon. All year long they've played very well there. They've got good pitching. They've got a very good team. We've got to feed off the momentum here the last two weeks.
"We like our chances. But we understand going down there, it's gonna be a good series, a tough series. And we respect those guys a lot."
The baseball world - specifically the Rays - will likely have their eyes on the only game in town, the White Sox-Twins one-game playoff in Chicago for the AL Central title.
In the unique setup, it's only fitting that both clubhouses had plastic lining set up atop the lockers before the game - an anticipation of a champagne celebration for someone.
The winner won't have much time to celebrate, as they'll have gets to play the Rays in the AL Division series (opening Thursday at 2:30 pm at Tropicana Field). A late-night flight and Wednesday afternoon workout will welcome the AL Central champion.
Ex-Rays Delmon Young and Brendan Harris are in the lineup for the Twins, as well as Tampa Catholic product Denard Span, who is leading off and in rightfield.
How important was that coin flip that gave the White Sox home field advantage for game No. 163? The Sox are 7-2 against the Twins at home this year, 1-8 at the Metrodome.
- JOE SMITH