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Maddon confident Rays won't be cowed by atmosphere

BOSTON — The fans were loud, the atmosphere electric and the ALCS stage a bit intimidating for the Rays — and that was for Friday's opener at friendly Tropicana Field.

All will be even more so today, when the series, now tied at 1, resumes at historic, and raucous, Fenway Park.

But manager Joe Maddon is confident his Rays will be able to handle it.

"Getting by that first game was important," Maddon said Sunday. "It's going to be kind of crazy (today) being the first game of the series (in Boston). Getting through that first moment at home is going to help us get through that first moment here better, I think.

"That, and having played here so often matters. And the recent success matters. I think there's going to be an initial like, 'Whoa,' but then I think we're going to get rid of it a lot more quickly."

What should also help, Maddon said, is the confidence the Rays built from winning back-to-back games here, and dramatically, in September, ending a nine-game Fenway losing streak. Overall, the Rays are 25-68 in Boston, and the September series was the first they won in a span of 26.

"I really believe our guys when they walk in this clubhouse now; they walk in and they see it differently," Maddon said.

MATT ON THE MARK: In the AL Division Series, Matt Garza broke from his seasonlong policy of not talking to the media the day before a start. He didn't pitch particularly well in Chicago, so it's no surprise he went back to his old routine.

Speaking after Game 2 at the Trop rather than at the usual off-day media session in Boston on Sunday, Garza said he similarly hopes to return to the form that allowed him to go 11-9, 3.70 in his first full major-league season.

"I'm ready to go; I've been waiting for this opportunity for a while," he said. "Last start was just a lack of execution. Hopefully I have the same stuff."

Most of the talk going into today's game has been about Sox starter Jon Lester, which left Garza sounding a bit defensive.

"Lester's had a great year this year," Garza said. "But my year wasn't that bad, either. These are great pitchers, he's had a lot of success this year. But myself on the road, I've had a lot of success too, especially against Boston. I'll go in confident like I am and see what happens after nine."

PRICE CLUB: Rays rookie LHP David Price earned his first major-league win in Saturday's game, and a rare distinction. He is one of only four pitchers, according to Stats, Inc., to get a win in a postseason game before a regular-season game.

The other three: Odalis Perez, for Atlanta in 1998; Francisco Rodriguez, for Anaheim in 2002; and Josh Kinney, for St. Louis in 2006.

WHEELS UP? Maddon and pitching coach Jim Hickey will check today with RHP Dan Wheeler to discuss his availability after he threw 48 pitches over 31/3 innings Saturday. "I would be surprised if he wasn't available," Hickey said.

MISCELLANY: The Rays pushed their Sunday afternoon flight to Boston back two hours and canceled their scheduled workout. … Maddon plans to start Rocco Baldelli in right today with Willy Aybar at DH. … Maddon plans to stick with struggling starter Scott Kazmir.

Maddon confident Rays won't be cowed by atmosphere 10/12/08 [Last modified: Monday, October 13, 2008 6:06pm]
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