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Rays have luxury of lead in making Kazmir-Shields decision

ROOKIE MARK: Evan Longoria takes off after his first-inning homer, his fifth of the postseason.

BRIAN CASSELLA | Times

ROOKIE MARK: Evan Longoria takes off after his first-inning homer, his fifth of the postseason.

BOSTON — The Rays are obviously in a good position, with a 3-1 lead and the chance to clinch a World Series berth on Thursday.

After Tuesday's game they were huddled to determine whom they wanted on the mound.

RHP James Shields has been the scheduled starter, but they were considering switching to LHP Scott Kazmir.

One theory seemed to be that with a 3-1 lead they'd switch to Kazmir, knowing Shields was still available for a potential Game 6 at home, where he pitches better. Another was that if they have the chance to finish off the Sox, they should use their most reliable pitcher.

Kazmir, who has struggled in two postseason starts, has pitched well in Fenway, 4-4, 3.02 even after one rough and one so-so outing this season. Moving him up would allow the Rays to use the bullpen freely if needed, with the benefit of a day off on Friday. And it would avoid having Kazmir work Game 6 with the plate staffed by umpire Derryl Cousins, whom he blasted after a June game. "That might be a good idea,'' Kazmir said.

Shields hasn't pitched well at Fenway, 0-3, 10.13 in three tries. And he has done extremely well at home this season, 9-2, 2.59, plus 1-1, 3.29 in the postseason.

UPTON UPRISING: CF B.J. Upton's left shoulder will still require surgery "soon after the season's over," but it's feeling better enough that he's able to take a full swing again, to pull the ball to leftfield again and to hit home runs again — five in his first 28 at-bats of the postseason. He is the first player, according to the Elias Sports Bureau, to hit at least five homers in the postseason after hitting fewer than 10 in the regular season; he had nine in 531 at-bats.

GOING DEEP: Evan Longoria hit his fifth postseason homer in the first, most by a rookie, and tied the ALCS mark with homers in three straight games (matching the Yankees' Bernie Williams in 2001); the LCS record is four by Gary Matthews (1983 Phillies) and Jeffrey Leonard (1987 Giants). … With 16 homers midway through their eighth game, the Rays matched the record for teams making postseason debuts. The 1995 Mariners hit 16 in 11 games.

CROWD CONTROL: Removing the tarps covering portions of the upper deck and putting some 5,700 more fans in Tropicana Field for any remaining ALCS and possible World Series games will lead to longer lines at the concessions and more crowded hallways and bathrooms.

Plus, some of the seats have obstructed views and are on benches and without backs.

The Rays initially resisted, saying the building "operates better" with a capacity of about 36,000, but decided, based on the intense demand for tickets and input from fans, that the tradeoff was worth it and they would benefit from the extra support.

"We had put the fan experience first," team president Matt Silverman said. "We decided that the priority is to allow as many people as possible to cheer on the Rays and be part of this special season."

Tickets for Game 6 will be sold starting at 5 today to those selected for the Internet presale through raysbaseball.com; winners will be notified by e-mail this morning.

Any remaining tickets will be sold to the public on raysbaseball.com starting at 9 a.m. Thursday. Details for Game 7 tickets have not been announced.

Registration for the chance to buy World Series tickets closes at 11:59 p.m. Thursday.

MISCELLANY: With Monday's victory, the Rays won three straight at Fenway for just the second time in franchise history and first since four in a row April 18-July 1, 1999. … The Rays will not work out today. … Longoria's two errors on a second-inning play were the Rays' first of the postseason.

Rays have luxury of lead in making Kazmir-Shields decision 10/14/08 [Last modified: Wednesday, October 15, 2008 7:36pm]
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