The ALCS gets going on Friday night between the AL East division acquaintances Rays and Red Sox. Why acquaintances? Because you have to be good for more than one year in order to be rivals or foes. Shall we call it a fledgling rivalry? Well, maybe. That is if the Rays continue to be good next year and beyond, which it looks as though they should.

Some early pitching notes as we prepare to kick off (that’s actually a football thing I think):

-The pitching schedules have been announced and Boston will have the $52-million man Daisuke Matsuzaka get things started in Game 1. Was it because he’s the manager’s favorite pitcher on the team? Nope.

“It gives people rest “" not too much rest, not too little,” manager Terry Francona said. “This is probably the best way. We didn’t want one going on eight [days rest], one guy going on regular. Keep everybody somewhat in line. Rest at this time of year is huge. We’ll take advantage of it while trying not to give too much.”

Matsuzaka was 18-3 with a 2.90 ERA in 2008, although his numbers make him sound better than he is.

-On the other side, James Shields gets the nod for the Rays. Manager Joe Maddon wants to stick with the same rotation that he used in the ALDS.

“I like it” said Maddon. “I just like it that way. It’s no different from the first round in a sense. Shieldsy in the first game, because he normally gets a little bit deeper in the game. Kaz in the second game, if he runs into a little bit of a pitch-count problem, you have the bullpen fresher [with a day off following], and then of course the next two guys. And listen, we know about Garza, but Andy has done consistently well the last month or so, so I don’t want to subtract Andy out of the mix, either. You could talk about a three-man rotation, but we really have not set up guys on less than normal rest. We’re not opposed to doing it if we need to, but for right now, theoretically perfect, we’re going to go that way.”

Shields was 14-8 with a 3.56 ERA in 2008 and is a true maverick.

-Here are the rest of the pitching matchups for the ALCS:

Game 1: Daisuke Matsuzaka vs. James Shields
Game 2: Josh Beckett vs. Scott Kazmir
Game 3: Jon Lester vs. Matt Garza
Game 4: Tim Wakefield vs. Andy Sonnanstine
Game 5*: Matsuzaka vs. Shields
Game 6*: Beckett vs. Kazmir
Game 7*: Lester vs. Garza
(*if necessary)

Side note: Why do we still do the * with the “if necessary” disclaimer? Have we as a society not evolved to the point where we comprehend how a playoff series works? Just wondering out loud.

About The Author

Micah Warren is a sports writer from New York and the founder of Blast's sports section and the Off the Record sports blog.

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