Thousands expected to cheer on Tampa Bay Rays for ALDS games vs. Red Sox

A view of the field inside Tropicana Field before the Tampa Bay Rays faced the Detroit Tigers on Saturday, Sept. 18, 2021.

For the first time in two years, the Tampa Bay Rays will host a playoff game in front of fans Thursday night, with crowds of roughly 30,000 expected to attend. In Game 1 of the American League Division Series Thursday night, the Rays will square off against their American League East opponents the Boston Red Sox.

The Red Sox come as an offensive threat, but that may be no match for the Rays’ home field advantage.

"It plays a huge advantage to any time you're at home," Rays veteran center fielder Kevin Kiermaier said Wednesday. "So, for us to have the first two games at home, is going to be huge for us. And you know, this place was electric back in 2019. I think it's going to be just that and then some tomorrow, and we're all going to be very excited about it."

The last time the Rays hosted playoff games in front of fans was in the 2019 American League Division Series against the Astros.

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During the 2021 regular season, the Rays won the season series with the Red Sox 11-8. The Sox played the defending AL champs tough from the start, sweeping the Rays in Boston back in April, but the season truly turned in favor of the Rays in June and July, when the Rays’ pursuit of the Red Sox for first place turned into a runaway, winning the season series 11-8.

The postseason roster should still feature many of the same faces as those regular season games at Fenway Park and Tropicana Field. What may be a little different is how Kevin Cash matches up pitchers with hitters.

Shane McClanahan starts Game 1 for the Rays on Thursday after going 10-6 during the regular season. He'll be opposed by Eduardo Rodriguez. Chris Sale could start Game 2 against rookie Shane Baz.

Tickets were still available as of Thursday morning.