CHICAGO -- Bring your noise, bring your exploding scoreboard, bring your zealous fans decked out all in black.
Bring it on!
That seems to be the attitude of the Tampa Bay Rays as they seek to close out the Chicago White Sox in this American League division series that switches today to U.S. Cellular Field.
"Wouldn't want it any other way," said Grant Balfour, the Rays' demonstrative reliever. "I like it to be loud. It wouldn't be any fun if there was just one guy sitting in the stands, would it?"
The first key for the Rays to dispatch the White Sox in a three-game sweep is to take an early lead and build on it to minimize the home-crowd factor.
"I'm sure [the Sox] are excited to be back home," said Evan Longoria, the Rays' rookie slugger. "We need to get up early, score a few runs to take the crowd out of it. We've kind of got them on the ropes. We have to bury them as soon as we can."
Balfour had a dust-up with shortstop Orlando Cabrera in the first game of the series at Tropicana Field -- the two exchanged shouts during a late-game at-bat, and Cabrera kicked dirt in Balfour's direction. When Balfour struck out Cabrera, he pointed toward the White Sox dugout and yelled at him to go sit down. As the incident escalated, two of the teams' coaches had to be restrained.
Balfour surely will hear a reaction from White Sox fans if he pitches today.
"They try to make things uncomfortable for us here," Balfour said. "When I come in, the game is usually on the line and that's when Sox fans will be going crazy. I have to block it out. The noise will be a blur and I will just focus."
Rays first baseman Carlos Pena sat out most of the first two games because of blurred vision caused by a scratched cornea, but Manager Joe Maddon said he expects Pena to be back in the lineup for Game 3.
Another key for the Rays will be the performance of starter Matt Garza.
The Rays acquired Garza (11-9, 3.70 earned-run average in the regular season) from Minnesota in November along with shortstop Jason Bartlett in a trade for outfielder Delmon Young. Garza was the Twins' first-round draft pick in 2005.
"It's going to be emotional in the beginning or maybe a little amped up as [Garza] gets through that first part of the game," Maddon said. "He's had plenty of rest. I'd really like to believe he's going to pitch his typical game. The thing I always look for is when he has his down-angle fastball working for a strike. When you see him throwing strikes down in the zone, your [radar] gun should read probably 94, 95 [mph].
"He has other good pitches, but in today's game, pitching is all about command of the fastball."
Garza last pitched Sept. 27 at Detroit. He left after five innings with the score tied, 3-3. He's hoping for fall-like weather conditions today.
The White Sox will counter with left-hander John Danks. It is Gavin Floyd's turn to pitch, but Manager Ozzie Guillen had enough confidence in Danks to move him up to combat the Rays' predominantly left-handed-hitting lineup, although Floyd was 9-2 in games after White Sox losses.
"I wanted a lefty against them -- that's it," Guillen said Saturday at a news conference.
Tampa Bay was 25-24 against left-handed starters in the regular season.
Guillen's decision to start Danks today is reinforced by the fact that rookie left-hander Clayton Richard struck out five Rays in 3 1/3 scoreless innings of relief Thursday, and that Mark Buehrle limited the Rays to three runs through the first seven innings Friday.
Tampa Bay vs. Chi. White Sox
Rays lead best-of-five series, 2-0;
all times Pacific; all games on TBS
Game 1: at Tampa Bay 6, Chicago 4
Game 2: at Tampa Bay 6, Chicago 2
Game 3: Today, 1 p.m.
Tampa Bay (Matt Garza, 11-9, 3.70)
at Chicago (John Danks, 12-9, 3.32)
Game 4: Monday, 2 p.m.*
Tampa Bay (TBA)
at Chicago (Gavin Floyd, 17-8, 3.84)
Game 5: Wednesday, 3 p.m.*
at Tampa Bay (TBA)