Clay Buchholz - AP Photo

A couple of years ago, the Boston Red Sox would head down to Tropicana Field and most everyone would think it’s an automatic win for them over the Tampa Bay Devil Rays. Then before the 2008 season, the Devil Rays become the Rays and the team is a lot better than in years past. Suddenly Tampa can’t lose at home to the Red Sox.

So now late in the season in 2009, the Red Sox are in Tampa with a chance to put the Rays closer to elimination from the playoffs. They have Clay Buchholz on the mound who is coming off of 8 1/3 scoreless innings against the Toronto Blue Jays, who up until last night were the only team he had beaten (three times).

Buchholz was given a 2-0 lead before he even stepped out on the mound and by the end of the first inning, he given them the lead back. Rocco Baldelli got him the lead back with a solo home run before Buchholz gave the run back in the fourth.

Buchholz then settled in on the mound retiring the final nine batters he faced and the offense got him the lead. The bullpen made it hold up behind as the hard throwing trio of Billy Wagner, Daniel Bard and Jonathan Papelbon each gave a hitless and scoreless inning.

You would have to think right now if the season ended today that the playoff rotation for the ALDS would be Josh Beckett, Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz. You really can’t say what you’re going to get from Tim Wakefield unless his back and calf are feeling fine. If that’s the case, he might be the No. 3. Daisuke Matsuzaka probably won’t be counted on during the postseason but that could also change with a good outing tonight for the PawSox and a start or two back in the big leagues.

As a fan, you have to love the maturation of Buchholz. The no-hitter in his second career start almost derailed his career as he struggled mightily in 2008. After an extended stint in Pawtucket this season, he has definitely seem to grown as a pitcher and looks primed for a pretty successful career.

Now the Red Sox are off to Chicago, a team they just took 3-of-4 from last week, for a holiday weekend four-game set. With the Texas Rangers just three games back, three-out-of-four from the White Sox would just fine with myself and Red Sox Nation.

For more slices of Boston Red Sox goodness, head over to the Boston Globe, Boston Herald, and Providence Journal websites.

And if you must see what the enemy papers are saying you can check out the Tampa Tribune and St. Petersburg Times websites.