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ALCS tidbits: Game 1

ALCS tidbits: Game 1

Escape artist: Daisuke Matsuzaka should just patent his Houdini impression; the right-hander simply has a knack for getting out of troubling spots. Dice-K walked the bases loaded in a 27-pitch first inning but got Cliff Floyd to ground to second base, then he ran his pitch count to 91 before Carl Crawford broke up a no-hitter in the seventh. Matsuzaka needed 108 pitches to get through five innings in Game 2 of the American League Division Series against the Angels.

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Game 1 significance: Mixed news for the Rays and the Red Sox, who can manipulate this statistic to tell themselves whatever they need to hear. In 37 previous AL Championshp Series matchups, the team winning Game 1 has gone on to win the series 23 times, or in 62 percent of the series played. Since the introduction of the seven-game ALCS in 1985, 12 of 22 teams (55 percent) winning Game 1 have won the series, but in five of the past eight ALCS, the team losing Game 1 has gone on to win the series.

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Start me up: Over their past 12 playoff games, beginning with Game 5 of the 2007 ALCS, the Red Sox have seen their starters post a 1.93 ERA (16 earned runs in 74 1/3 innings), numbers bolstered by Matsuzaka's seven-plus scoreless innings.

New faces on parade: The Red Sox's first run of the ALCS was manufactured by three players who were not a part of the club's Game 4 victory over the Rockies in last year's World Series -- Jason Bay worked a fifth-inning walk, moved to third on a Mark Kotsay double and scored on Jed Lowrie's sacrifice fly. Bay was then property of the Pirates, Kotsay was on the A's and Lowrie hadn't yet made his Major League debut.

Familiar territory: While this marks the Rays' first experience in the ALCS, the Red Sox have been well-tested under these conditions. Boston is making its fourth ALCS appearance in the past six seasons and has come back from deficits twice -- 3-0 in 2004 and 3-1 in '07 -- en route to winning the World Series in both seasons. Tampa Bay, meanwhile, is just the second team to go from last place to the ALCS in a span of one year, joining the 1991 Braves.

Better late: Hardy evidence, even with the likes of Jonathan Papelbon looming -- the Rays outscored the Red Sox, 19-4, from the seventh inning on at Tropicana Field during the regular season this year.

Under the roof: Game 1 marked the 24th ALCS game played indoors and the first since the Twins hosted the Angels in 2002 at the Metrodome. In previous ALCS which involved a team that played at least one game indoors, the "dome" teams won four series and lost six. The 1991 ALCS was played completely indoors, with the Twins defeating the Blue Jays in five games. The Rays had the Majors' best home record this regular season at 57-24, while the Red Sox were 4-16 in games played indoors.

Catwalking: The past two fair balls to strike one of the four catwalks above the diamond at Tropicana Field were both hit by Red Sox batters. David Ortiz hit the "D" ring catwalk in right field off the Rays' Matt Garza on Sept. 17, and Bay hit the "C" ring catwalk off Scott Kazmir on Sept. 15. In all, 96 fair balls have struck the catwalks since the Rays moved in for the 1998 season; 11 of the catwalk homers were hit this year.

Return engagement: Enjoy local saxophonist B.K. Jackson's stirring rendition of the national anthem? You'll get another chance to hear it on Saturday, as Jackson, a student at Tampa's Blake High School, will come back to perform the anthem for the second consecutive game and the third time this postseason. College hoops analyst Dick Vitale, a Rays season-ticket holder since 1998, will throw out the first pitch of Game 2.

Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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