W2W4: ALDS Game 3 -- Red Sox at Rays

When and where: Tropicana Field, Monday at 6:07 p.m. ET

• Starting pitchers: Alex Cobb (11-3, 2.76 ERA) vs. Clay Buchholz (12-1, 1.74 ERA)

Cobb • Scouting report on Cobb: Happy birthday, Alex Cobb. Turning 26 on Monday, Cobb will be faced with the familiar task of keeping the Rays' playoff hopes alive. He did so Sept. 21 of last year against the Baltimore Orioles, throwing 8 1/3 innings of one-run ball to stave off regular-season elimination. Against the Cleveland Indians on Wednesday Cobb also prevailed, going 6 2/3 scoreless innings in the Rays' eventual 4-0 win to capture the wild card.

“There’s no question it’s going to be difficult,” Rays manager Joe Maddon said after Saturday’s Game 2 loss. “Fortunately [Alex] is pitching that Game 3 for us.”

In his last five starts, Cobb has faced five (Boston, Texas, Baltimore, New York, Cleveland) of the top eight teams in the AL, going 4-0 in that stretch. His no decision of the bunch came against the Red Sox, a team he’s gone 2-2 with a 4.19 ERA in seven starts against. Pitching at home this season, Cobb went 7-0 in 13 starts.

Buchholz • Scouting report on Buchholz: With four starts under his belt since a two-month stay on the disabled list (shoulder), Buchholz has done nothing to show he isn’t the same dominant pitcher he was before he was injured.

“The player’s health is going to tell us when he’s ready,” Farrell said on Saturday. “Time was needed in Clay’s situation.”

That time has paid off as Buchholz nabbed three wins in those four starts, including his Sept. 10 return against the Rays at Tropicana Field. Overall, Buchholz has gone 7-5 in 16 starts against Tampa with a 2.41 ERA and 98 strikeouts, his most against any team.

“This guy is really good,” Maddon said. “You look at pitchers and how they match up against different groups and he just happens to match up well versus our group.”

Buchholz’s only postseason start came in Game 3 of the 2009 ALDS, where he threw five innings and allowed two runs.

Three Rays players to watch

Longoria Evan Longoria, 3B: Longoria and Buchholz have a long history together, as no right-handed pitcher has struck out Longoria more (13 times) and no batter has struck out more against Buchholz. However, Longoria does also have seven hits in 38 plate appearances against the 29-year-old.

James Loney, 1B: Loney has been Tampa’s best hitter in the ALDS so far, with two hits and two RBIs in five at-bats. In eight plate appearances against Buchholz, Loney only has one hit.

Wil Myers, RF: Contrary to Loney, Myers has struggled in the ALDS, going 0-for-9 with two strikeouts. The AL Rookie of the Year favorite has never faced Buchholz.

Three Red Sox players to watch

Ellsbury Jacoby Ellsbury, CF: In 111 at-bats against Cobb, the only member of the Red Sox ALDS roster with a home run is Ellsbury. Ells went 3 for 4 on Saturday with his second stolen base of the series and figures prominently in a Red Sox offense that has scored 19 runs in two games. Overall, Ellsbury has three hits in 13 plate appearances against Cobb.

Daniel Nava, LF: Facing a right-handed starter for the first time this series, Nava is a sure bet to crack the Red Sox lineup on Monday. The switch-hitting outfielder has hit .322 with 10 home runs against righties this season as opposed to .252 with two home runs against lefties. Nava has four hits in 15 career plate appearances against Cobb.

David Ortiz, DH: Coming off a two-home-run game against David Price on Saturday, Ortiz’s numbers against Cobb are somewhat of an oddity. The slugger has only one hit in six at-bats against Cobb, good for a .167 average, but also has five walks in 11 plate appearances, good for a .545 on-base percentage. Of his 431 career home runs, 28 have come at Tropicana Field, second-most among parks besides Fenway.