In doing prep work for my weekly Friday radio show appearance on The Shore Sports Report, I came across the Boston Red Sox upcoming pitching match ups.
Clay Buchholz is going tonight at Baltimore, Jon Lester (3-0, 0.84 vs. O’s this yr – a gambler’s lock if their ever was one) goes Saturday, and Dice-K on Sunday. The longer schedule has Tim Wakefield making an appearance on Monday and Paul Byrd going Tuesday at Kansas City.
That leaves last night’s pitcher, Josh Beckett, as the sixth man!
Good planning by Boston picking up Byrd late to give them innings, and working in and keeping Buchholz in the rotation while he was struggling early. Clay is now 4-0 in his last six starts including two wins each over AL East rivals Tampa Bay and Toronto.
All the Red Sox starting pitchers were going through various issues: veterans Brad Penny and John Smoltz – ineffectiveness (eventually both were released), Dice-K and Wakefield dealing with severe injuries, while Buchholz was ineffective early on and Beckett has been getting hit lately.
But Lester has been a rock and nothing short of magnificent lately. Since May 31 (a span of 19 starts) Lester is 10-2, with a 2.02 ERA. He also has not lost in his last 10 outings.
Although he pitched well last Tuesday versus the Angels, I am still wary of a strong comeback for Dice-K. He adjusted to the AL by not nibbling after getting ahead in the count, but the AL hitters have not time to adjust to him Too many Angels that night were taking pitches right down the middle of the plate, expecting Dice-K to nibble.
Lets see a few more starts before we call Matsuzaka all the way back.
But in September is when you want to start playing your best ball (just ask the 2007 Colorado Rockies), and the Red Sox have begun to play well in a facets of their game.
The key is their starters and with Beckett, Lester and Buchholz at the top, that is a formidable three. If Dice-K or Wakefield are healthy and throwing well, the Red Sox will be a tough out in the playoffs.
It starts with their pitching and the Sox are giving their staff a break by going to a six man rotation, something they talked about last winter.
Lets see if this rest helps them come October.