Wednesday, October 03, 2007


That, ladies and gentlemen, was pitching. Josh Beckett dominated the Angels tonight, throwing a four hit shutout. The Angels never had a chance, as Beckett struck out eight and didn't give up a walk.

The game was almost completely stress-free from a Sox fan's point of view. (From an Angles fan's point of view it was probably more stressful.) Beckett simply overpowered the Angels hitters and the Sox took the lead early and held it the whole game.

The Sox brought their A game all around tonight as they beat up on the AL’s ERA leader, Jon Lackey. After Pedroia grounded out, Youk homered into the monster seats to put the Sox up 1-0. A few innings later, Youk doubled down the left field line and then Papi popped one deep into the right field stands for a 3-0 lead. Then, Manny walked and went to second on a wild pitch. Lowell singled him home to make it 4-0 and that was more than enough for Beckett.

They also played great defense, making some excellent (I’m running out of adjectives here) catches. Crisp made a nice sliding catch in the middle innings (sorry, working from memory here), and Ellsbury made a great diving catch for the first out in the ninth on a Chone Figgins line drive to left.

All that adds up to a 1-0 advantage in the best of five series for the Red Sox. Up next is Kelvim Escobar who faces off against Daisuke Matsuzaka.

Escobar was a legitimate Cy Young candidate by the All-Star break, but had some shoulder problems and was ineffective towards the end of the season. He gave up four or more runs in four of his last seven starts, including six runs in four innings in his penultimate start versus Tampa. He settled down a bit and had a nice start against a weak hitting Oakland team to close the season. Still, his ERA over September and October was 7.99.

He also has a slightly higher ERA on the road (3.72 vs. 3.18 at home) on the season.

Now, everything I just wrote about above for Escobar applies to Matsuzaka as well, except the shoulder problems. Matsuzaka was a legit Cy Young candidate at the All-Star break, but was much less effective in the second half, had a ERA over 7.00 in September and October, though he did close the season strongly against a weak hitting Twins team (8 innings, two runs).

So, what can we conclude about this match up? In short, if Escobar is healthy (and theres no guarantee of that) then it should be a pretty even match up. I’m still giving the Red Sox the advantage as they have a better bullpen, better offense, and better defense.

Still, Matsuzaka’s first post-season game should be an exciting one. The guy has the flair for the dramatic, so don’t put it past him to try to one-up Beckett (though I have no idea how he could possibly top Beckett’s performance tonight).

At 8:37 on Friday at Fenway Park the Red Sox try to make it a 2-0 lead.

Lets go Sox!

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