Stormy, but in a nice way.
4 Red Sox aces of the past, present and future are heading in different directions.
Outgoing: Past ace Roger Clemens is facing a new elbow injury, and coming off a rough outing yesterday as a result. His injury lowers the Yankees’ number of dependable quality starters from 3 to 2 (Petitte and Wang), since you don’t know if you’ll get consistency out of the young guys down the stretch. This effectively hands the division to the Red Sox, and makes the wild card race interesting again, with Seattle, Detroit, and even Toronto smelling blood.
Returning: Past ace Pedro Martinez had an encouraging return from shoulder surgery, using his intellect and control to turn in a decent performance. He’s such a competitor, that he’ll give the Mets a boost in the playoff race and in the playoffs themselves.
Up to new heights: Present ace, Josh Beckett, pitches tonight, trying to get back to the league lead in wins, going for his 17th, which would tie his career high.
Uncertain: Future ace, rookie Clay Buchholz, who didn’t sleep much Saturday night after his no-hitter, and didn’t sleep much before the start, since he’d just been called up from AAA, finally got sleep Sunday night. He slept 15 hours! Maybe he should go without sleep before every start. It sure worked this time! Clay’s role is undefined right now, as Wakefield is feeling better and due to start Thursday, with Mirabelli feeling good and ready to catch Wake on Thursday. With Lester back and pitching well, that’s 5 starters, not counting Tavarez or Buchholz. So even after pitching a no-hitter, it looks like Buchholz will be rewarded with a long-relief stint, and perhaps occasional spot start when injuries or rainout doubleheaders happen.
This means the Red Sox are pitching-rich, which is good.
However, the bullpen is temporarily a-hurtin’.
After Matsuzaka imploded last night in the 6th inning, and Lopez didn’t do any better, the Sox had to use Delcarmen, Okajima, Timlin and Papelbon, with Lopez, Okajima and Papelbon having gone a second straight night. Given Okajima’s recent arm troubles, and concern over using Papelbon too much after what happened with his shoulder last Sept 1st (2006), neither of them should be available tonight. Gagne’s shoulder has been sore, so the Red Sox announced this weekend that he wouldn’t be used for a few days.
So all 3 of the Red Sox "closer" candidates are ruled out tonight. The good news is that with Wakefield and Lester back, Tavarez should be available for 2 or 3 innings, and Buchholz should be available for an inning. Timlin could also go, since he had 2 day’s rest before yesterday’s outing, and only threw 8 pitches. Delcarmen also had 2 days rest before yesterday, but threw 27 pitches yesterday.
The Red Sox have had unusually good success against Halladay, so most likely, the Red Sox hot bats will score 4 or 5 runs off him in 7 innings, enough to give Beckett a 2 run lead after 7.
Beckett will go deep into the game to try to save the bullpen. If he’s removed before or during the 8th, Tavarez will come in. If the game’s not tied going into the 9th, Timlin will come in for the 9th, and will get the save.
With Wang pitching, the Yankees will win tonight, and keep pace with the Red Sox through the weekend, since they’ll be playing KC. But next week the Yankees go to Toronto while the Sox host Tampa Bay, so the lead will be about 8 games entering the 3 game final showdown of the season between the two teams. By the end of that series, the Red Sox magic number will be under 5, and the Yankees will be just about tied for the wild card lead with 2 other teams.
Beckett goes 8 innings, leaves with a 1 or 2 run lead, and Clay Buchholz comes in for the 9th inning to a rousing standing ovation at Fenway. The kid gives up a hit, but hangs on for his first career save, and another standing O. Half the fans wonder why he’s coming in, because they didn’t read my blog!!
Well, we can dream, can’t we?