Magic number: 16
Games remaining: 21 (a 16-5 record, or a 14-7 record with 2 of those wins over the Yankees, will clinch the division, even if the Yankees win all their other games).
Interestingly, the Red Sox used all 3 catchers in last night’s game. Mirabelli left in the 3rd with a strained hamstring, and Wakefield was still pitching, so Cash came in. Later, the Red Sox needed a hit with Crisp on first as the go-ahead run in the 9th with 0 out, so Varitek pinch hit for Cash, and delivered the RBI single, then stayed to catch Papelbon in the bottom of the inning.
Wakefield pitched surprisingly poorly last night. Perhaps his back wasn’t 100%. For the first time all season, he didn’t get a decision. He only lasted 3 2/3 innings, giving up 6 runs. I had expected it to be the other way around, with 3 or 4 runs in 6 innings. Fortunately, the Boston bullpen did the job, shutting down the Orioles for 0 runs on 1 hit over the final 5 1/3, and the Sox came back to win.
"The Young Guns"
In addition to Snyder’s scoreless, hitless 4 outs, rookie phenom Clay Buchholz made his first appearance since his no-hitter, pitching 3 scoreless innings, allowing just 1 hit, for his 3rd win in 3 appearances. It would have been his regular day to pitch, had he stayed in the rotation.
Closing the game was Papelbon, for his 4th save in 5 games. He’s saved all of the Red Sox 4 wins this week. I wonder what the record is for saves in a week?
He got 2 K’s and gave up no baserunners, bringing his strikeout total to 77, just one shy of doubling his "walks + hits" total of 39. Amazing! Anyone whose strikeouts merely exceeds his walks + hits is a dominant strikeout pitcher. Papelbon is nearing "doubly-dominant" status. His strikeouts per 9 innings is now 13.5, or exactly 1.5 per inning, meaning exactly half his outs by way of the K.
The final young gun to talk about today is Jon Lester, who gets the start tonight against Cabrera. Lester is coming off a good start the day after the Buchholz no-hitter, which was also his first start after a AA rehab start. He has to be feeling extra pressure to perform well, given that Buchholz is right there to step in as soon as any starter falters, and there are likely to be only 4 starting spots during the playoffs. Again, he’s following strong performances the day before by other young Sox pitchers. The good news is that Lester seems to perform better under pressure.
Lester will try to be more aggressive early in order to keep pitch count down, and will give up a few more hits and fewer walks than usual early on, but overall get good results. He should go about 6 innings, giving up about 2 runs.
Cabrera has recently averaged about 19 pitches per inning, a very high total. He gets a lot of strikeouts and gives up a lot of walks, and gets below average overall results. Pedroia will have a good game coming off his 0 for 5, and the Red Sox will win by a score of around 6-3.