Magic Number: 15 (15-5 wins division no matter what Yankees do. Win 2 of 3 from Yankees and 11-6 in other games to clinch even if Yankees win all their other games.)
In yesterday’s game, I predicted a 4 run win and Lester performing better than his previous starts this year, and both came true. I didn’t expect both teams to pitch as well as they did, however. It was 4-0 instead of 6-2.
Tonight’s game is between a pitcher, Matsusaka, who might be starting to tire as he gets to the end of his first season in a 5 man rotation after an entire career in a 6 man rotation. In his last start, Matsusaka pitched extremely well through 5 innings, allowing just 1 run, then in the 6th inning, everything fell apart, as Toronto scored 8 runs, most of them off Matsusaka.
This is a sign that he might not be able to go deep into games. An extra day of rest will help him before his next start, but for this start he doesn’t have that extra day. Perhaps the short 5 1/3 innings in the last start will help.
I expect Matsusaka to pitch well through 5 innings again. After that, Francona should have him on a short hook. If he shows signs of tiring or losing control, Francona should pull him before much damage is done.
The Red Sox face a young pitcher making only his 2nd major league start, who did not do well in his first start 2 years ago, giving up 4 runs in 3 innings then. In 2007 he’s pitched 5 innings of relief, with 7 runs given up. He’s pitched against the Red Sox before, giving up 7 runs in 3 1/3 innings. All signs look like a slugfest here.
This game should look a lot like Matsusaka’s last start. A big lead for the Red Sox early, some middle-inning trouble for Matsusaka, then the Sox bullpen will come in and close the door. Both Papelbon and Okajima should be available if needed. I expect Tavarez to get a couple of innings in this one. His stint will be shorter, however, if he gives up the lead. Corey might appear. They’ll stay away from Buchholz and Delcarmen. Snyder is a possibility.
They’ll only use Okajima and Papelbon if needed.
This could end up close the the 13-10 score of Matsusaka’s last start, but I expect it will be a little bit lower scoring than that, more like in the 9-5 range.